After two years of pandemic life, it’s no wonder that anxiety and depression are at an all-time high — which has inevitably affected the workplace. A recent study on COVID-19 and its impact on mental health found that more than 40% of employees feel hopeless, suffer from burnout, and battle exhaustion at work due to a continual need to adjust to a new reality. Enter Gen Z. The next generation of workers is leading the charge to destigmatize mental health problems by sharing their struggles online, and have shown to favor companies with better workplace practices aimed at employee wellbeing.
While more and more businesses are listening and realizing the importance of comprehensive mental health benefits and open dialogues, a few are leading the way on improving their company culture and benefits to put mental health first. These businesses are industry leaders and make it clear that any company can take these issues to heart and make positive changes.
Akamai’s dedication to the mental health of its employees inspired the group to hire a Corporate Wellness Program Manager to develop, implement, and maintain resources that allow employees to thrive in and out of the workplace. The position works closely with the Akamai community to craft events and activities that fall under the company’s wellness pillars: active, nourished, calm, balanced, and healthy. Past programming included a multi-week sleep improvement workshop, pet therapy, outdoor scavenger hunts, and speaker series on top topics such as burnout.
Sharing stories is a powerful thing, and Barclays uses employee stories to strengthen its community and make workers feel like they aren’t alone in their mental health struggles. Through their “This Is Me” campaign, disclosure rates for mental health issues have increased — as has retention, with employees returning to Barclays after mental-health related leaves of absence. Barclays customers also have access to mental health services through their banking app and website.
Bell’s main initiative stems from its Canadian headquarters, but the telecom corporation’s work in the mental health space has had a global impact. Through their annual Let’s Talk day, the company has donated more than $100 million to mental health initiatives across Canada and started international dialogues about mental health stigmas and resources. Let’s Talk isn’t just one day, though: it’s a multi-faceted approach to improving employee well-being in the U.S. and Canada with a 24/7 helpline and digital resources that employees use almost every single day.
City Year knows that employees can only be their best selves when their mental health is supported. That’s the why the organization offers a number of mental health resources to its AmeriCorps members during their 10 months of service, such as virtual therapy sessions through Talkspace, meditation sessions through the Ten Percent Happier app, and training to support the mental health of their peers though a Validate-Appreciate-Refer program.
Cockroach Labs is on a mission to enhance its employees’ work-life balance, and make the physical and virtual workplace an inviting and relaxing environment. The company offers flexible schedules and remote work opportunities, as well as a casual dress code, volunteer opportunities, pet-friendly offices, and free food and drinks. Cockroach Labs also partners with Spring Health and an Employee Assistance Program to provide free counseling and mental health support to everyone on their team.
EY’s “Better You” program is designed to support the physical, financial, social, and emotional needs of its employees by offering them free resources to help them “find balance so that they can fully engage at the office and in life.” To address employees’ mental health, EY’s program offers up to 25 counseling sessions for employees and their family members, mindfulness training, and mediation sessions. Plus, EY also covers the cost of online support tools to help employees better manage stress, and training for employees to recognize if someone in their network is struggling.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, this content marketing agency detailed how they wrote an entirely new mental health policy — while also discussing its creation with their team – to reflect the needs of their employees. “Above all, we wanted to acknowledge that mental illness affects everyone differently, to use inclusive language, and to ensure all employees feel supported by the new plan,” company president Kelsey Meyer said. To achieve this, the leadership team did extensive research, consulted with mental health professionals, and put on training workshops for managers and employees to get familiar and comfortable with the new policy.
At Juniper Networks, employees are encouraged to take advantage of company benefits that help them get the most out of the time they spend outside of work. The company understands that “work-life balance is vital” to any team’s success, and wants employees to take time to recharge — in addition to company holidays — by offering them very generous PTO policies. The company also offers overall wellness benefits on site such as gym access to promote physical fitness.
At Microsoft, employees also share their mental health stories — something that happened organically, rather than through a program. “We didn’t ask, but it has happened that many of our leaders stepped up and started telling their stories, their personal struggles or ones they’ve witnessed,” said Microsoft’s Sonja Kellen in an interview. The company’s mental health initiative, Microsoft Cares, offers in-person, digital, and telephone counseling as well as support groups and workshops for all employees.
At Oliver Wyman, supporting employee wellness is a fundamental part of its company culture. The company offers employees free professional counseling 24/7, provides wellbeing and mental health education to employees, and closes its offices for “Recharge” days to help employees unplug. Oliver Wyman also created a global Wellbeing Champion Network for colleagues to offer support to one another, and has partnered with other organizations to support wellbeing at work, such as City Mental Health Alliance and This Can Happen.
Pinterest is changing the game when it comes to employee wellbeing. The company created a Pinspiration group (an internal community) in 2020 dubbed “Pinside Out” to host wellness-focused events and serve as a forum for employees to discuss mental health issues in the workplace. Pinside Out has brought in health professionals, experts, and external speakers to discuss topics ranging from surviving the holidays with family, to understanding intersectional feminism. Pinterest employees have also participated in the effort by offering their time and expertise to others through virtual sessions, such as meditation classes.
As a leading (cloud) communications company, RingCentral understands the need to disconnect to recharge. That’s why RingCentral offers its employees paid time off to do just that, which it refers to as “CaRing Days.” CaRing Days provides employees with an extra paid holiday and extended weekend off every quarter to unplug and spend time doing things they love. For 2022, RingCentral intentionally ensured that “CaRing Days” coincided with important awareness days, such as Earth Day and World Mental Health Day, so those who would like to volunteer on days off can do so as well.
Thermo Fisher Scientific understands that mental health is health — and that employees are best supported when they can come together and form a community of care. That’s why the company created a paid time off donation program that empowers colleagues to help one another in times of need. Thermo Fisher Scientific also offers its employees a variety of benefits related to their “health and happiness”, such as a wellness program, fitness incentives, and flexible work arrangements, among others.
As an HR solutions company, UKG has made bettering the workplace experience for employees a top priority — operating on the idea that “our purpose is people.” In addition to dedicating blog posts on its website to discuss employee well-being, the company is working to end the stigma around mental health by encouraging its employees to come together to discuss the topic. In fact, UKG’s Health & Well-Being team recently teamed up with the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to host a series of events during Mental Health Awareness Month (May) to help employees share their personal stories of mental illness in a safe space. One event, for example — hosted by the BUILD (Black Upcoming Individuals in Leadership and Development) ERG — aims to unpack “The Impact of Mental Health on the Black Employee Experience.”
Unilever tackles mental health in a variety of ways. Through in-person workshops on mindfulness and manager training on mental health issues in the workplace, Unilever has created a culture where employees feel able to seek help when needed and don’t feel stigmatized. Additionally, the company created an app that provides health information and urgent assistance for employees to access whenever they need it. “If you want a high-performing company, you need resilient, healthy employees,” said Unilever’s chief learning officer, Tim Munden, to HuffPost. We couldn’t agree more.
Having an open, positive environment when it comes to mental health can make a huge difference in employee well-being and happiness, and the best companies are actively providing resources, tools, and services to all workers so they can seek and get the help they need. While there’s still a way to go before the modern workplace reflects the diverse needs of its employees, these employers are taking promising steps in the right direction.