How many of your team members are chronically stressed out, dealing with anxiety or even depression? It’s tough to know, isn’t it? If your coworker shows up with their arm in a cast, it’s easy to tell they broke their arm. But the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions can be hard to see.
People are often hesitant to discuss their mental well-being at work. That’s why it’s important to create a firm culture that promotes and supports mental well-being, so anyone struggling feels safe and knows how to look after their own mental health and access additional resources when needed.
Why mental health matters at work
According to Harvard Business Review, we collectively lose over 200 million workdays annually due to mental health conditions, resulting in a loss of $16.8 billion in employee productivity. Despite this drain on resources, nearly 60% of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health – often because they fear professional repercussions.
Another study, conducted by Mind Share Partners and published in the Harvard Business Review, found that about half of millennials and 75% of Gen Z employees have left a job because of mental health reasons.
At Boomer Consulting, the COVID-19 pandemic served as a major reminder that we need to check in on our fully remote team more.
Last fall, during one of our strategic planning meetings, we talked about the “six-month wall,” a concept pioneered by Professor Aisha Ahmad of the University of Toronto to describe a point in any sustained crisis where people feel like they’re running out of steam. Prior to hitting that wall, people think positively and adjust to change. But when that wall hits, people start to question whether they can keep going.
We’ve revisited the six-month wall discussion several times as a company and discovered that wall has definitely extended past the six-month mark and is still lingering. That’s why we decided to make mental health more of a priority – both on a company-wide basis and individually.
How to promote mental health in your firm
While we’re still learning how to best support our team and be inclusive, here are a few of the steps we’re taking to promote mental health and well-being in our organization.
1. Start an open dialog
The first step in reducing the stigma around mental health in the workplace is talking about it openly.
Like other elements of company culture, this has to start from the top down. When firm leaders speak candidly about their personal experiences, other team members realize they aren’t alone and mental illness isn’t taboo.
In the study mentioned above, researchers realized that the conversation around mental health traditionally involved diagnosable conditions. To broaden the conversation, the researchers framed their questions in terms of symptoms that everyone experiences from time to time, such as feeling sad or anxious, losing interest in activities or losing sleep. Often, talking about symptoms carries less stigma than talking about depression and or other mental illnesses, so consider that when framing your conversations.
Even if they’re uncomfortable at first, sticking with it can really open up your interactions and increase connection with the company and even with your clients.
2. Share resources
As part of our focus on mental health, we created the BCI Healthy Minds Program, which entails ensuring everyone on our team knows about the available resources.
For example, we’ve had an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for years, but few people were aware of the wide variety of resources available through our EAP, such as:
A 24/7 toll-free helpline with access to licensed behavioral health professionals
Personal assistance to help with things that can impact work/life balance like dealing with transportation, housing, childcare and sleeping issues
Short-term counseling with a professional counselor – face-to-face or via phone, text or video
An online stress toolkit
Each week, I share EAP and other outside resources with our team, so people are aware of the resources available and feel encouraged to take advantage of them.
3. Take time out
Our Culture Club – a committee tasked with hosting fun events, challenges and celebrations for our team – hosts monthly and quarterly health challenges to help people focus on their physical health.
This month, which also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re extending the challenge to focus on mental well-being, and I’ll be posting a challenge in Workplace for everyone to complete each day for 12 days. For example, I might encourage people to watch a comedy or take a 15-minute walk. Our team members can post a picture of themselves performing that day’s task or share their thoughts about what they’re doing each day. We’re hoping this encourages people to take time to do things that help them feel energized and uplifted.
Supporting mental health in your firm is achievable. Look into your firm’s EAP or wellness program to find helpful resources and make sure everyone in the firm knows they’re there. Start making it a priority to talk about mental health and let people know you care about them on a personal level.
When you address this serious issue in a way that helps people feel understood and supported, you can create a positive and inclusive workplace where people can bring their best selves to work. It’s a win-win!
As Financial Operations for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Jenna is passionate about the administrative side of business –both internally and externally.Her primary focus is on the company’s payroll, human resources, and accounting.
Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc.as a Solutions Advisor in 2018,Jenna owned a home health agency for three and a half years.