The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the growing mental health crisis and the impact on the workforce at companies across the globe. Throughout the pandemic, Hollister Incorporated, an independent, employee-owned company that develops, manufactures, and markets healthcare products globally, demonstrated that the health and safety of our employees and their families is our top priority. This includes both their physical and mental health.

Studies show that alleviating work-related stress, anxiety, and burnout can boost productivity, energy, and creativity among employees. Identifying and reacting to the changing mental health and wellbeing needs of our employee population resulting from the pandemic motivated Hollister to improve our existing wellbeing resources and discover emerging resources that address the needs of our employees.

What did Hollister do differently?

Hollister consistently monitored external trends related to mental health during the pandemic and listened as some employees shared the mental health challenges they were facing. We then looked for ways to enhance our existing wellbeing program through year-round initiatives and training to better support employees, managers, and our Corporate Human Resources Team.

We began by challenging our Employee Assistance and Work/Life Program (EAP) vendor to identify new and existing benefits to offer to our workforce aligned with market leading trends. EAPs are commonly offered by employers as an added no-cost benefit to guide employees and their household members through various work/life challenges such as childcare, legal consulting, pet care, senior care, and stress management in the form of confidential counseling. Commonly, employees are unaware of the resources available to them or are concerned about their specific use of the EAP being reported to their employer despite the services being offered confidentially. We found that larger scale benefit initiatives such as Total Reward Statements or Annual Enrollment serve as yearly reminders of the resources available to employees, whereas routine promotions through communal channels such as company email or intranet, or tools like Microsoft Teams provide more frequent visibility and access to available resources such as EAP.

We believed that marketing outreach from the EAP vendor alone may not resonate as strongly with the employee as it would through a Human Resources/Benefits (HR) and EAP vendor partnership. We developed a campaign to promote this under-utilized benefit by having EAP related content or seminar invites distributed directly from our HR or Benefits team which increased awareness, reduced the stigma, and resulted in greater engagement. Through this partnership, Hollister significantly increased employee participation in wellbeing related seminars, regularly seeing 150+ employees in attendance per event and over 3,500 attendees per year out of a population of more than 4,800 employees globally. This participation created greater visibility to our EAP and resulted in a 110 percent increase in EAP utilization from 2019 to 2021 - 13 percent above our EAP provider’s Book of Business for the same period.

"While still largely stigmatized, transparency around mental health challenges is gaining traction amid a spotlight on the importance of mental health and wellbeing"

For greater promotion on this topic, we created a company-wide group on our internal social media platform to serve as a Wellbeing Community and invited our employees to join and participate through polls, Q&As, and chat to discuss all things wellbeing. Within a matter of days, the group exceeded well over 100 members and saw regular engagement. The group continues to grow.

It is well understood that leadership can set the tone within an organization. We asked leaders with experience managing or supporting mental health challenges to share personal lessons learned in webinars that were focused on mental health awareness. Simply having a supportive member of our leadership serve as a visible and vocal Wellbeing Champion fostered a more relatable and inclusive environment in which employees felt more comfortable engaging while also helping to build wellbeing into our company culture. According to Susan Nutson, Vice President of Human Resources JDS and Chief Human Resources Officer at Hollister, “Dignity of the Person is one of our Immutable Principles. Hollister is mindful of how we support our employees with some of the challenges that we all experience throughout our everyday life. Seeking help and understanding and talking about our mental health is part of this wellbeing journey.”

We also created a custom global survey to identify our employees’ specific wellbeing needs. We then aligned our wellbeing content based on these needs after soliciting additional feedback from our Wellbeing Community. The results indicated the need to increase focus on stress management, family matters, and emotional wellbeing. This information helped us to tailor our content to address the needs of our employees, ensuring their concerns were heard. Through this approach, we listened with the intent to act and made positive improvements in the lives of our workforce.  

According to Erin Smith, Head of Total Rewards and HR Operations at Hollister, “The positive, heartfelt feedback we have gotten from employees is the best measure of our success. The chat box during webinars was full of comments from our employees sharing how important it was to seek out mental health support and how important counseling support had been to them. This was so important in breaking down the stigma associated with mental health. Later, employees reached out to tell us that the webinars had changed their lives.”

We became equipped to support.

As the next step, we built upon our company’s adoption of mental health and wellbeing resources by equipping our HR team with the training needed to be empowered to act amid a mental health crisis. Available on a national and county level through non-profit grants and county health departments, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses exist to educate and certify participants on how to administer MHFA until a healthcare professional can arrive. Often at no cost to an organization, participants can learn about the importance of having a MHFA Action Plan, how to recognize early signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge, how to have difficult conversations surrounding depression, panic attacks and suicide, and the significance of self-care for the MHFA Responder. The course typically concludes with a final exam to solidify knowledge, requiring a successful pass rate to obtain certification. Completing this training demonstrated our company’s commitment to its employees and their mental health and wellbeing.

At Hollister we believe it is imperative to continually promote and evolve our resources to ensure we foster an environment which supports our employees and their needs – both personal and professional. While still largely stigmatized, transparency around mental health challenges is gaining traction amid a spotlight on the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Through our experience, we have found that fostering a supportive and inclusive environment is key to ensuring employees are provided with the tools and resources to support their wellbeing and build upon their mental health resiliency.

Our company develops and manufactures products for ostomy care, continence care and critical care, and develops educational support materials for patients and healthcare professionals. Visit to learn more.