Dennis and I just returned from the National Convene Conference, which brings business owners together from across the country to engage and learn how to thrive and build thriving companies.
One of the consistent themes we heard from business leaders in every industry was the impact of our current world situation on the mental health of their colleagues and workforce. Beyond the loss of productivity, employee absence and turnover, and relationship tension, there is an epidemic of suicide at every tier of the company – C-suite, managers, sales, support, and hourly workers.
Coping with stress and depression is a reality that leaders need to be aware of at every level of their influence and responsibility. Tolerating a workplace culture that is unsupportive, insensitive, or hostile to the needs of those who suffer from mental health challenges has tragic results. Being aware and proactive about the needs of your workforce, especially needs that have been mishandled, can build a safe and desirable culture.
There are ways leaders can make meaningful change. A simple and helpful resource we engaged at our conference was the organizations that provide employees with immediate, caring support in the form of workplace chaplains. Marketplace Chaplains and Corporate Chaplains are organizations that bring well-trained, objective, skilled, and experienced men and women who know how to listen, talk through options and solutions, connect to resources, intervene in a crisis, and prevent many life-threatening decisions. The results of caring chaplains in a business are well documented, and the cost to provide them for your company is far less than the cost of unaddressed mental health issues.
I recommend an excellent recent article in Harvard Business Review, How to Be a Mental Health Ally, by Katherine Ponte. She writes:
“The myth that people with mental health conditions cannot make meaningful contributions leads to conscious and unconscious bias. We must work together to eradicate the stigma and its devastating impacts. We may struggle with mental health, but we can recover. We can thrive at home and work, and we can help make this possible for each other by being allies, collaborating to create a supportive workplace for all.
To be a mental health ally at work is to help those struggling with mental health issues feel valued and needed. This can have positive long-term benefits, including increased employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty. Strengthening and deepening relationships between colleagues can also benefit the broader employee community. When we’re supported, we’re also often eager to support others, creating a virtuous self-reinforcing cycle.
Some of the most effective ways you can be a mental health ally are to talk one on one with colleagues who are struggling, use supportive language, educate yourself and colleagues about mental health, encourage group engagement, and create policies that help employees who need it.”
Her article has several specific ways to talk with a colleague and bring the support they need for their mental health challenge.
We encourage you to take this issue seriously as a leader. We can direct you to several helpful resources to make your company safe and thriving for all of your employees.
Let us know if we can speak into that need in your life or business.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to our latest podcast, you can check it out here:
To Your Health!
Q&A for this topic:
- How aware are you of the mental health challenges where you lead?
- How safe is it for someone to approach you or your co-leaders with their needs?
- What resources are available to support and encourage your workforce?
- What policies and actions do you need to take to protect your employees?