News from Executive Forum of the Lehigh Valley
One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic is mental health. Everyone across the world struggles to some degree with navigating the effects of COVID-19. For this reason, the Executive Forum of the Lehigh Valley invited guest speaker Linda Brownback, M.A., an Allentown-based psychologist with 40+ years experience at Brownback, Mason and Associates. The topic was timely because many individuals struggle through the pandemic and battle feelings of depression, anxiety, and lack of control. Specifically for the Executive Forum, Linda was asked to speak to Lehigh Valley employers to help them understand and address issues that plague their workforce.
Linda opened the presentation with some background about her practices and the fact that she prides herself in a holistic approach, engaging the individual’s brain, body, and spirit. Under normal circumstances, about a third of Americans struggle with anxiety. COVID-19 has exacerbated that by creating food and job insecurity, the stress of parenting, social isolation, and loneliness. All these factors together create physiological effects on the brain, resulting in a tremendously negative impact on health. Additional mental stress includes burnout fatigue, election anxiety, fear of getting COVID-19, and mask anxiety. All this leads to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and depression.
Gary Bender, CEO and founder of The CFO Solution, presented to the Executive Forum of the Lehigh Valley at The Steel Club in Hellertown. Gary's presentation centered around the highest priorities and considerations for CFOs and business leaders. He discussed challenges and opportunities amidst a world shaped by COVID, and he also addressed seasonal issues that decision-makers confront at the end of each year. This includes strategic planning, budgeting, and healthcare expenses.
The topic of health care is consistently a lightening rod issue because as Bender explains, "Healthcare is often the third or fourth largest spend, you would expect the financial executive would have a total understanding of the costs, the drivers, the risks and the alternatives. However, this is usually far from reality as that information is not generally provided and few understand the marketplace, the alternatives or even how to educate themselves." Bender shared best practices and successful outcomes to reduce healthcare expenses for employers and employees. He encouraged the members to take a closer look at health care options and consider out-of-the-box solutions especially now as companies work through the convoluted renewal process.
Michelle Castro, HR Manager at REEB, along with another female colleague presented on behalf of the Alzheimer's Association. Castro, a passionate volunteer, told a personal story of losing her mother, uncle, and brother to the cognitive disease. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia affect more than 5 million Americans of all ages. An estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's dementia in 2020. Eighty percent are age 75 or older. One in 10 people age 65 and older (10%) has Alzheimer's dementia. Needless to say, many have family, friends, and neighbors who have been impacted by the disease.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
- The most common type of dementia.
- A progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- Can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Many in the business community need to understand Alzheimer's and dementia not only for their personal lives, but also to be sensitive to the needs of their employees. Specifically, eldercare is one of the most common reasons that their workforce misses work -- to accompany or manage the care for aging parents and loved ones.
While scientists are learning more every day, right now, they still do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. In the meantime, passion individuals are raising money through Alzheimer's Association walks and other fundraising that benefit research. For more information about the Alzheimer's Association visit http://alz.org/.
On Wednesday, August 5, 2020 the Forum met at The Steel Club in Hellertown. Eleven were in attendance on-site with another 17 tuning in via Zoom to hear Jill Wheeler, VP of Sales & Marketing of City Center Allentown. Jill provided an overview of City Center's activities since its inception in 2014. She discussed the changing demand for office space due to the desires of Millennials as well as the effects of COVID. This includes more flexible leases and additional touchless surfaces and technologies. Additionally, City Center uncovered great demand for apartment space, and they plan on continuing to meet that demand with new residential projects in the planning stages. Jill also cast a vision for the future of Allentown as the area continues to grow and change under the impact of the coronavirus. Below are several slides that depict the activities of City Center.
The quality of the presentation and the relationship with City Center Allentown is indicative of the power and reach of the Executive Forum of the Lehigh Valley and the value that members receive.
On July 22, 2020, the Executive Forum of the Lehigh Valley met face-to-face, as well as having a Zoom option, at the Four Points Sheridan across from Dorney Park in Allentown. The featured presenter was Scott Gingold, owner of Lehigh Valley Technology Company. Ten were in physical attendance and another 17 joined virtually via zoom. Scott’s presentation was timely and addressed the technological challenges and opportunities in today’s business environment.
Scott identified the below challenges during COVID:
- Many businesses did (do) not have the proper infrastructure needed to support remote workers for an extended period.
- Misunderstanding of systems like VPN, Video Conferencing, Phone Systems, etc. led many companies to struggle.
- Stressed (by workload and talent level) internal IT departments.
- Working with the wrong (i.e. “cheap”) IT vendor they found the vendor lacked the documentation, SLA ‘s, systems, resources and redundancy needed to properly support their clients.
- All too many businesses lack(ed) the proper equipment to function remotely.