Mental Health Becomes Top of Mind for Business

Dec 15, 2020

An unexpected, though not surprising, focus emerged from a discussion with business leaders last month.

The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance partnered with MEDCO and HEDCO, the economic development corporations of Marion and Hiawatha, on a virtual forum to check in with business leaders about workplace safety and productivity. We crafted questions to explore the status of their business and their outlook for economic recovery. We especially wanted to probe about evolving practices on quarantines, masks, social distancing and other best practice protocols that might be unique to the manufacturing, warehousing, production and service operations they represented. We wondered, too, whether the likelihood of employees’ increased travel and exposures over the holidays had changed any company rules.

The event also included Linn County public health officials and State Sen. Liz Mathis, who initiated the idea of the forum. We wanted all of them available as resources to answer issues that might come up about legislation, state economic assistance or public health recommendations.

Interestingly, the discussion quickly shifted to a topic we didn’t ask about and hadn’t really considered as the forum was being planned: mental health.

It turns out that one of the most important factors all four featured business leaders has been focused on is the mental health of their employees. They view it as one of the most critical elements to the success of their business. And they shared that many on their teams are struggling with various mental health issues through the prolonged pandemic and ongoing social isolation.

The statistics on mental health issues are alarming, and the increased focus on addressing mental health in the workplace has gotten much attention recently. So the topic wasn’t a surprise. Still, it’s interesting that even in a format that wasn’t intended to be about mental health, the discussion found its way there.

I want to thank the panelists who provided such frank insight, along with relatively positive economic outlooks for their companies and for the regional economy looking ahead into 2021: Mark Thoeny, Profol Americas; Tom Pientok, Timberline Manufacturing; Pankaj Monga, Channel Fusion; and Ray Brown, The ESCO Group. The full session is recorded and available at

We’re blessed in this region to have good mental health resources. I don’t have space for a comprehensive list, but a portal to any human services needs you may have is always the United Way’s 211 service. Access it by dialing 211 or visiting Another resource many businesses are using to elevate mental health discussions in the workplace is the “Make it OK” campaign. You can find information about that at


Doug Neumann, Executive Director

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance

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