According to the WHO, every year, depression and anxiety cause a loss of 12 billion working days amounting to 1 trillion USD in terms of lost productivity. But apart from reasons of productivity, businesses need to recognize that work conditions could not just affect their people, but also drive a nation’s mental health crisis! As US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says, “A healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities.”

The good news is that companies now actively recognize the importance of mental health in the overall well-being of their people and many have developed innovative programs that place a spotlight on the psychological aspects that affect their people at work (and even outside of it).   Let us look at some of them.

  • Algolia: The search engine API company Algolia came up with the concept of ‘Listening Circles,’ an initiative that allows employees to connect with each other, as well as gives them a safe space to voice their concerns and hear other people out. Participation in these Listening Circles is completely optional, and gives the company a chance to reach out to their employees and show support.

Algolia is also a vocal advocate of equal rights, which was what prompted them to create the listening circles in the first place. They wanted to ensure that employees belonging to minority groups felt safe enough within the office to openly talk about their experiences. Apart from encouraging employee voices, Algolia routinely takes a stance against racial injustice, and supports organizations working to change it.

  • Barclays: The well-known bank is another champion of diversity, and its ‘This Is Me’ campaign makes sure employees know it. The campaign provides them with a platform to share their personal stories, and builds empathy and connection within the workplace.

Sharing life stories is a gentle approach to encouraging diversity, and the personal touch in the stories help people change perceptions about disability and mental health at the workspace.

The campaign creates a safe environment that allows employees to be more confident about who they are and also brings the practical support people with disabilities might need. In the words of London-based Michael Nartey, “If I come to work and people know what my issues are, then most people are understanding and cut you the slack you need.” What better than such empathy to reduce the weight on their shoulders?

  •  Zappos: Billy Joel once said, “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity.” Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer, seems to have taken these words to heart with the launch of their mental health program, ‘Strum for the Sole’.

This unique program aims to incorporate music into office life by partnering with Fender, an instrument manufacturer. Fender equips the office with a myriad of instruments which employees are free to learn and play when they want to de-stress. Zappos’ jam room also provides a bonding opportunity, allowing employees to share songs and play music together.

This initiative was launched to foster creativity as a means of amplifying mental health. According to neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin, playing an instrument can increase patience and confidence, and improve one’s work ethic and persistence. Physical benefits such as enhanced hand-eye coordination, brain development, and immunity also contribute to improving employees’ mental state.

Programs like these don’t just encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work, but also allow them to see that their company cares about them – cares enough to come up with creative ways to support them! And when something is good for the people, it’s good for the bottom line too.

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