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  • By Amy Halpern Marcela Compagnet-Orellana, the human resources director at the Rockville nonprofit EveryMind, says there’s a running joke that “nobody would say anything” if an employee wanted to take off on National Margarita Day (Feb. 22). Employees at EveryMind, which provides mental health counseling and support, get nearly 50 paid days off a year—18 holidays, 12 sick days, 10 vacation days, three personal days, two mental health days, and one day each for volunteer work and to celebrate their birthdays. And taking time off is encouraged, Compagnet-Orellana says. “If someone isn’t using their PTO, their supervisors will tell them to do so,” she says. Indrani Dial-Maraj, a manager of crisis prevention and intervention services at EveryMind, often answers the phone for four different hotlines. She says she encourages each caller to engage in their favorite self-care activity right after they hang up. The self-care “action plan” Dial-Maraj discusses with her callers is part of the training she received when she joined EveryMind 17 years ago. She says her employer follows the guidance in supporting its 90-plus employees, making their mental well-being—their self-care—priority one. “If they don’t do it for us,” she says, “what example are we setting for anybody else?”

  • By Amy Halpern Thirty years ago, Jeff Schwaber, an associate at a large Baltimore law firm, was assigned to a case in Montgomery County. For the duration of the trial, his supervisors arranged for him to “bum an office” at a small law firm across the street from the Rockville courthouse. “They didn’t know me from a hole in the wall,” Schwaber says of the attorneys at Stein Sperling, where he set up shop for six weeks, but they were friendly and eager to make suggestions and help him with the case. Soon he thought, “These guys really enjoy each other, they really have a good time,” he says. “And professional happiness helps breed professional excellence—I could see that, and I wanted to be part of it.” A few months later, Schwaber left the Baltimore firm and came to Stein Sperling as a fourth-year associate. Today he’s managing partner. Nearly a third of the firm’s 124 employees have been there for at least 10 years, Schwaber says. “In an increasingly transient profession, this lack of turnover is something we are quite proud of,” he says. Darla McClure started as the firm’s receptionist when she was 21. “Every step of the way they were just very encouraging,” says the 50-year-old, who became a paralegal, went to law school at night, became an associate, and now is a principal of the firm and head of the employment law group. During all that time, she never considered leaving the firm. “There was never any reason to,” she says. “They’re good to their staff…they want to see them succeed.”

  • By Amy Halpern When Rockville-based research company Westat decided it was time to add a fitness center to its eight-building campus 12 years ago, its employees led the charge, “coming up with the specs, the requirements, interviewing the companies that came in, being a part of the decision-making process,” says Donna Atkinson, one of Westat’s associate directors for behavioral health and health policy. Making decisions is nothing new for staffers at the company: Since 1978, Westat has been 100% employee owned. “It makes you a little bit more committed to what you’re doing...because if you are successful you can reap the benefits directly,” says Atkinson, who has been with the company since 2003. Women account for more than 700 of the 1,100 people who work at the company’s Rockville headquarters, and they make up 55% of the executive team. (Westat has offices in six other states.) Since the pandemic, nearly everyone has been working remotely, but they are all still making decisions together, including figuring out when to return to the office. “As [owners] of the company…it requires us to think about the business decisions that the company makes and being a part of that,” Atkinson says. Ultimately, Atkinson is most proud of the work she gets to do at Westat. Over the past several years, her data research has involved COVID testing, the opioid crisis, and the effects of certain health interventions in reducing hypertension and diabetes in underserved communities. Jeanne Rosenthal, a vice president for public health and epidemiology, has been at Westat for 42 years, and says her longevity “is a testimonial in itself” to the company’s collaborative culture and the sense of fulfillment everyone gets from the work they do. Findings from one of Rosenthal’s recent projects were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It’s exciting, she says, to know that your work “can have an impact.”