Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in mental health awareness. While you will find a lot of articles focusing on the damaging effect the pandemic had on mental health, you could argue that the pandemic merely highlighted the severity of the issue across the world.
As a result, we have seen an increase in mental health awareness and a surge in support for people of all ages, from those in school to those in offices. Mental health awareness at work has been particularly impactful and is helping drive positive change for individuals and their families.
Let’s take a look at the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace and how we can equip the leaders for the future.
The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Did you know that we spend one third of our lives at work? That equates to over 90,000 hours spent at work over a lifetime!
If your staff doesn’t feel supported at work, this can have a direct impact on their mental health and wellbeing. One of the most important things to remember about mental health conditions is that they don’t stop and start. You take them with you wherever you go. So, whether your employees are at home or in the office, they could be struggling.
As a business leader, whether you’re a director, a manager, or the leader of a team, you have a duty of care to your employees. Just as you should prioritize creating a safe work environment, the mental wellbeing of your employees should be at the top of your list, too.
Let’s take a look at how we can equip leaders effectively in mental health awareness.
1. Provide Mental Health Training Days and Workshops
Just as you would train your staff on how to use new softwares or speak to clients effectively, you should train them in mental health awareness. Although mental health training in the workplace is still a relatively new concept, it is an invaluable tool that provides leaders with the skills they need to better support their staff, create a safe and happy work environment, and provide people-oriented solutions in the workplace.
Mental health training should be offered on a regular basis to help refresh leaders on company policies. Providing mental health training days and workshops can go a long way towards reducing the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health and help promote a company culture of care and support for those who may be struggling.
2. Encourage Leaders to be Drivers of Change
Leadership isn’t just in the job title. Leaders are chosen to lead by example. Organizations of all sizes will have employees who are silently struggling in one way or another. Business leaders need to be aware of this, as awareness is the first step in driving positive change.
Many employees don’t feel the permission from leadership to take a lunch break, enjoy an afternoon off, or partake in flexible work arrangements. Sometimes it’s because they feel judged, other times they feel it’s just not permitted, and it could be because organization leaders are not leading by example.
Encourage your leaders to take regular breaks, step away from their desks at lunch time, widely advertize flexible working, and encourage employees who are prioritizing their mental health.
Letting your team know that it’s okay — healthy, even — to take regular breaks and enjoy time for themselves, gives employees permission to take back some control. So, whether they want to go on a walk at lunch or take time out to visit their therapist, the culture you create should encourage this, not convict it.
3. Promote the Benefits of Taking Time Off
Did you know that more than half of Americans are concerned their employers will judge them if they request leave on the grounds of mental health? This is a huge problem and is causing hundreds and thousands of employees to suffer from worsening symptoms of depression, anxiety, and burnout.
Promoting the benefits of taking time off is a great way to breach this delicate topic and let your team know that it’s okay to take time off when needed. According to Olivia Marcellino, VP of research at LuxuryRehabs.com, “many employers are sympathetic and understanding, especially because you’re actively seeking treatment. Public stigma around treatment-seeking has decreased as our knowledge [around] mental health has progressed.”
Whether your team works predominantly from the office, from home, or are split between the two, it’s important to let them know that taking time off is encouraged. Time off for therapy appointments or even a duvet day is a great way to promote better mental health awareness in the workplace and equip leaders of the future.
4. Equip Leaders with Better Communication Skills
According to Indeed, “effective communication plays an important part in maintaining a healthy workplace culture [...] A culture of open communication fosters a healthy and accepting environment where all employees feel equal and understood.”
Equipping leaders with better communication skills, through training sessions, is essential for a happy, healthy workplace. When your leaders know how to communicate properly, they can build trust with their employees and provide effective support for those who may be struggling with their mental health.
Many people with mental health conditions struggle to open up, particularly with their work colleagues — let alone their managers! However, fostering open and honest communication within the workplace and taking the time to listen to the needs of individuals can go a long way towards building relationships and providing support when it’s needed most.
Equipping leaders with the skills, training, and know-how they need is essential for the promotion of mental health awareness at work. We hope the above points have provided encouragement on how you can equip your leaders for the future and transform your organization for the better.
Are you interested in learning more about how to create healthy work environments for individuals with mental health issues? Check out our Chat & Learn here!
💎Did you know that you can actually make use of the impostor syndrome as your superpower? Mind-blowing, huh? Watch this video to the end to learn some key tips!
📼 The impostor syndrome might actually be a good thing - such as your superpower. Listen to these takes by Jen Elkow, director of product management at Skedulo, who is kind enough to show her own vulnerabilities with some tips that she wishes she’d known earlier in her career.
📼 Using The Impostor Syndrome As Your Superpower - Tip #1: So first of all, imposter syndrome is a good thing, and you shouldn’t let it stop you. In fact, consider that if you're doing something new, stretching yourself, and learning and growing, you’re in a position where you’re doing things for the very first time. As Jen says: that feeling of impostor syndrome, lean into that- the feeling itself means that you are actually on the right path! Maybe you're new to tech, and you're feeling this impostor syndrome because you’re comparing yourself to other people who might have more time in the industry than you. But that's okay! Really, what's important is that you persevere and continue.
📼 Using The Impostor Syndrome As Your Superpower - Tip #2: The core of Jane’s insight is to actually reframe impostor syndrome into a superpower. Remember this: nobody has your experience. Nobody has your unique point of view, your history, your industry knowledge, and the whole rich collection of experiences that you can bring to the table. Nobody has that except for you! So when you think about this, what is your unique perspective that you're able to bring? What is your unique worldview, your history, your passions that you're bringing to the table?
Using The Impostor Syndrome As Your Superpower - Tip #3
Jen’s last tip is if you have a question you’re dreading to ask, don’t hesitate to ask it anyway. Take five seconds of courage to bring it up. This is where Jen feels impostor syndrome the most, when having a question, and in particular when being in front of a large group of people. But actually what she’s come to appreciate is that other people likely have the same question. And by asking it, everyone is able to have a better understanding of the situation around them. So ask anyways!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Skedulo? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Jen
Jen is drawn to product management where the job is never done, rather (hopefully) a little bit better with each release. Success has come by constantly asking "What is it for?" and "Who is it for?" to understand what problems to solve and why it's worth solving them now. She has loved breaking down complex problems users are facing to find simple solutions and now enjoys enabling a team of Product Managers within their squads to do the same. She has been fortunate to manage product development through all product life cycles from exploration and ideation through to sunset and replacing products. She loves working through the ongoing adjustment for product development and strategy to take a product from early adopters, past the chasm, and beyond while scaling. Working within small-scale startups to large multi-national companies, always within a growth opportunity, has provided many lessons across multiple industries. If you are interested in a career at Skedulo, you can connect with Jen Elkow on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Skedulo
Skedulo is on a mission to support the 2.7 billion people in the world–and the companies that employ them–who do not work at a desk every day. Their global teams are collaborative, ambitious, innovative, and passionate about helping their customers to realize their fullest potential by enabling their mobile workforces. Skedulo’s leading Deskless Productivity Cloud solution powered by AI and machine learning empowers organizations to manage, engage and analyze their deskless workforce, supporting the 80% of global workers who don’t work in a traditional office setting. Skedulo’s platform helps enterprises intelligently manage, schedule, dispatch, and support deskless workers on the go, whether they are in fixed location facilities or mobile field workers on the frontline.
Talking to a fellow working parent is what really sold Tiffany Harris on software company Folsom Labs.
Tiffany is the Head of People Operations at the company, whose tools to more efficiently design and sell solar arrays are helping to build a future of clean energy. She joined two years ago, moving her family to the Bay Area from Santa Cruz for the role.
She was nervous about the move. Moving away from the community, extended family, and school system her family knew and loved was a risk. (Not to mention Tiffany's roller derby league—more on that later.) But then Tiffany talked to Folsom Labs' Director of Sales and Marketing, Evan Sarkisian.
"One of the main points that he hit on was how family-oriented Folsom Labs was, and how supported he felt as a parent," says Tiffany. "They've definitely lived up to what Evan sold to me in my interview."
We sat down with Tiffany to talk more about her journey to Folsom Labs, including how the start-up has made wellness more than just a talking point, and what advice she has for others looking to prioritize their mental health and work-life balance.
Taking a chance on startup life
A few years ago, when her sons had gotten a bit older and they needed her less, Tiffany realized something big: she wasn't sure who she was when she wasn't being their mom. Or even what possibilities were out there for her.
"In a late night Google, I came upon the Santa Cruz Derby Girls. I decided right then that I was going to become a Santa Cruz Derby Girl," says Tiffany.
She joined, she adopted a derby name—Sin D. Savage, for the curious among you—and she got inspired. "It was an eye-opening experience. I saw so many women doing amazing things with their lives, many of them mothers," remembers Tiffany. She branched out from being a mom and a derby player and started working on the league's board; this led her to a role in HR and office management at a medical office, and from there, she found her way to Folsom Labs.
"It really seemed like a place I wanted to be, a place where I could not only benefit from being around great people, but where I could learn, contribute to that team, and use my skills to really drive what they were already doing," she says.
Fostering balance and inclusion at Folsom—for herself and others
Tiffany's role as Head of People Operations includes HR, diversity and inclusion initiatives, company morale, and, in the times of COVID-19, company engagement during a pandemic.
"A couple months into the pandemic, we began seeing signs of fatigue in employees," says Tiffany. "We had such a strong company culture in the office and really wanted that to transition to our remote team, but it was clear that everyone really needed time to recharge."
One of the limited available responses to stressed-out employees during a world-disrupting global pandemic is, of course, taking time off. But Tiffany noticed that Folsom Labs' employees weren't doing that. Neither was she.
"You're at home, so you have this false sense of being on vacation, but people weren't taking breaks. I found myself having my laptop in front of me most of the day," says Tiffany. She and the company's leadership team started telling everybody to take a day off during the month, whatever day worked for them.
They didn't, though.
It's a problem other companies, including those with "unlimited vacation," know well: despite the fact that vacation is allowed and even encouraged, employees don't feel comfortable taking it. Maybe they're worried about falling behind, or looking like they're not committed to the mission. But being a tech company familiar with the power of experimentation, the Folsom Labs team didn't stop with "maybes."
"We needed to rethink our approach and adjust," explains Tiffany, "so we decided to make the third Friday of every month a company-observed wellness holiday."
And it worked. "The first one people weren't so sure about, but now they're definitely expected," says Tiffany, who personally enjoys having the third Friday of every month off because it gives her some dedicated time to focus on her kids, her family, and her own wellbeing. "It's helped a lot of employees to take time for themselves, to breathe—they can schedule a hike on that day, or do whatever they might need to reset and recharge."
Folsom Labs' focus on taking care of their employees has included, in addition to extra days off, flexible schedules, low-stakes group discussions to talk about stressful topics in the news or in people's personal lives, and what Tiffany describes as "a culture of understanding, wellbeing, and empathy."
That empathy is reflected in the company's approach to DEI, too. Tiffany and her coworkers plan themes for each month that address different aspects of identity and social justice, from intersectionality to unconscious bias. Folsom Labs' employees read a relevant book, meet in small groups to discuss, and do team building exercises. In between themed months, they do a month focused on wellness "to give people a break and a time to reset and digest what they've learned."
Tiffany recently led an activity about intersectionality where team members talked about how they feel they're perceived and how they want to be perceived. "Getting to know people on that deeper level, you can gain a different level of respect for them—you can respect who they truly are," reflects Tiffany.
4 ways to find balance in your life
Tiffany considers herself to be energized by her work supporting others, but sometimes she has to remember to apply that same focus to herself. "Being a caregiver, you have to take that step back and realize that you need to focus on your personal mental health and wellbeing too," she says. She does that by:
- Staying positive. "It's easy to start focusing on negatives. The things you didn't get done, especially being at home. The things that you had planned pre-covid or things that you're missing out on. I try not to let those thighs take over my thoughts," she says. "My goal is to take things day by day, do things with intention, and pick a couple of things that I'm really thankful for."
- Give yourself five. "Taking a five minute break to sit in a quiet room to meditate or stretch. Making a commitment to be present in that moment—to not think about work, or the stuff going on outside the room has been a huge help for me," she says.
- Share your goals with someone else. "I find it helps when I vocalize my goals—no matter how small. Sharing goals with friends and co-workers gives me the extra push to hold myself accountable. It's also nice to have people around you to celebrate when you achieve those goals!"
- Celebrate your wins. "Even if they're tiny!" says Tiffany, who likes sharing updates in the Folsom Labs Slack channel for wellness. "Here, we definitely have people encouraging you on little wins, which is so nice."
One last one to keep in mind: pinpoint what's going wrong. That's something Tiffany has learned from running Folsom Labs' quarterly wellness survey. Instead of blindly diagnosing imagined issues, operating with a real data set helps Tiffany and her team really understand what's wrong and work to solve it. "We try to focus on the passion points of our team. This gives us a clear sense of direction to set attainable goals," she says. That seems like good advice for all of us to follow for ourselves, doesn't it?
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health has always been important, but has been an especially important topic to focus on during these last four weeks, when people of color have continued to suffer disproportionately from COVID-19 while also fighting for racial justice all across the country.
To continue the conversation, we wanted to highlight PowerToFly clients who are working to support the mental health of the people of color on their teams. Our hope is that employees and candidates seeing these initiatives will feel supported and encouraged—and that other companies will be inspired to follow suit.
Freddie Mac partners with the experts
"Supporting mental well-being is more important than ever. The global pandemic and recent civil unrest have shaped an environment that is especially ripe for generating emotional stress and triggers that may exacerbate or induce mental health conditions," explains Freddie Mac manager Sarah Crump. "We are committed to a stigma-free, inclusive culture and endeavor to support employees the best we can. We developed internal campaigns to share resources—including ones tailored for the Black community and allies—from our partner the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We also have increased communications around our Employee Assistance Program and raised the visibility of our workplace counselor."
Learn more about Freddie Mac here.
MINDBODY centers wellness in everything they do
"Mindbody recognizes the systemic inequalities surrounding an individual's wellbeing specific to mental health, especially people of a minority demographic," says manager Morgen Monie. "We are committed to providing our employees and customers an environment where you can be your authentic self as a part of our team, or when working with our team." She highlights specific initiatives available to employees:
- Employee Assistance Program: paid-for visits for team members to meet with a medical professional, councilor, or advisor in topics pertaining to all dimensions of wellness.
- Wellbeing Day & Volunteer Day: days given to employees to take care of themselves, their families, and give back to an organization of their choice
- Free telehealth access, ensuring consistent access regardless of geography
- Free virtual wellness classes taught by Mindbody team members, including yoga and meditation
Learn more about MINDBODY here.
Relativity makes it easier to ask for help
"People often feel shame in admitting mental health struggles, so it's vital to normalize having open conversations about it at home and in the workplace," says Senior Wellness & HR Program Manager Cherry Mangat. "Minorities face additional barriers such as fewer resources, less dialogue and more stigma, so they're less likely to seek help. Especially today, these factors are magnified. Relativity aims to foster an environment where everyone feels welcome, safe and free to be themselves. We've focused on key areas such as launching an employee resource group focused on mental health, adding the Headspace mindfulness app, offering company-wide training, and creating a role dedicated to employee wellness."
Learn more about Relativity here.
Procore creates a culture of inclusion
"As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I feel fortunate to work for a company like Procore that puts their employees first and encourages us to do the same for our families," says Cynthia Griffin, Senior Recruiter at Procore. "Procore's African Descent Council (PAC) has been a pivotal part of my growth at Procore and has given me a sense of belonging and community that I continue to lean on today. Through our partnerships with Joyable and ComPsych Guidance Resources, we also have access to counselors, coaching, and other interactive resources that provide us with personalized support."
Learn more about Procore here.
Smartsheet shifts priorities to center mental health
"With work and life becoming increasingly intertwined amidst a global pandemic and the fight for racial justice, employers have a responsibility to both support and actively encourage good mental health practices among their employees," says Katie Bouwkamp, Smartsheet's Director of Global Culture Communications. "Smartsheet has made this a priority, adding several employer-sponsored benefits this year, [including] BetterHelp online counseling, a paid mental health day, and a 10-session wellbeing series. We've also made space for employees to share their own experiences and resources, including an employee-led workshop on mental health during uncertain times. This combination of employer- and employee-owned initiatives has allowed for more authenticity as we continue promoting good mental health."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
PwC uses tech to support self-care
"At PwC, people are given the 'green light' to talk with a trusted colleague or expert help," says a PwC spokesperson. "The firm offers a comprehensive set of benefits around mental health and well-being through their Be Well, Work Well initiatives, including providing free 24/7 access to a coach or therapist through a mental health app and new benefits including executive coaches that provide 1:1 and group well-being sessions, access to meditation apps and the creation of an internal social networking community. The firm has also introduced racial trauma counseling in conjunction with the six actions they are taking with respect to racial justice."
Learn more about PwC here.
MongoDB destigmatizes mental health
"We want to break the stigma around mental health and provide employees with valuable tools and the support they need, at work and beyond, to face life's challenges," says Danielle James, D&I Manager at MongoDB. "We offer mental health programs where employees can receive confidential assistance from qualified professionals, including Employee Assistance programs, and free access to Headspace and therapy sessions. We host company and department-specific days off to support mental health, and regularly organize internal events to destigmatize mental health, including an employee panel sponsored by the CEO and educational sessions with health partners. Learn more about our benefits and read one employee's mental health journey."
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Autodesk recognizes the importance of mental health
"Mental health is as important to our wellbeing as physical health," says Industry Marketing Manager Leona Frank. "Supporting the mental health of minority employees through robust programs and accessibility to resources recognizes the impact of racial trauma on the community. It is not easy to experience tragic and repeated examples of racial violence and injustice in our world, and then come to work and be fully present as if nothing has happened to our hearts and communities." She says that taking care of employees' mental health is "good business," noting, "Mentally healthy employees make better collaborators, can drive innovation, and are more productive. Overall, they have resiliency that allows them to respond effectively to critical business needs. At Autodesk, we are provided with tools and resources like Bravely that helps us connect with a professional coach, Flexible Leave policies, including extended paid time off, parental leave, and caretaker leave, and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that give employees access to confidential assistance."
Learn more about Autodesk here.
Raytheon Technologies fosters a culture of learning through experts
"Our Raytheon Technologies Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a rich resource of information and resources to assist all of our employees," says Raytheon Technologies' Kaley Young. "We have on-site EAP consultants that provide short-term, solution- focused counseling to employees and their family members on a variety of issues, including those issues that impact employees from a minority background such as the effects of racism on mental health, medical care, and housing. Additionally, the on-site consultants [teach] seminars [like] 'Having Difficult Conversations During Times of Social Unrest.'"
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.