I come from a generation whose idea of work life balance equated to whether you could balance your sixth cup of coffee on top of the huge stack of work you’re behind on. By definition the term “working from home” simply meant you were working … from home … at 11pm and on weekends. I’ve worked and taken conference calls on every holiday I’ve had for at least the past 15 years. Seriously, I’ve taken work calls on ski lifts, at the beach, floating around the swimming pool, in Michelin starred restaurants and even once on the back of a camel!
Another characteristic of my generation is that we would never discuss mental health issues at work, not with colleagues and certainly not with our bosses or HR. To have done so would have definitely damaged our career prospects. We also would dream of calling in sick due to feeling anxious or depressed. That would have met with as much sympathy as with saying we were unable to attend work due to a hangover. Even when my mother passed away, when I was close to having a complete mental breakdown from grief, my boss’s response was “parents die Tina, that’s just part of life”. He actually said this to me twice.
So, as I pass through the final stages of my own career, I’m encouraged to see that at least some companies are finally starting to take mental health seriously. It’s no wonder. According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Coupled with anxiety, depression costs the global economy roughly $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
In a fascinating article published by Time Magazine last year entitled “Millennial Employees are Getting Companies to Radically Rethink Workers’ Mental Health”, we learn that millennials are not afraid to talk about mental health, even at the workplace. And if they don’t feel supported at work? They leave. They what? You go Millennials!
To keep these millennials happily employed, companies are rolling out mental health programs. A few examples:
- EY (formerly Ernst & Young) provides resources to employees such as 24/7 counselling support, management consultation, backup care, and counselling sessions by phone, online, or face-to-face.
- American Express, through its Healthy Minds program, provides part-time counsellors at each employee clinic and has hired a clinical psychologist to run the employee assistance program to continuously improve its services.
- Adobe has partnered with Aetna and Kaiser to provide an extensive employee assistance program that offers a range of services including counselling and relationship support, CareKits for pregnancy, child and adult care and legal services.
- Netflix offers employees the flexibility to choose their work schedules and offers generous parental leave which makes all the difference when it comes to their overall well being.
Is this enough? I say it is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done to support employees, especially in extremely stressful work environments.
What do you think? What have your experiences been? Do you feel supported at work? Do you feel comfortable discussing mental health at work? Please comment and let’s get the conversation going. Unless we speak, we’ll never be heard.
Sending love and light.