One of the silver linings of the past few years of near constant turmoil is greater awareness and conversation around the subject of mental health in the workplace, particularly when so many staffers are working remotely.
“So much of our identity has been tied to our jobs, and the last two-plus years has shown many that they are more than just their jobs,” said Keith Stoeckeler, founder of Heartlent Group. “But with that attachment to our jobs we have felt guilty taking time off, putting our work onto others while we step away for a day or a vacation. I, like many, have felt a recent shift where people are prioritizing themselves, and it’s overdue and very welcomed.”
With August designated as National Wellness Month, we reached out to leaders from the Amp community to hear how they have been promoting the psychological wellness of the people they rely on every day in the face of unprecedented health, sociopolitical and economic crises.
A culture of acceptance
For many agencies, the work of promoting the mental health of their employees had to start with tackling culture—that intangible set of social rules and norms that bring a company’s values to life. Without the right environment to encourage openness, mental health challenges are experienced out of sight of managers and co-workers.
“The real crux of the issue is knowing that someone is struggling in the first place,” said Katie Martin, senior VP and managing director at Big Village, where employees have access to confidential services, preventative support, flexible time off and educational talks. “We foster an environment where everyone is authentically looking out for one another, is not afraid to raise their hand, and can show their vulnerability and share personal stories to help each other.” Martin also spoke to the importance of “kindness and action” in order to safeguard that space. “Support is easier to find once you are aware of the issue or struggle. Building that culture comes down to all the things we know: leadership living it, hiring meeting it—and adding to it—zero tolerance for anything that goes against it, and reward for those that show it,” said Martin.
Leaders at Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based ThreeSixtyEight put in place a three-pronged approach to ensure their staff feels encouraged to speak freely on the topic of their mental health—something that may go against entrenched beliefs around work and performance.
“Who would want the people in charge of their paycheck to know that they’re trying a new antidepressant and can barely get out of bed?” said Kaitlyn Hieb, senior brand strategist at ThreeSixtyEight. “Our leadership team has done an incredible job at encouraging us to bring our full selves to work, even the sides of us that seem too dangerous to share.”
Hieb explained that their approach involved normalization, vulnerability and active listening: Neurodivergence is openly discussed and embraced, leaders share their own mental health challenges, struggles and journeys, and managers “read between the lines” when checking in with staff.