We encourage our team members to prioritize self-care so they can bring their full selves to the important work we do.
In the midst of a global pandemic and renewed focus on workplace culture, employers are awakening to the critical importance of employee mental health.
Labor shortages in the U.S., combined with increased global labor mobility, have forced employers to consider whether their workplace ecosystems support positive mental health for all employees, not merely the dominant demographic – or no one at all.
During the unprecedented American phenomenon dubbed The Great Resignation, employers have suddenly found themselves in the position of labor supplicants, recruiting talent rather than choosing among suitors. That recruitment must continue throughout an employee’s tenure to avoid mass turnover and the disruption that accompanies it, not to mention because treating people with respect, demonstrating concern for their well-being and building authentic relationships is the right thing to do.
Divorcing From Cultural Norms
Great CEOs have learned to be, perhaps primarily, Chief Empathy Officers. Our Co-CEOs carve out time for informal dialogue with colleagues in hour-long virtual meetings called “Coffee with Carrie” and “Tea with Todd.” The direction of the conversation is determined by the participants, though we all agree to discuss everything but work.
Once the province of off-loaded pre-packaged programs like Employee Assistance Programs, mental health issues are now taking center stage in the workplace, even as the workplace migrates out of offices and fragments into team members’ homes.
Like many businesses that value diversity, equity and inclusion, we are grappling with the dual priorities of providing a human, authentic environment for our team members and helping create a more just, sustainable world. We strive to build empathetic, caring relationships that value individuals as their authentic selves divorced from the lens of dominant white male culture and antiquated assembly-line norms.
One way this manifests itself is our recognition that shackling ourselves to arbitrary deadlines at the expense of employee mental health is a losing proposition for our organization in the short- and long-term.
We encourage our team members to prioritize self-care so they can bring their full selves to the important work we do, bringing communities together to build economies that benefit people and protect the planet. We trust them to communicate their mental health needs and take the time to de-stress, even at the expense of laying off work to another day.
Mental Health a Business and Human Imperative
We consider our work urgent. Our planet’s ability to sustain human life (and thousands of other species) is under siege. A business environment constructed according to white male norms has left much of the planet’s human residents behind. We believe our efforts for positive change through entrepreneur support and ecosystem development is absolutely essential for human success.
Yet very little of the work we do is urgent in the manner of an emergency room physician or nurse, airline pilot or firefighter. It can almost always wait until tomorrow, or even next week. This may require an honest conversation with a co-worker, supervisor or even a partner about the greater urgency of one’s mental health. It requires recognizing that investment in our own people can result in an immense payoff over time in an engaged, productive team.
We value employee mental health both and well-being as much as we value the bottom line.
Our leadership makes a point of setting examples in how we care for ourselves. On the shared calendars of our organizational leaders are time blocked off for yoga, meditation and other self-care activities necessary for happiness, engagement and productivity.
Moreover, at least twice annually, we have a week of no internal meetings. We call it “Clean-Up Week” and expect that people will use this time for ongoing work, completing their personal leadership plans, and where appropriate, taking flex time. We will have some optional wellness sessions scheduled that week as well.
“The Clean-Up Week is very useful for me. I was able to focus and finish all of my to-do lists without any distraction. It also allowed me to have time to reflect on my work and think about my professional development,” said Yogi Anggoro, a Senior Associate in Finance.
The Business-Human Balance
All that said, we ultimately have goals that we are dedicated to achieving. The great value add of our company, as we see it, is that we have undertaken change through a business perspective and produced tangible impact. Our work reducing plastic leakage into the oceans, developing systems to slow climate change and growing communities of purpose-driven entrepreneurs is remarkable primarily to the extent that it delivers measurable outcomes.
That success is largely dependent on a dedicated team who bring their talents and passions to bear on these issues and forge innovative collaborations for results previously thought impossible. This requires a careful balance between embracing team members and coddling them, blanketing them in a cocoon of support and expecting them to perform.
Employee mental health is a universal conundrum. We have by no means solved the equation. We still struggle with this balance daily and continue to work on it, but believe the struggle itself is noble and will lead us to better answers, more understanding and improved performance on behalf of the human family and the Earth.