Open up your LinkedIn newsfeed and you’re likely to see at least one post per scroll by companies beating their drum about the latest mental health initiative they’ve rolled out to their staff. Wellness weeks, partnerships with coaches, new subscription platforms, full company shut-downs, even.
We talked about the notion of building resilience in a previous blog post and a wonderful analogy one of our team made was around how building resilience is like strengthening a muscle - you’ve got to train it to make it stronger. Building a company culture focused on safeguarding the wellbeing of its employees is no different. It’s the small incremental gains that make the difference, rather than the grand one-off gestures. Taking half-days on Fridays will realistically do nothing to safeguard the mental health of your team if you’ve built a culture drenched in stress, toxicity, and overwork. Give me five days per week in a people-centric environment with empathetic leadership, rather than 4.5 days in a political warzone. I’m not suggesting that that’s the case in every company, but we need to be looking at how we spend the time we do have with our employees, as well as giving some of it back.
While I love reading stories about companies’ new brand partnerships and their use of innovative products focused on boosting wellbeing (particularly now we’ve seen the mental health impacts of the pandemic), I can’t help but think that we could be going further. I know that a blog post about day-to-day routines and rituals, investments in line manager training, and the gathering of regular, honest staff feedback may not garner the same level of social media attention, but I’m certain that this is the stuff that makes a real difference.
While the notion of moving from “reactive to proactive” oversimplifies things massively (especially on a subject as evolving and personal as mental health and wellbeing), it’s so important to spend time and resources on doing the less glamorous “hard yards” internally. Working to upskill managers; opening honest feedback channels for staff across all levels of seniority; focusing on workload management; setting appropriate goals and celebrating success as a team. If companies are doing all of this in addition to the more large-scale mental health press initiatives, then we can make real headway in addressing some of the key contributors to wellbeing and mitigate the more damaging influencers on mental health. Mental health and wellbeing isn’t a cost center. It should be viewed as a fundamental focus for a company’s evolving culture and the success of the individuals who make the culture what it is. However, my hunch is that the pandemic era has led to some “papering over cracks” and in some cases media-friendly reactive behaviors. Instead, companies could be engaging in the uncomfortable but transformative discussions that lead to truly wonderful workplaces (whether they appear on a ‘best places to work’ list or not). This may well involve some honest, gritty conversations, but we need to do more of the groundwork to ensure our teams feel heard, supported, and respected.
P.S. We’re proud of our partnerships with wonderful companies that have helped us to train our mental health and wellbeing muscles here at Cutover. Next time you chat to one of our team, why not ask them about some of the things we’re doing? I’d love to think that many of our team will be great evangelists of our approach.