Supporting Mental Wellness in the Workplace Requires Both Tools and Training
The workplace may not seem like the most likely place to have a conversation about mental health, and that’s partly because the open discussion of emotional issues is still surrounded by so much stigma. But it’s time to change that.
Companies across the country have set out to change the ways leaders understand and support mental health. Some organizations are tackling the issue by scheduling virtual meditation sessions, while others are creating mental health-focused employee resource groups (ERGs).
Regardless of the approach taken, the objective is the same: to empower every employee to take charge of their own mental health and find help when they need it.
For Mary Ann Szypko, people operations manager at small business insurance provider Simply Business, destigmatizing mental health in the workplace requires giving employees the space to speak up while making sure leaders have the training needed to support them.
Yet those aren’t the only steps the company has taken to ensure mental wellness remains a top priority. From allowing employees to take time off when they need a mental health break to reimbursing meditation app subscriptions, the company is doing everything it can to make sure employees’ emotional needs are met, Szypko said.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Built In Boston caught up with Szypko to discover what her team is doing to normalize mental health conversations in the workplace.
How have you created a culture where people feel comfortable having honest conversations about mental health?
We know that mental health can be a challenging topic for many people to talk about. For this reason, we aim to offer ample outlets for people to have open conversations, such as our Time to Talk sessions, which provide a much-needed space for anyone to discuss their personal mental health struggles. In addition to these sessions, we host speakers who tackle topics like depression and anxiety, which gives our employees the chance to learn and talk about mental health.
What's one formal offering your company has that supports the mental health of your employees?
At the start of the pandemic, we instituted our exceptional circumstances policy, which provides employees flexibility to adjust their hours or take time off without using paid time off. We encourage employees to take time if they just need a mental health break, as we know the stressors set off by the pandemic can be especially taxing.
We train our managers on the importance of creating a safe and open space for their teams to have ongoing conversations and check in on how they’re feeling.”
When employees do come to their managers to discuss mental health issues, how are those situations handled? Do you provide any training to help managers navigate these types of conversations?
We train our managers on the importance of creating a safe and open space for their teams to have ongoing conversations and check in on how they’re feeling. Our leaders are trained to understand the different resources available for our employees, whether that be a policy, a therapy outlet, reimbursed meditation apps or access to our employee assistance program.
More recently, our training for leaders has shifted to focus on understanding the signs of Zoom fatigue and how to best support their employees in a fully remote world. Managers are also given Americans With Disabilities Act training to ensure that accommodation requests are identified, reviewed and provided where appropriate.