Working on a laptop

After six months of working with Boon, customers have experienced 50% reductions in employee turnover and after just six coaching sessions, 85% of employees are achieving higher levels of resilience — which leads to more productive, engaged, and overall happier employees.

Launched on the precipice of the pandemic and the ensuing Great Resignation, Birmingham-based Boon Health is a new employee-retention tool that is serving at the intersection of mental well being and professional development. The company’s diverse team of certified coaches are working with more than 50 companies across the country, ranging from the Detroit Lions to the Mars Agency, a global marketing firm. 

Boon was founded by Alex Simmons, 31, a CPA who became accustomed to stress, anxiety and burnout through his work in the high-stress environments of investment banking and private equity. 

Alex Simmons
Alex Simmons

“When I was working in investment banking, I came to realize that everyone was stressed and burnt out, and my employer at the time didn’t have any resources to take care of us besides an old, antiquated Employee Assistance Program,” he said. “That is when I found meditation, therapy and coaching outside of work — all of which had a transformational impact on my life and made me realize there was a massive void in the workplace around companies taking care of their people. Enter Boon!” 

When it comes to mental health benefits, Simmons said about 80 percent of mid-to-large corporations have employee assistance programs. But these programs address employees’ needs only when they reach a crisis mode, such as severe mental illness, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse and addiction. Think of it as a dental plan that doesn’t cover routine preventative care until a patient needs a root canal. 

Crafting a new business model, the 2019 graduate of University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business launched Boon to offer an approachable, customized coaching platform that facilitates personal and professional growth.

Just as he was building his network of certified coaches, the pandemic struck. In the thick of the pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic, corporations faced high turnover rates of employees adjusting to remote work and coping with stress, burnout and a lack of professional development resources. 

“Boon is is all about resilience: How do we help the people in the company as well as the companies perform at their best potential?” Simmons said.

“Either because of the stigma surrounding mental health or the mere fact that most employees don’t know they have this benefit, the employee assistance program is meant to be more of a crisis management solution, an end-of-the-line tool,” Simmons explained. 

In comparison, Simmons said that Boon has experienced an average employee utilization of 30% across its customer base. After six months of working with Boon, customers have experienced 50% reductions in employee turnover and after just six coaching sessions, 85% of employees are achieving higher levels of resilience — which leads to more productive, engaged, and overall happier employees.

What Is Coaching? 

Robin Axelrod, Boon co-founder and chief clinical officer, explained the difference between psychotherapy and professional coaching like this: Psychotherapy, based on the medical model, assumes there is a problem, and the therapist works with the patient to fix what is broken. 

Robin Axelrod
Robin Axelrod

“Coaching assumes that every single person is whole,” Axelrod said. “And a coach is the guide for their clients to access all the resources they have to identify and reach their goals. Then the next step is learning how to remove obstacles getting in the way or work around them, so coaching is very goal- and success-oriented.”

Axlelrod, 60, was a Judaic studies major at the Univeristy of Michigan and went on to law school at Wayne State University before pursing another degree in social work. She received a Wexner Graduate Fellowship to study social work at U-M and a certificate in Jewish professional leadership.

Along the way, she said she was fortunate enough to find mentors and coaches to guide her career path. 

For many years she worked at the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills as its founding director of education while she built her private coaching practice. She still volunteers there. 

Axelrod explained that Boon provides 30-minute coaching sessions for individuals every other week with certified coaches.

At any time during the coaching process, if the coach detects the client may be suffering from anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness, they will recommend a mental health screening and refer for additional treatment, such as arranging mental health care with a psychiatrist or a therapist. 

Axelrod explained that professional coaching can range from developing better executive presence skills to managing work-home balance. 

For example, if a client asks, ‘How can I improve my executive presence?’ we work on that. If a client is going through a rough patch at home that spills over into their work, we address that. Whatever the client’s needs — and needs are fluid — we provide personalized coaching to empower clients to become more resilient versions of themselves to overcome challenges and reach their goals.

“The data are clear: consistent, goal-oriented and individualized coaching relationships are the best way to support employees’ personal and professional growth to build a happy, productive, and engaged team.”  

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at