Calm Yourself, the Storm Will Pass

Have you ever tried having a productive day at work after being involved in a head on collision the previous day? It is pretty rough! The concussion sure made it hard to focus on what Sally was explaining at the executive meeting.  You did not make the best decisions that day and I’m pretty sure you ruined your chances of bringing that one strategic partnership to fruition when your slurred speech was mistaken for intoxication. Actually, I bet you didn’t go to work the next day and I bet your employer told you to take the time you needed to heal, see the right doctors and come back stronger. Physical health issues can affect anyone at any time. For that reason, many workers are given medical insurance, sick time and other benefits to ensure they can recuperate before returning to the work place.

Yet, less visible injuries occur to our mental health and they can be just as frequent and debilitating. However, rather than providing the necessary support to workers, many are not given benefits to take time off or get a mental health checkup. Rather than receiving well wishes of getting better, most people with mental health issues deal with them in quiet because of stigmas that exist.

I decided to write my blog this week on this topic after being inundated with news reports in the recent days, weeks, months and unfortunately even years of crime and other tragic outcomes related to various forms of hate, anger and frustration.  As I question my bi-racial child’s future in a hate entrenched society, and reflect on the loss of a friend at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year, I can’t help but think that there has got to be something that could have been done to prevent this. Is there something I can do? Is there something anyone can do other than teach our children how to show compassion, consideration and love for others?

Mental health is important to all of us, and according to research, it can affect 1 in 6 people at any given time as well as cost companies millions of dollars. As the article states,  “Ignoring mental health in the workplace doesn’t make good business sense, as companies who prioritize employee mental health and wellbeing outperform other companies by 10%. Stress, depression and anxiety are reported as the most common reasons for staff absence, however, a lot of the mental health absence that is work related could have been prevented.”

So what can your organization do to make a positive change that has a lasting impact on society? For starters, companies can provide flexible work options; offer mental health training to raise awareness and create an open culture; integrate mental health and wellbeing throughout internal policies and procedures; introduce stress risk management procedures; and provide access to employee assistance programs (EAP).  These efforts not only lead to improved morale, productivity and wider-reaching social positivity, but also reduce turnover and sick days.

The annual Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards program, sponsored by the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence (COE), recognizes organizations who are particularly effective at enhancing employee well-being.  According to Psychology Today, “since its launch and in almost all cases, winners have reported that their return on investment—reduced turnover and increased productivity—far outweighed the costs.” A great case study by Forbes shows how PwC has taken effective measures to de-stigmatize mental health, such as providing 24/7 access to counseling through its EAP and early intervention cognitive behavioral therapy. According to licensed mental health counselor, John Bosworth, “Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy can be applied to many different situations and life circumstances. Thinking rationally can help all of us enjoy life more regardless of the problems that we encounter.”

There are numerous examples of why we should make mental health a priority in our organizations and how doing so contributes to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set forth by the UN. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a detailed document to raise awareness on mental health in the workplace stating, “Given the fact that numerous affordable interventions exist, the time has come to challenge both the low priority given to mental health and the stigma that those with mental ill-health still endure around the world.”  But here we are, 17 years later and the stigma and tragic results still exist.

We will always encounter storms, both personally and professionally, and we will not always be able to weather those storms, but we can provide the tools needed to best tackle them. Many companies provide EAP programs, but offering an EAP program alone may not be enough. Employees often do not know they have access to one and some acknowledge they have access but never use it. Company EAPs are often not advertised or promoted internally enough or at key times, and some employees are under the false impression that they are available just for “people with serious problems.” But that is furthest from the truth. Personal matters such as divorce, financial stress, anxiety, depression, death in the family, and more often prevent people from focusing on work, physical health and general wellbeing. EAPs can provide a variety of assistance types through counseling but also through other resources that can improve the balance and quality of life, on and off the job. When implementing an EAP for your organization, make sure that management and HR are trained on what your EAP offers so they can make suggestions to employees and learn to recognize when an employee may benefit from the services their EAP provides. Management teams are not expected to be counselors, but they should know how to support their employees by pointing them to the right resources. When an employee is struggling to complete a project, a manager guides them to proper tools to complete the activity, right? So why don’t they see mental health tools as the support programs that they are?

Download a Template for Sourcing EAP Programs

Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you are in the sourcing industry. So, what should you look for when sourcing an EAP program? Obviously take a look at the services they provide. Important factors to weigh are whether counseling or assistance are provided face-to-face, by telephone or via electronic methods. You may also want to take a look at the availability of those sessions and whether they have 24/7 access or if there are delays in scheduling. Also, when looking at the program’s clinician network, make sure a variety of specialties are represented and whether provider locations for face-to-face sessions are close to your employees’ locations. You will also want to ensure that there are easy to access online support tools that address a variety of concerns. Another key factor is whether consultation and training for management exists. Proper training for managers and HR will help them better understand workplace issues that impact employee wellbeing and performance and what to do when they encounter these situations. This could be accommodated in a variety of ways including: onsite training, virtual training, educational resources, infographics for easy dispersal, templates to send to employees to promote EAP offerings, assessment tools and much more. EAPs can also offer critical incident response plans in the event of workplace tragedies or disasters. You do not have time to think and plan when a crisis hits, so having these in place ahead of time can be critical.

If you are convinced you need an EAP in your organization and need to build a business case to gain executive support, the Society for Human Resource Management has published a very comprehensive toolkit that provides a good starting point. Not every organization may be ready for or able to afford an EAP, but hopefully this has at least opened your minds to the benefits of doing more to support your employees’ mental wellbeing. Not only can it contribute to your bottom line but it can have much farther-reaching impacts on society. Please join a global movement by sharing this blog with other sourcing professionals in your network so the sourcing world can make a difference in society and the lives of all people on this great planet.