Businesses finding success with EDASC's mental health & wellbeing pilot program

Businesses finding success with EDASC's mental health & wellbeing pilot program Main Photo

4 Oct 2023

Nikki Wegner came aboard as CEO of Chinook Enterprises in the middle of the pandemic. Its employee count plummeted during her first few months, as did morale with families dealing with the public health crisis, childcare challenges, and isolation.

It became clear to Wegner that focusing on the whole employee – what she likes to call “mental fitness” – was going to be vitally important to getting through this stressful time.

When Wegner, an EDASC board member, heard about EDASC’s program with wellness company Nivati to provide a mental health and wellness app to employers in Skagit County at no cost, she jumped at the opportunity. The pilot program provides six free hours of virtual counseling – among other resources – to employees at local small businesses. 

Wegner said her full-time employees already had access to an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, but a referral from an EAP doesn’t help someone with an immediate need. 

“I think that having a resource for people that's beyond an EAP is valuable,” Wegner said. “When an employee needs someone to talk to about an emergent situation, they don't really want to wait on hold only to have a list of providers sent to them.”

While the EAP is only for employees who are benefits eligible, all of Chinook’s employees have access to Nivati.

With Nivati, participants have access to one-on-one online counseling sessions as well as on-demand courses on subjects from meditation to nutrition to yoga. 

“We've had a really great adoption,” said Nivati’s Vice President of Marketing David Malmborg. “I think it's resonating well with companies like Chinook Enterprises who realize employees need easy access to these tools because an EAP doesn't provide that.”

Malmborg had the opportunity to tour Chinook Enterprises in September and got to hear how the organization is using the app. 

“It's truly motivating to witness the direct impact Nivati has on people's lives,” he said. “Nivati was intentionally designed to address all aspects of wellbeing, and to observe employees actively using its diverse tools at Chinook Enterprises confirms our dedication. We've put in significant effort to create a product that not only functions effectively but also keeps individuals engaged during their personal journey.”

Nivati itself grew out of the pandemic. The Utah-based company already had a successful model offering massage to corporate clients. Those clients booked online with affiliated massage therapists around the country. When most businesses shut down or moved to remote work during the pandemic, company leadership knew they needed to pivot. With a foundation in wellness and the booking technology Nivati was already using, the shift to a new business happened quickly.

Around the same time, EDASC had learned from surveys of the Skagit business community that mental health was a concern for employers. Nivati was an innovative solution to that problem. 

As part of Skagit County’s Economic Recovery Plan, the county commissioners allotted money for EDASC to conduct a pilot program with Nivati. The pilot program provided small businesses the opportunity to offer Nivati’s services to their employees for no cost during the one-year pilot program, concluding at the end of 2023. Nearly 50 Skagit County businesses are taking advantage of the program.

EDASC Economic Development Manager for Strategic Projects Aaron Weinberg said more and more employees signed up for Nivati as the year went on, approaching the cap of 500 employees.

“I think word spread among employees of how others were using Nivati and finding it helpful,” Weinberg said. “Not only that, but I think businesses were happy with the results, such as increasing productivity or decreasing absenteeism. It’s a good investment in your workforce. As we near the end of the pilot program, we are getting quite a few businesses asking to set up their own separate accounts because they’ve found it can be a good return on investment.”

Chinook’s HR and Corporate Compliance Manager Angela Everest said she is seeing a strong adoption rate. Some employees are using the one-on-one counseling sessions and others access classes for fitness, meditation and even professional development.

“It’s something that really stands out in our onboarding process,” she said.

Everest said she works to keep the service top of mind, such as posting reminders around the office with a handy QR code to access the registration portal. 

Chinook has also taken advantage of online employee workshops Nivati offers on topics as varied as hydration to conflict resolution. The Friday morning training is offered in the breakroom for anyone to participate, and that participation has steadily increased, Everest said.

Another Skagit County organization working with Nivati is the Northwest Career & Technical Academy. It recently launched its own partnership with Nivati, offering its services to both staff and students. 

NCTA Director Lynette Brower said Nivati is ideal for students because its services meet students where they are: online.

“We're partnering with them to help our young people see what an employee systems program would look like on their time, in their space, in the University of Google,” she said. “That's where they're going, anyway, or Tik Tok, to get support, but [now] they're going to be able to get support through professionals.”

The program is part of EDASC's Economic Recovery Plan, funded through ARPA money awarded by Skagit County and its commissioners and continues through the end of 2023. Contact to sign up your business.