U.S. Headquarters
Wilmington, DE
Number of Employees
70,000
Industry
Management of Companies and Enterprises

DuPont

DuPont Understands a Way Forward

Since beginning business in 1802, the founder of DuPont earned a reputation for high-quality products, fairness, and concern for workers’ safety. This tradition has been maintained for more than two centuries despite leadership changes and organizational shifts. Reflecting its core values, DuPont’s history of concern for its workers across the globe began with one of the first corporate support programs, which evolved into the company’s employee assistance program (EAP). DuPont’s global EAP team created an award-winning campaign that has been delivered to their global workforce of 70,000 employees, in seven languages. The company’s ICU or “I See You” campaign includes a 5-minute animated video that depicts a diverse workforce who are shown recognizing colleagues’ signs of emotional distress and finding ways to move forward. By taking the actions suggested, employees remove the stigma of mental or emotional distress and encourage help-seeking behavior. These actions support a workplace culture that allows colleagues to improve their emotional health and make DuPont an emotionally safe workplace.

History of Helping Rooted in Corporate Values

DuPont’s tradition of helping is embodied in the company’s corporate core values, which permeate the corporate culture and are fundamental to the way the company conducts business. Here are DuPont’s corporate values (DuPont, n.d.):

Safety and Health: We share a personal and professional commitment to protecting the safety and health of our employees, our contractors, our customers, and the people of the communities in which we operate.

Environmental Stewardship: We find science-enabled, sustainable solutions for our customers, always managing our businesses to protect the environment and preserve the earth’s natural resources both for today and for generations into the future.

Respect for People: We treat our employees and all our partners with professionalism, dignity, and respect, fostering an environment where people can contribute, innovate, and excel.

Highest Ethical Behavior: We conduct ourselves and our business affairs in accordance with the highest ethical standards and in compliance with all applicable laws, striving always to be a respected corporate citizen worldwide.

Monthly Meetings: DuPont’s core values are reinforced through required monthly meetings. These meetings happen across the company and must include a topic related to the four core DuPont values. While the specific content within these “core value contacts” may shift from month to month, Safety and Health is kept at the forefront of workers’ minds in three areas: employee safety, process safety management, and contractor safety management.

Integrated Health Services

DuPont’s occupational medicine department, which stemmed both from the founders’ early focus on safety and later from requirements of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, grew into the company’s Integrated Health Services (IHS), which provide support in four areas across the range of physical and mental health needs: an employee assistance program (EAP), occupational medicine, wellness, and epidemiology (the study of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations). Given the nature of the work performed at DuPont, which began with manufacturing products, physical safety has been fundamental to the success of the business. The physical demands of working in plants and handling chemicals require strict quality control to maintain safety. Over the years, DuPont’s work has shifted to products that are shaped more by knowledge workers, or those who “think for a living” (Davenport, 2005), such as highly specialized engineers. This shift has also broadened the scope of safety to include emotional and mental health to keep knowledge workers engaged and productive.

Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at DuPont

Out of concern for employee safety, DuPont in 1941 created one of the first “corporate substance abuse” programs in the world for addressing alcohol. A DuPont family member brought the idea of the now well-known Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program to the board. The chief medical officer hired a program manager known only as “Dave M.” in the tradition of AA in order to maintain confidentiality. Dave began AA meetings at the manufacturing plants that requested the service across the U.S. in 1942 as a part of the DuPont medical department. This program was expanded to cover other types of substance use and became formally known as the employee assistance program in the 1990s.

Employee Assistance Program

DuPont’s EAP, like the precursor AA program, is designed to focus on the psychological and emotional health of DuPont’s workers. DuPont’s EAP is considered a hybrid program with two internal managers setting standards for supporting an emotionally safe environment that are followed by five regional contract providers across the globe. The DuPont EAP managers train, supervise, and audit the regional contractors to be sure that consistent messaging is in place and that each DuPont employee receives the same quality of support. DuPont provides manager consultation globally through the five regional EAP vendors, which support mid-level leaders in recognizing emotionally upset or distressed workers and provide the tools for working through these challenges. The focus on building an emotionally safe work environment is supported by the value of Respect for People and Highest Ethical Standards, which include zero tolerance for abusive or prejudiced behavior. The EAP has high acceptance at DuPont. Utilization of EAP services is 9% to 11% in the U.S. and about 9% globally, compared to average utilization of 4.5% reported by external EAP vendors (Attridge, Cahill, Granberry, & Herlihy, 2013). This high level of use is likely due to the longevity of DuPont’s program and the many years of promotion and management support. DuPont has recently begun work with Chestnut Global Partner’s Workplace Outcome Suite (WOS) to further assess the effectiveness of the EAP. The WOS is a free, scientifically validated survey tool used to measure and document the cost and results of EAP programs and health and wellness coaching services.

Screening and Case Management

The EAP service includes six to eight visits per issue per year, depending on the country, and covers all employees and their eligible dependents. To help identify individuals who might benefit from EAP counseling, questions about mental health are included in DuPont’s health risk appraisal (HRA). The HRA includes the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, often referred to as the PHQ-2, which inquires about the degree to which an individual has experienced depressed mood and anhedonia, which is an inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, over the previous two weeks. Its purpose is not to establish a final diagnosis or to monitor depression severity but rather to screen for depression (Kroenke, Spitzer & Williams, 2003). The HRA is confidential, and employees are urged to reach out to a DuPont nurse or the EAP, depending on the results. DuPont also uses a survey tool called the Work Environment Scan to help identify work unit stress indicators. This tool is available globally and has been used several times in Mexico but is mostly used in Europe.

As with any manufacturing company, DuPont has a number of disability cases active at any point in time. DuPont nurse case managers work actively to help individuals get healthy and back to work as soon as possible. When mental or emotional issues are a component in return-to-work (RTW) discussions, nurse case managers may work with EAP case managers to help make the RTW as comfortable as possible. Based on the core value of Respect for People, accommodations to help in that regard are made on a case-by-case basis and may include adjustments in job duties, work hours, or task supports.

With the EAP foundation in place, it is no surprise that the organization and its leaders would continue to support staff and work to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges. This is accomplished in part through “fostering of a sense of connectedness to the company values, goals, and ethics in doing business in a global economy,” according to Paul Heck, M.Ed., LPC, global manager of employee assistance and work/life services at DuPont and Partnership for Workplace Mental Health Council Advisor. In addition, Respect for People coordinators work in all regions to help expand the goal of connectedness and engagement of the expanding, diverse workforce.

ICU Campaign

Within this context and following several global events, including the 2008 financial crises in the United States and Europe, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the tsunami in Japan, many workers were faced with increased distress. DuPont leaders recognized the need for a more comprehensive response to the increasing challenges of knowledge workers, in particular around emotional well-being. Dr. Thomas Spiers, the leader of DuPont’s employee assistance and work/life program in Europe and Asia, took steps in 2011 to highlight mental health through a concept Spiers called “emotional ergonomics,” or measuring and managing the emotional environment at work. This concept, which was rolled out as part of a “Mental Health Month” in DuPont Europe, was the foundation for a new campaign that was taken up across all of DuPont.

Following on the work of Spiers in Europe, DuPont’s facilities in the U.S., in support of the concept of “emotional ergonomics,” created ICU (see Figure 1) and launched an ICU video for improving emotional health in 2012. The program was smoothly incorporated into monthly core value contacts that are required across the organization. By reminding staff that it is OK to care for one another and reach out for help, the values of Safety and Health and Respect for People are made explicit in the culture of the organization.

The ICU video uses the analogy of an intensive care unit to explain how an individual in distress may require the assistance of others. It encourages employees to Identify the signs of distress, including changes in behavior. Is she tired? Is she distant? Does he seem sad? Has he withdrawn from the team and his colleagues? Next, employees are encouraged to reach out and Connect with the person to express care and concern. This outreach need not be formal; it may be as simple as pulling someone aside to a quiet place to have a conversation. Finally, employees are encouraged to Understand the way forward together. This reminder includes contact information for DuPont’s EAP and the IHS doctor or nurses.

This unique campaign was put into action with the help of JPL, an integrated communications company based in Harrisburg, PA. Impressive in its simplicity, ICU reminds employers and employees that while signs of distress or mental health challenges are not as visible as their physical counterparts, employees can truly see one another, connect, and work to find solutions together, building a culture of interdependency.

Figure 1. Parallel concepts shared in the ICU video

Physical Health

"I See You"

Mental Health

Intensive

I

Identify

Care

C

Connect

Unit

U

Understand the way forward

Intensive care unit, or ICU, becomes “I See You” through three steps: Identify—the signs, Connect—with the person, and Understand—the way forward together.

There was strong positive response by staff who voiced that the campaign in essence gave them permission to show concern and care for their colleagues. ICU has become the organization’s standard across the globe to support the mental health of their employees and is now recorded in seven languages covering 92% of DuPont’s workforce. Local teams reviewed the messaging to ensure that emotional safety was accurately translated into local and cultural contexts and that the concepts remained clear. In areas where ICU has not yet been recorded in the local language, staff members are provided with information to give live presentations. The inclusion and periodic review of the ICU video as one of the options to cover the required monthly core value contacts keeps this supportive message front of mind.

Paul Heck and DuPont are at the forefront of building workplace mental health awareness. Paul’s work ensures that mental and physical health are treated with the same importance and that the stigma surrounding mental illness is reduced.
— Wendy Brennan, executive director of NAMI NYC Metro.

Not only does ICU show support of employees from the business’ leadership, but, in the words of Heck, the campaign “. . . gives permission for a sense of normalcy around emotional distress.” The video and discussions that surround the meetings when it is shown offer the chance to destigmatize emotional distress. By encouraging employees to reach out to each other with the suggested phrase, “I’ve noticed that you’re not your usual self,” the campaign discourages “pathologizing” of normal emotions and attempts to keep colleagues from trying to diagnose their peers. “Understanding the way forward together” might include informing colleagues in greater distress that there are resources available to them for additional help if it is required.

Heck has presented the ICU concept and program in many forums geared toward employer audiences, including a presentation at the Integrated Benefits Institute/National Business Coalition on Health in 2013, a webinar titled Corporate Pioneers—Creating Cultures of Caring: Enhancing Health and Safety in the Workplace and the Larger Community for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with Mental Health in May 2013, and later that May a presentation at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting.

Paul Heck received the Seeds of Hope award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness — New York City Metro in 2012. The Seeds of Hope award is an annual honor given to extraordinary leaders in the mental health community whose dedication, knowledge, and vision have helped pave the way in reducing the stigma around mental illness.

The comprehensive focus that DuPont has held throughout its history on employee health and safety, as well as responsiveness to the changing demands of the world economy, continues to reflect the company’s dedication to creating an emotionally safe workplace.

ICU Video to be Available through the Partnership

DuPont has generously donated the ICU concept to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health (Partnership) so that the tools they created can expand even further through other employers. The ICU video can be shared within any organization to accomplish this greater reach and help promote supportive workplace cultures. Paul W. Heck, DuPont’s global manager, employee assistance and work/life services, has been an Advisory Council member since the Partnership’s beginning in 2001. Heck said that the Partnership is an ideal venue to take programs that large organizations, such as DuPont, have the means to create and make them available to a broader audience of smaller organizations.

The ICU video will be made more universal to allow employers across all sectors and industries and of all sizes to implement the program. Customizable companion resources are being created that will allow organizations to direct employees to the services available through their own organization. Other materials will address opportunities and challenges that organizations may face as they implement the program.

Feedback from other employer peers through the Partnership suggests that ICU may be a “gateway program” or a first step for employers to reduce stigma and take action to address mental health in the workplace. We know businesses can support mentally healthy environments and can use these tools to help.

What Employers Can Take Away

Heck said that in today’s world of increasing levels of stress and demands on workers, creating a culture of support is all the more crucial. Addressing mental health requires continual thoughtfulness on the part of employers while providing tools and support for employees to build an emotionally safe work environment.

Here are some ideas that employers can take away from DuPont’s experience:

  • Create a standard of including supportive messages in standing staff meetings, including resources available to employees, such as medical/mental health coverage, EAP services, or other programs you may offer.

  • Include ways to identify employees who are struggling and to facilitate early intervention when needed — e.g., through HRAs, online screenings, etc.

  • Adopt the Partnership version of the ICU program at your organization. Heck’s suggested keys for successful implementation are:

  • Keep it simple.

  • Connect to your organization’s critical business issues and core values.

  • Know your key constituencies and gain early support for the concept.

  • Reach out to all potential partners for inclusion and input to avoid turf battles.

  • Make cultural adaptations as needed to maximize positive impact.

About DuPont

Since beginning business in 1802, the founder of DuPont earned a reputation for high-quality products, fairness, and concern for workers’ safety. This tradition has been maintained for more than two centuries despite leadership changes and organizational shifts.

Kate A. Burke, MA, is the former associate director for the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, is currently a Senior Training and Development Specialist at Greenleaf Integrative Strategies, and can be reached at kate.burke@greenleaf-is.com.

Last Updated: July 2014

References

  • Attridge, M., Cahill, T., Granberry, S. W., & Herlihy, P. A. (2013). The National Behavioral Consortium industry profile of external EAP vendors. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 28(4), 251– 324. doi: 10.1080/15555240.2013.845050

  • Davenport, T. H. (2005). Thinking for a living: How to get better performance and results from knowledge workers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

  • DuPont. (n.d.). Our Core Values.

  • Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R.L., Williams, J.B. (2003). The Patient Health Questionnaire-2: validity of a two-item depression screener. Medical Care, 41:1284–92.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with Mental Health. (2013, May 9). Corporate pioneers—Creating cultures of caring: Enhancing health and safety in the workplace and the larger community.

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