wellbeing@work: Pam Washbon of Barry-Wehmiller International

February 14, 2017
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

A study published in the American Review of Public Administration a few years back found that helping others at work improves happiness at work. This may seem obvious, but then why don’t more companies support generosity in the workplace?

Many businesses have excellent corporate giving initiatives that benefit their communities, but they often don’t have formalized programs to help their own people. Considering the growing body of evidence about the benefits of compassion on health and wellbeing, shouldn’t our wellness initiatives encourage healthy habits, but also promote ways for us to help our friends at work?

As part of our holistic wellbeing program at Barry-Wehmiller, we’ve incorporated a way for our U.S. team members to “pay it forward” by helping one another and reflecting our unique culture of care through acts of generosity.

“We established the Hearts to Hands Relief Fund in 2012 to provide team members with a way to support one another in times of an extreme financial hardship, due to something like a health issue or a natural disaster,” said Alexis Zygmund, Wellbeing Engagement Leader at Barry-Wehmiller. “By giving, and seeing the benefits of our gifts, we’re enhancing our people’s connectedness and enriching our unique culture of care.”

Team members who choose to donate to Hearts to Hands can give one-time gifts or make a donation each pay period through payroll deductions. Since its inception, grants totaling $142,541 have been awarded to 152 team members—including Pam Washbon, Senior Marketing Strategist for our Barry-Wehmiller Design Group.

Just last year, at the age of 49, Pam had a heart attack. She didn’t have many advance warning signs, and her recent checkup showed no major red flags. Nevertheless, she now has a stent and permanent damage to her heart.

“I felt fine when I got up that morning and went to take a shower, but then I passed out. I thought I was just tired,” said Pam. “As the morning wore on, I was short of breath, I became more and more tired, like I had the flu, and my wrists and jaw started hurting.”

After spending four days in the hospital, Pam’s medical bills were significant. So, she applied for a $1,000 grant from Hearts to Hands. She was so encouraged by the financial relief the grant provided, she decided to become a contributor to the fund herself.

“My heart attack scared me, but it also inspired me to give back,” said Pam. “I think everybody likes to help other people, but they don’t know how. After receiving a Hearts to Hands grant, I realized what a big impact we could make if we all gave. Plus, everyone feels better when they help other people.”

Today, Pam’s grateful to be alive, and she has made it her mission to remind women to check their risk factors and listen to their bodies—and to remind herself to continue managing her stress. She takes a few preventive medications now, avoids reading work-related emails on the weekends, taps into the benefits of aromatherapy and practices gratitude.

“Valuing people you work with is a part of wellness,” said Pam. “Outside of work, I always have helped other people. Now, I feel great giving back at work as well. We all can make a difference.”

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