Holistic health: Supporting the entire employee

Jessica Adams Benny Award
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If your company’s health benefits don’t go beyond the basic medical, dental and vision, you’re not doing it right, says Jessica Adams, vice president of HR and recruiting at Brad’s Deals, a Shop Smart company.

Adams received this year’s Benny Award in the healthcare category given by Employee Benefit News in recognition of her role in shaping the company culture of the Chicago-based discount website.

For Adams, fostering healthy employees means catering to their mental and emotional well-being by ensuring that work never stands in the way of personal responsibilities.

“The big thing for us is making sure you support the entire employee,” says Adams, who has been with the company since 2011. “If you’re happy in your personal life, you’re going to be happy in your professional life.”

Adams’ latest contribution to the Brad’s Deals employee handbook ensures workers have the chance to say goodbye to loved ones before they pass. The “compassionate leave” policy allows employees to take up to five days off at full pay to visit relatives who are seriously ill. The number of days depends on the employee’s relationship to the family member.

“Bereavement is a wonderful thing to have, and we hope nobody has to use it, but I wanted to add something employees could use beforehand to spend time with that person,” Adams says. “It’s a way to support them during life-changing or difficult events.”

Adams’ colleagues say her commitment to flexible work hours sets the tone for the company’s culture. Around 35% of Brad’s Deals employees work remotely and the rest have the option to work from home, according to their needs. While many workers rely on flexible hours to help with childcare, Adams says the policy also caters to those who need to take care of another family member, loved one or pet.

EBN's 2019 Benny Award winners

“We have the technology in place to be just as productive at home as we are in an office,” Adams says. “I’m really proud of how we’re able to support our employees to make sure they’re successful professionally and personally.”

The policy has also helped retain employees who might otherwise have quit because of personal circumstances. For instance, when an employee’s spouse was transferred to a different state for work, Adams suggested that she join the company’s ranks of remote workers rather than leave the company.

“We were able to retain an excellent employee by having her go remote,” Adams says. “We see families having to make these kinds of decisions all the time. It doesn’t make sense to lose them with what we’re able to do with technology.”

Adams also started a once-a-month program called “Diversity and Inclusion Lunch and Learns.” Each month, Adams’ team chooses a topic and arranges for a public speaker to visit the office or chooses a documentary for everyone to watch. In the past, Brad’s Deals has been visited by cancer patients, a tattoo artist and mental health professionals. Once, its workforce was able to virtually meet the director of a documentary about a transgender youth in India. In the meetings, employees who identify with the subject matter are encouraged to share their experiences with co-workers.

“The whole push behind the initiative is to make sure people aren’t hiding the things that make them special,” says Alyssa Snyder, an HR specialist at the company. “It shows how much Jessica cares about celebrating uniqueness.”

Adams’ contributions to the culture of Brad’s Deals are recognized by the company’s C-suite. They were thrilled — but not surprised — to learn she’d received a Benny Award for her efforts.

“Jessica has been an unwavering champion of our company’s unique internal culture, and as a result Brad’s Deals is a better organization,” says Amy Bourne, the chief operations officer at Brad’s Deals. “She is a thoughtful and passionate leader, a strong role model for employees throughout our organization and a key member of our leadership team.”

In her spare time, Adams loves cooking with her husband and building Legos with her three kids. Recently, she was able to travel around the country with her family after earning her company sabbatical — three weeks of paid vacation for every five years of company service.

“I’m really grateful I was able to be part of building a company culture that recognizes the employee is a person,” Adams says

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