World Mental Health Day | Supporting wellbeing in the workplace

mindfulness, woman practising meditation, mindful wellbeing

In the run up to World Mental Health Day, business leaders and CEOs from the tech industry talk to us about the impact the last eighteen months has had on their teams’ mental wellbeing and how they’re planning to support them through the transition to hybrid working.

James Hallahan, Director of Hays Technology, UK & IrelandJames Hallahan, Director of Hays Technology, UK & Ireland

“In a recent survey we looked at the effects of the pandemic on the world of work. 34% of technology professionals said the most negative impact was the blurring of the work-life balance and 25% said it was an increase in workload. Working from home has made it more difficult for people to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day.

“However, remote working is here to stay and we are seeing an increase in the numbers of IT employees contracted to work from home, so it’s really important that organisations make sure they look after their remote workers and help them avoid burn-out. They can do this by implementing strategies that encourage people to take proper breaks and switch off their computers at the end of the day. These need to be embedded in company culture and senior leaders must be seen to be walking the walk so that everyone knows is the acceptable way to behave.

“At Hays we have launched mental health initiatives for all our employees, customers and candidates. POWR is an app for all staff to help them develop skills for improved personal wellbeing, and Hays Thrive is a free product for all of our customers. We offer online courses to help organisations find better ways to support their employees, which was vital during lockdown and the subsequent months of remote learning. There was a course specifically designed to support mental health during uncertain times. Our candidate-focused product includes free training for upskilling in different areas and also training in resilience and mental health.”

Alex Arundale Chief People Officer at AdvancedAlex Arundale, Chief People Officer, Advanced

“It’s vital for an individual’s wellbeing that they can bring their authentic selves to work. One of the things we’ve learned from lockdown, when we all had a virtual window into each other’s homes, is that we are all different. Our lives, our experiences and the things that matter to each of us are what drives us and it’s that diversity that enriches the businesses we work for. But people can only be fully themselves in the workplace if they feel safe, accepted and welcomed there. Businesses that actively promote a diversity and inclusion policy and have a clear strategy about how to implement it are giving themselves a competitive edge. They recognise that employees who feel genuinely valued for who they are, and are properly rewarded for their work, demonstrate greater loyalty, are more likely to stay with the business, and are more effective and productive within their roles. We’ve used data collected for our recent Diversity Pay Gap Report to help us understand who is represented where in the business so we can take steps to promote more opportunities for everyone at all levels. In order to gain deeper insights we invite all employees to adopt the role of Diversity Leader and have set up employee resource groups, including Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ Team Rainbow, Women’s Network and Disability Inclusion Network.  They help us to shape policy and strategies for increasing diversity. People are usually most committed to changes when they feel they have a stake in them and have some ownership over the solutions.”

Marco Fanizzi VP & GM of Commvault EMEA_0480Marco Fanizzi, VP and General Manager of Commvault, EMEA

“The potential issue I’m keeping a close eye on at the moment is whether a short term increase in team productivity that we have seen from the shift to more home working will have a longer term impact on our people’s mental wellbeing.

“Our CEO has taken strong, proactive measures by designating four mental wellbeing days for all employees globally, in addition to regular leave. It is very important for us to give our employees clear additional consideration to adjust to the continually evolving balance of personal and work elements in their lives.  These are important for us to keep our employees well and focused on their wellbeing, but we are also still identifying and working on resolving emerging issues around employee wellbeing in other ways.

“Looking further ahead we want to be completely flexible and will offer a hybrid environment so they can come into the office setting when they need to. We also have specific approaches for different people – senior people are generally more independent, for instance, but we will still offer a development place for young talent to meet, learn and share the environment with others and in time, get back to normality.”

“Our working lives must be flexible, sustainable, fair, without differences, and with diversity and inclusion providing a foundation for a positive shared future.” 

Sam Fuller MD and founder of The Wellbeing ProjectSam Fuller, Founder and MD, The Wellbeing Project

“Our Wraw Resilience Report 2021 looked at how different groups were coping with wellbeing and resilience and we found that women experienced a greater drop in their resilience during the pandemic, experiencing a decline that’s 68% larger than men. Resilience is an important indicator of overall wellbeing as it reflects the ability to deal with challenges and bounce back. The lower scores for women may indicate that they have struggled more because of additional challenges around domestic responsibilities, home schooling and fitting the demands of their family in with their work. Even in these enlightened times, not all employers are as understanding about those challenges as they could be. When we look closer a the data, we can also see that middle adulthood appears to be very challenging, with people aged 36-45 years having the lowest scores for energy than the other age groups. Again, this may be a reflection of other pressures, including family life, alongside higher than average self-imposed work pressures and expectations. It is very important that senior leaders model healthy behaviours so that the rest of the organisation can see that is acceptable to take a proper lunch break, and to stop answering emails at the end of contracted hours.”

Janette MartinJanette Martin, CEO, 360 Resourcing

“Our company culture at Talos360 is very much about being open, honest, friendly fun and unafraid to say what we think. Challenge is key to learning, development and innovation, and it’s a principle that is encouraged and enacted by everyone, including the senior leadership team. Transparency and authenticity are crucial, if we want people to keep bringing the best of themselves to work every day. We also work hard get to know every member of our team, and that is invaluable when it comes to spotting when people are struggling or might be at risk of burnout. We understand that everyone is human and our lives can sometimes get complicated, and no one should feel embarrassed about that. Regular communication to make sure people are doing ok, combined with leaders behaving in the way we want and expect everyone else to behave, is really important for maintaining a healthy and happy workforce. Our fortnightly ‘Tribe’ meetings, in the office and via Teams for those working remotely, are an opportunity to share our news, both business and personal.”

World Mental Health Day featured

World Mental Health Day: time to take a step back

World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day takes place on 10th October every year, and aims to spread awareness and eliminate the stigma still attached to discussions around mental health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million work days are lost each year in the UK due to mental health problems, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. With this in mind, five technology executives come together to discuss how they promote good mental health in their organisations.

Get with the times: reducing the stigma

 Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal expresses his frustration at the continued stigma around conversations about mental health.

“Despite increased focus and efforts, we are still a long way from regarding or treating mental and physiological health as the same. We need to help to reduce the secrecy and stigma surrounding mental health issues, encourage employees to step forward if they are having mental health problems, and make employers reconsider their own attitudes to mental health related illnesses.

“Organisations should take note of forward-thinking attitudes when it comes to mental health – take Olark, a US-based tech company: one of its employees made a bold move to explain her absence from work by highlighting her own focus on mental health. The company’s CEO got involved. Not only did he praise her for setting such a noteworthy example, he thanked her for reminding him of the importance of using sick days for mental health and helping to remove the stigma associated with mental health.”

Always-on culture: not what it’s cracked up to be?

 “The latest agile working technology offers us a myriad of possibilities to communicate and collaborate,” explains Jude Mott, Product Director at Six Degrees. “However, the ‘always-on’ working culture that today’s technology facilitates can have a detrimental effect on our ability to focus and take time to look after our mental wellbeing. Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to improve our mental health in the fast-paced workplace of today.

“If you’re struggling to focus at work, consider managing your notifications to avoid distractions and booking focus time in your calendar. Many of us habitually check our emails during the evening and weekends, but our time away from the office is essential to helping us relax and recharge. Set clear boundaries, and remember that ‘out of office’ really does mean out of office – those emails, meetings and tasks will still be there when you get back.”

Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise talks about how this ‘always-on’ culture also affects IT teams specifically.

“IT teams are under constant pressure to respond immediately to any technical issues or cyber threats, and resolve these quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, it all contributes to a stressful working environment, which is why this World Mental Health Day, business leaders should take the time to consider their employees’ mental wellbeing, and implement measures or tools that can help ease some of the strain. For example, investing in solutions designed for efficiency, such as data management, can help to streamline time management. Instead of having to allocate precious time to sift through ever-increasing pools of unstructured data, thanks to tools like these that can do that, IT teams can use that time more productively to benefit the business, and feel less anxious in the process.”

The latest tools: how can technology help?

"The bottom line is that, as an employer, we can start to change how mental health issues are managed,” explains Jen Locklear, Chief Talent Officer at ConnectWise. “While it's true that people have huge struggles and daily battles with stress, anxiety, and depression, more and more resources are becoming available to employers that can help our teams. We need to help our people.

“At ConnectWise, we’ve recently implemented which offers behavioural health support to our colleagues, 24/7. We have an engagement tool, TINYpulse, that has helped us to work with our people on issues that are impacting them – anonymously. We also offer financial planning help, because we know that is such a huge source of stress for people.

“What it comes down to for me is that I want to work for an employer who understands the significance of mental health. Not just for the purposes of the company’s productivity, but for the overall health of our people and the community. While it is not our obligation to offer these tools, I am grateful for companies like ours that offer these resources for people who are more than worth this investment."

Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Senior Sales Director EMEA at Ergotron also highlights the tools that businesses can implement to look after their employees better.

“In recent years many businesses have introduced solutions to try and combat stress, including providing healthy food in the office, or offering complimentary gym memberships and flexible working hours. Whilst these benefits have their own merits, what’s arguably more important is that businesses consider how they can make working hours more productive, comfortable, and flexible – all contributing to better physical and mental wellbeing.

“Initiatives that promote movement in the workplace are a sure-fire way of helping staff-members feel happier and healthier. Many companies are now investing in products and solutions that can be tailored to individuals' needs – for example, ergonomic office furniture or work-from-home schemes – all of which can make a huge difference to an employee’s productivity and their mental wellbeing. Other factors like a change of scene in the workplace, or simply standing up to work rather than sitting down, are extremely beneficial for workers – standing more can increase energy and productivity levels, lower stress and improve employees’ moods. Humans are not designed to be sedentary all day, so ensuring that employees are working as comfortably as possible, incorporating ergonomic principles to achieve this, will lead to better physical and mental wellbeing, and ultimately improved productivity.”