advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Changing the culture: Making mental health an organizational priority

People are the biggest asset in any organization, and they should be treated like the celebrities they are.

Changing the culture: Making mental health an organizational priority
[Jacob Lund/Adobe Stock]

The past few years have not been kind to us. Stressor after stressor—personally, professionally, socially, politically, and environmentally—have been thrown in our path. These are things that affect us not only as leaders, but also as individuals.

advertisement
advertisement

As we faced these challenges, we learned the importance of resilience and agility. As a nation, we have broken down the barriers surrounding mental health. Sure, we embraced some amazing technological advances to carry on doing business. But more importantly, we learned the value of humanity, of checking in with our neighbors, connecting with other humans, and being kind—to ourselves and others.

Prior to this period, many employees likely felt that asking for mental health support would have been a stain on their record. At best, it was paid lip service, something that businesses knew they ought to provide but saw no real value in. Why, then were many of the organizations known for putting their people first able to bounce back quicker and stronger?

People are the biggest asset in any organization, and they should be treated like the celebrities they are. That is part of our DNA at Moneypenny, but I am not the only one to understand that doing good, sustainable business is inextricably linked to looking after your people. Accordingly, mental health support should be seen as a strategic organizational priority. Here’s how to get started.

advertisement

ACCEPT THE INDIVIDUAL

People are unique. Their different expertise, skills, experiences, and strengths are why you employ them. We are all unique in how we react and cope. No one is an employee in isolation. That means that when they walk through the door on a Monday morning, they are bringing with them their life outside of work and all of the pressures it entails.

An organization’s role is not only to accept this uniqueness but to welcome it. It is to understand what a person’s drivers are and to create a safe environment in which it can support them to be the best they can be. That environment should not be one of workaholism and continual stress, which inevitably leads to burnout.

WORK TOWARD A CHANGE IN CULTURE

The solution is not to simply throw cash at the problem or provide more resources. Yes, investing in mental health support is a factor and providing a variety of services is key—we offer everything from the Calm App to a free healthy breakfast and fully trained mental health champions. However, if employees fear taking advantage of these resources will lead to judgment from teammates and/or managers, those resources will be a waste of time and money.

advertisement

The true resource required is an open, honest, and transparent culture. One where everyone is connected to the larger goal, where they are empowered to achieve, and where they feel safe to air their opinions, contribute, and collaborate.

PUT IT INTO PRACTICE

As with most changes, it begins with walking the walk. Leaders need to own it. They need to step up to the plate, not only by placing mental health on the strategic agenda but also by nurturing and encouraging an environment of openness and transparency. That can include sharing their own experiences—they themselves need to utilize the support that is offered. There’s no point preaching about work-life balance if you are still in the office every night at 9 p.m.

Unless there is a culture that places no shame or judgment around seeking help for mental health, even the very best resources won’t be able to improve employee well-being.

advertisement

THE SUSTAINABLE OFFICE

Many are struggling with the return to the office. I strongly believe that we need offices as a dedicated place to work, separate from home life. It plays a critical role in fostering culture, well-being, and team empowerment.

But the office must change. It should be a place people want to spend time; in practical terms, it should blur the lines between home and work. That can be as simple as adding an alternative style meeting room to your space. At its heart, however, it’s about implementing clear boundaries and creating new norms and promoting kindness and empathy. It’s about asking “how are you?” and meaning it, and then following up with action if necessary.

Supporting your people in this way only brings benefits. It’s a cycle you want to perpetuate. If people feel supported, then checking in on mental health becomes part of the daily routine. In this culture, people feel connected to their organization. They feel safe, satisfied, and proud to be a part of it.

advertisement

Leaders need to demonstrate these new norms, take up resources to show authenticity, and inspire others to do the same.

THE FUTURE OF WORK

Businesses have taken the first step. They have acknowledged the importance of mental health. Now, let us take it further. Now is the time to intentionally place mental health at the cultural core and see what is possible.


Eric Schurke, CEO North America, Moneypenny. Moneypenny handles outsourced phone calls, live chat and digital comms.

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement