Project Management Approached with Calm

February 2, 2023

-an interview with Sr. Project Manager, Robert Williams

Q. What prompted The Stahl Companies’ leadership to focus on employee health?

A. We believe that the most central part of Stahl is our people, and because of that, we want to make certain that we are focused on the well-being of each individual on our team. We are driven to build and maintain a culture that is focused on the importance of everyone at Stahl.

Q. 2023 Focus – Mental health – Why Incorporate the Calm App as an Employee Benefit?

A. One thing that makes our company unique is that each of the leaders with Stahl, prior to finding a place on the leadership team, has endured (to some level) the day-to-day travails associated with what we do. We’ve been on projects that have gone awry, been at the forefront of problem-solving, and been thoroughly involved throughout the project life. Firsthand we have experienced the challenges faced when managing complex hospital construction projects. Now we see those same challenges encountered by our people. We want to ensure it is clear that we are looking out for the team above anything else. The team’s health is extremely important to us, and we want to look at health holistically. So, this year we are focused on mental health and we want to provide access to resources that allow our team to not only survive but to thrive through the challenges that they regularly face.

Q. In what ways is (healthcare) project management work anxiety-provoking?

A. Most of our projects have a high monetary value with aggressive budgets along with aggressive schedules to manage. This alone can be stressful. And, from there the pressure builds because of the reason behind those aggressive budgets and schedules. We are working within conditions where either the new services or updates to services provided by the project are critical to the facility. We also understand the importance of budgeting to the facilities for which we work. A project staying within budget is imperative to the overall master plan which allows the facility to undertake other projects and achieve what is needed to provide communities with state-of-the-art care.

A cursory point we haven’t yet discussed is the day-to-day measures taken when managing projects within the walls of an operating facility where the most important consideration must always be Patient Care. No cost, schedule, or field issue we come across will ever be more important than patient care. In addition to the complex problems requiring a tremendous amount of thought to solve, healthcare project management is constantly evolving. So, when we reach the point of exhaustion after finally determining the best resolution to an issue, we’re straight onto the next one that will require as much or possibly more effort.

It is not the sort of job where a learned skill is used repetitiously. We are continually learning and adapting because every project on which we work can be compared to a fingerprint (there are never two exactly the same). At best, a person could run the same type of project their entire career (i.e., MRI remodels) and they might have a chance to know the intricacies of that type of room. But our reality is that we may work on the same type of room or project only a couple of times in our career meaning we have to constantly adapt to what is necessary for that next project.

Q.  How could a mobile app be intended to contribute to employee mental health?

AFirst and foremost, what makes Calm so amazing is that it is an app developed to promote positive mental change. It isn’t intended to be like a fad diet, one that becomes popular for a short time, often making pseudoscientific or unreasonable claims for fast weight loss. It is intended to change the way we think about certain things surrounding our mental wellness.

There are many features available to us in the app, one of which revolves around sleep, falling asleep, or falling back to sleep. It focuses on helping us make a change to our sleep habits if needed. Sleep is known to play a critical role in how we function and our ability to recover.

Another feature is awareness of breathing. It can be enlightening to realize how often and why we hold our breath, or that our breathing is altered when experiencing challenges that come with our work. Often it is not noticeable until you bring attention to it. Oxygen to our body is a necessity but natural breathing as well as focused breathing will have a calming and restorative effect.

A third feature we will focus on is learning to be present. Oftentimes, we have multiple tasks and deadlines along with various distractions (both personal and work), that make it extremely difficult to focus and subsequently easy to feel overwhelmed. An example of an in-app feature aimed toward mindfulness is a walking session that focuses on reminding a person to look around at shapes and colors, take in the scents, and other various aspects of the surrounding environment. The reality for many of us is that our mind is likely to be focused on an issue, deadline, or task – something past or future ignoring the now thus not giving our mind a chance to recover. It is known (much like sleep being necessary for our minds to recover) that we must give our minds a chance to recover intermittently throughout the day to be resilient… so that we can wake up and do it all again tomorrow.

Calm does an amazing job of providing us with the resources necessary to promote changes in our lives but only if we are willing to put forth the effort. Calm is to our mental health what a treadmill or weights are to our physical health. All are only as good as the amount of effort we put into using them.

Q.  Does the team seem open to the use of the Calm app?

A.  We haven’t been using Calm long enough to be able to confirm how skeptical or amenable the team is to the concept. Regardless of skepticism, we are committed to increasing awareness of the importance of mental health as another key component of our company culture.

There are other ideas that we are brainstorming, and we hope to roll them out to the team throughout the year. Calm is only one of a few tools that we hope to incorporate.

Q.  What is your goal for employee participation? 

AIdeally, we would love everyone on the team who hasn’t had an opportunity to use Calm to give it a try and hopefully see the benefits that some of the rest of the team have already experienced. Of the members of our team who have used Calm, everyone has some level of positive impact that they’ve felt from using the app. The app could be overwhelming to new users. We intend to do a good job of training the team on some of its core features, then allow them to explore it and find what works.

Q.  Expected ROI?

A.  To us, the most important consideration is the health of our team. Our return on investment will be for as many members of our team as possible to find some value in the resources we plan on sharing with them this year, including Calm.

Blair Morrison of Anywhere Fit worked with us monthly in 2021 focusing on physical health. He gave us the resources and showed us techniques to improve our physical health. Much like that training, we would like to look back and say the same when it comes to educating our team about mental health. 



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