As Mental Health Month winds down, I have been reflecting on some of the special ways that we encourage our team at Blueboard to invest in their personal mental health. During this time of uncertainty and unexpected challenges related to the pandemic, we’ve talked about mental health at work more frequently and more deeply than ever. But even in calmer times, topics related to mental health and wellness are common at Blueboard.
Why? We know our team benefits from having support, resources, and meaningful relationships that welcome the whole self at work, whether it’s May or November. We believe everyone deserves to have the mental bandwidth to enjoy the lovely things in life and the tools to navigate life’s inevitable difficulties. We’re passionate about the magic of experiences, and we know that people need a strong foundation of mental well-being to fully engage in the world around them. For us, the pandemic has heightened our awareness that every month needs to be mental health month, and we’re happy to share a few tips about how you can adopt this kind of culture at your company, too!
A few ideas to help your team make every month Mental Health Month:
#1 Talk about mental health.
There can be so many external expectations and judgments associated with mental health that we feel one of the most powerful things we can do for our team is destigmatize, normalize, and make space for authentic connections on the topic. We have pulse checks in meetings, and we encourage folks to share challenges and strategies if they are comfortable doing so. In addition, our leaders model openness and vulnerability to let our folks know that there’s no shame in being a person who feels emotions, faces difficulties, and works toward personal goals. In fact, just a few weeks back, one of our co-founders was feeling stressed and depleted. As an excellent colleague and friend, our other co-founder chatted with him about what was going on and encouraged him to take a day off to refresh. He took the advice and was so reinvigorated by a day of dirt biking in the mountains that he said it was a game-changer for the whole next week.
#2 Offer paid time off for employees to invest in mental health and wellness.
We provide our employees with the opportunity to take PTO specifically for mental health, and we encourage them to do so. Even with an unlimited vacation policy, employees are often hesitant to take a vacation day just to take care of themselves, so we instituted mental health days to reduce the barrier for our employees.
#3 Open the door to professional mental health resources.
For most, navigating health insurance benefits isn’t a walk in the park, and it can be even more stressful when an employee is trying to find mental health resources. To make things a little easier, we provide our team with clear, step-by-step instructions about how to use our benefits to find mental health support. By clearing up confusion and proactively communicating about what’s available, we ensure that employees can maximize their benefits instead of wasting time and energy trying to maneuver through bureaucracy.
#4 Gather diverse perspectives and provide an array of inclusive solutions.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to mental health, and it’s important to know where different people are coming from, as well as offer a variety of choices to meet employees’ needs. At Blueboard, we survey employees about their needs and sentiment whenever we can, and we base our decision-making on the data we collect. As an example, some employees prefer richer benefits with external providers, while others enjoy participating in our different employee-led wellness classes, like yoga, HIIT, meditation, and beyond - so we offer it all.
#5 Look for little things that make a big impact.
We recently heard from our team that frequent Zoom video meetings were leading to fatigue and stress, so we made a point of letting everyone know that it’s okay to turn off their cameras, schedule a phone call instead of a video conference, and be a digital wallflower for certain types of events. Announcing this publicly readjusted expectations, normalized these behaviors, and helped ensure that it’s culturally acceptable for anyone on our team to ask for help so that they can feel comfortable. Now, when we have a digital team gathering like our recent Pet Costume Contest Yappy Hour, we see employees dip in and out based on how they’re feeling and what works best for them, which leads to more overall engagement in our activities.
#6 Create space and opportunities for employees to provide mutual support.
Mental health and wellness initiatives don’t always have to come from the top. One of our Blueboard values is “Build Meaningful Relationships” and we see that by investing in opportunities for our employees to connect and engage deeply with one another, a priceless support network has grown inside of our company. Now, our employees often look to each other for encouragement and guidance, regularly engaging in mutual help that is enriching for everyone involved. We support it with Slack channels that provide a safe space for conversations on mental health and wellness, as well as with mentoring opportunities between people in different parts of the organization. As an example, recently one of our mentoring pairs had a conversation about the importance of bringing joy into their surroundings and daily actions. After the chat, they both completed projects that made their work from home spaces more comfortable and inspiring.
By putting some of these practices into action inside your organization, you can truly make a huge impact on your team’s mental health. Simply taking a few steps forward to make mental health month extend all year long will help create a lasting healthy experience for your employees. We hope that you’ll find these tips helpful as a starting point to strengthen your team’s culture, and we encourage you to share your ideas and programs with us!