Managing mental health well has been a significant focus of LeAP’s initiatives, because this aspect of health continues to be a stigma in many spaces. We wish to undo that. From advocating for a ‘mental health break day,’ to understanding the mental health quotient of organizations, we’ve gone far and wide.
We have also looked at how other companies are managing the journey of depression, anxiety, burnout, and grieving among employees. Here are some best practices we found:
- Rely less on policies. Haley Lewis, an occupational therapist based out of UK, says, “Many companies have mental health policies, but too often these are broad and do not represent the nuances of mental health. It’s like looking at physical health and treating someone who has lost an arm with chemotherapy.” Excessive focus on policies can make people fearful of saying the wrong thing. Case in point – the #MeToo movement has male leaders hesitant to mentor women employees.
To overcome this, trust your instincts when approaching people who seem to be struggling. Open up a conversation by saying something along these lines:
- You’re not your usual self, is there anything we can do to help?
- Please remember that it is alright to ask for help.
- It’s difficult for me to understand what you are going through right now but I can see that you’re in distress. Is everything okay?
- Normalize the challenges. The CEO of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, tweets regularly about going to see his therapist, his experiences with burnout, and more “founder lows”. Following his lead, other employees at Buffer have written blogs about how they have built resilience and managed anxiety, or people have also openly shared about their medications on channels like Slack.
The lesson here: everyone has challenges and we need to speak openly about them. Nearly 450 million people worldwide are currently living with a mental illness, but two-thirds don’t seek treatment. Leaders/ managers, take note. Building a culture that encourages honest talk is a top-down approach.
- Create space for all personalities. There is a big impetus for people to share their experiences, which builds more awareness and helps people support each other. At the same time, some people might not be upto sharing, given their introverted personalities. Make it safe for everyone to not just share, but also to choose how they interact with each other.
Buffer does it well. They partially pay for people to work out of co-working spaces or offer coffee shop coupons if co-workers would like to have a day out together. This serves the extroverts. Introverts – Buffer avoids putting them on the spot. At company outings, people can take solo rooms if they want some space to recharge.
In essence, managing mental health requires us to be flexible, as a lot is still being discovered about it. How does your team’s culture support this? Let us know.