It’s from Australia, but the part that I have looked at so far could be useful for everyone trying to figure out how to build and maintain a workplace that supports mental health. (Check your local laws, though, as the legal references are obviously related to Australian workplace safety rules)
You cannot claim to care about the people who work for you, and not even check in on their well-being. Those two things do not go together at all. We have to get to that very minimum level before we can do more, and if we can’t even be bothered to get there, I see no reason why anyone with a choice would want to continue working for you.
One way that I can see this being helpful that wouldn’t require much effort at all is to have a group of people who have been in touch with your EAP and navigated the maze that it can be, available to talk with other employees and assist them with that process. That can be the simplest, and yet most effective, way to start peer-to-peer support. There is much more that can be offered but if you’re struggling to know where to start, that can be one option.
However, to even get there we need to stop the secrecy, shame, and stigma surrounding mental health.
Through all of this, we still haven’t addressed the tough parts.
Sure, we’ve offered time off. We’ve told people it’s OK to not be OK. We’ve offered mental health apps for free. Maybe we’ve even offered more significant mental health benefits, or done sessions during the workday on stress and burnout.
What we haven’t done in many cases are the harder things, like creating a culture that is not rewarding all of the things we encourage employees not to do.
This quote from Kevin Love is something that just stood out to me because it’s something that I think is so important to understand. Not just for a professional athlete, but for any of us to remember about our own line of work, or to remember when it comes to young people in school:
“You can’t achieve yourself out of depression,” Love says. “You can’t achieve yourself out of that high-level of anxiety.”
We’ve seen the memes. The ones about the law firm offering a lunch hour yoga class to overworked, stressed, associates who haven’t had time to even take a lunch break in months. Or the “reward” for months of 70-80 hour work weeks is free pizza. It just makes people angry because it’s a token that does nothing to actually recognize the work involved, or correct the problems that created this mess to start with.
Workplace stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues are not just something a little mindfulness can fix. Workers are waking up to the fact that it’s the company culture that is contributing to this. Offering a way for employees to help “fix” themselves might seem like a nice thing, and in many ways it is, but doing it while not making any effort to recognize the contributions managers and corporate culture make to the problem, along with a commitment to make changes, is the very definition of “too little”.