Mental Health Matters

Building a Supportive Work Environment

Mental Health in the Workplace

As we reflect on Mental Health Awareness Month, I can’t help but think about the frustration and issues that exist surrounding mental health and the awareness or lack thereof in today’s society and especially in the workplace. Mental illness can affect anyone, it does not discriminate. So why is everyone so afraid to talk about it? Could it be that it’s viewed as a weakness (spoiler alert – it’s not)? Could it be that some call it a crutch while others say it’s an excuse (again, it’s not)? Those statements hold such a tremendous burden and cause people to shut down and move away from speaking about it or seeking help. It’s a dangerous way to function because those that suffer have no control over it. There are options and there is help both at work and at home.

The Stigma

I think the stigma stems from the fact that men from a very young age are taught that showing emotions or talking about their feelings is weak. Women are equally made to feel that being emotional is being irrational and being strong is being arrogant. When did we start shaming people for who they are?

Mental health is so important in work and in home life and a very passionate topic for me. As the CEO of Adwanted USA/SRDS, I strive to ensure that the employees feel safe and supported. I have been impacted firsthand by the struggles that come with someone suffering from mental health issues. The struggles are silent and sneak up when least expected. The most important thing to remember is that there is help and know that it is not so catastrophic that recovery is impossible. It is also critical to remove the stigma of talking about it, particularly in the workplace.

The Approach

I stress the importance of a safe work environment and an open one where it is ok to discuss feelings. If someone tells me that they are having a bad day, whether it be their job or home life being the catalyst, I encourage them to talk about it. If that doesn’t help, I ask them to step away from the job for an hour/half day/day to regroup and take the time. Work will always be here.

Small Changes

Small changes focused on mental health in the workplace can go a long way. We have some effective support in place for everyone as well as some benefits. These include a mental health awareness webinar, EAP program, early summer Fridays, the week off between Christmas and New Year, and an extra day off in your birthday month. Again, small but meaningful.

Being Aware

Being sensitive and hyper-aware of the need for mental health awareness is key. That’s why I try to be in tune with all employees. Have you ever found yourself running 3,000 mph and not reading the room? Well, I have, and it can really work against you and those who are in that room. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and the stress that comes with a fast-paced environment. What I work on every day is to make is a point to level set the feelings of the people in the room. This helps me assess how they are doing before jumping in. It’s so important to take that extra few minutes to get a sense of the mood.

Having Conversations

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone only to realize they are upset or thinking about something else, distracted by an outside presence, or stressed over the situation at work? It’s important to take a gut check and really listen. There are times you will need to change and pivot directions, make concessions so as not to burn someone out, or overpressure the situation.

Additionally, I encourage employees to take a walk, listen to music, go to the gym, decompress at lunch and during breaks, practice meditation, or whatever works for them. Our parent company, Adwanted Group is a French group and the team in our NY office has adopted the French practice of lunch. This doesn’t mean lunch for 10 minutes while you shove food in your mouth and scroll emails. This is REAL lunch where you turn off work for a full HOUR and engage in something other than work. It’s really a pleasure!

Remember This

Remember to be aware of the signs of someone struggling. Slow down and really be present with the people in your lives – at home and at work. There is a quote I try to remember, especially when I am under stress, and it couldn’t be more true – “The storm always runs out of rain”. During this month and all the months of the year make your mental health a top priority and stop the stigma of talking about it. Open the conversation and keep it as an open topic for everyone to participate in all the days of the year!

Learn more about SRDS and our team here.