8 Companies That Prioritize The Mental Health of Their Employees
These companies show they understand that mental health is just as important as physical health.
There’s a reason millennials are known as the burnout generation—and Gen-Z isn’t far from the same fate. For the millions of young adults with mental health issues, problems sometimes take years to be diagnosed or treated due to a lack of healthcare or an inability to afford what’s available to them. In fact, it’s not uncommon for millennials and Gen-Zers to leave their jobs due to mental health issues: one study found that half of millennials and 75% of Gen-Zers have done so. But the younger generations are leading the charge to destigmatize mental health problems by encouraging therapy and better workplace practices aimed at preventing burnout—and that’s good for everyone.
While more and more businesses are 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 eight businesses are industry leaders and make it clear that any company can take these issues to heart and make positive changes.
EY (formerly Ernst & Young) launched “r u okay?” in 2016 as a way to increase discussions around mental health in the workplace and to provide more services to employees. Within the first three months, they saw a 30% increase in calls to their mental health assistance line. The program also includes virtual events, peer mentors, follow-up services, and more—and the company hopes to do more in the future. “[This program] allows us to pay such attention to our people’s individual wellbeing by starting the dialog in a safe, non-confrontational way. It can really make a difference for someone in need,” said EY’s Carolyn Slaski.
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.
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.
Unilever tackles mental health in a variety of ways. Through in-person workshops on mindfulness and manager trainings 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.
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.
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.
Employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to mental health: all worker family members receive the same resources and programs, ensuring positive mental health in every employee’s home. But J&J’s unique benefits don’t stop there. They have a custom mindfulness and resilience app for employees that uses behavioral science to reduce stress, as well as six covered therapy visits per year and on site counselors in some offices.
“No business has any more excuses not to take action.” That’s Virgin CEO Richard Branson on mental health issues in the workplace, and his actions follow his words. Virgin offers an interactive workshop called MindCoach that gives participants stress coping strategies, and all managers are trained on how to support colleagues in need. Outside of the company, Virgin also extended mental health services to victims of Hurricane Irma 2017.
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.