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Mental Health- the next company perk?

Mental Health- the next company perk?

13 Jul 09:00 by Ben Cantrall

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Over the last 2 weeks we have spent almost 600 minutes on the phone, talking to 46 people solely about how their companies are going back to the office and how it had been working from home.

A few gems came out! The best story must go to the team manager who personally hired a truck, picked up chairs and monitors from the office, and then drove to the home of each person on their team to drop off the office equipment and make sure they were set up. To me that sounds like going above and beyond.

Given the economic carnage over the last 3 months, I was also surprised to get the numbers on redundancies and on hiring. 41% of the businesses we spoke with had made redundancies. However, 28% of businesses have made hires. The biggest hit we came across was a business being forced to make 86% of their staff redundant.

One thing we didn’t ask about- and now I wish we did- was about how businesses are going to help manage the mental health of their employees moving forward. Before I wade into this topic I'd like to clarify I am not an expert. I acknowledge this is an extremely complicated and sensitive topic for many people- including myself from time to time.

Firstly the extremely obvious- there are a lot of us right now who are justifiably feeling anxious, frustrated and helpless in the situation. And that’s the people who haven’t lost their jobs.

With 43% of the businesses we spoke with not having set a return to office date yet, the ongoing and open ended lack of normality and routine will be a challenge. One business out of 46 that we spoke with talked about offering people who were experiencing mental health challenges the chance to get back into the office sooner. 

I don’t have any specific answers I’d like to offer and I’m not qualified to do so in any case! However I can throw out a prediction so here goes. 

My prediction is that workplaces will see mental health as an area to gain competitive advantage and invest both through internal hires and external programs to improve the mental health of their employees. Mental Health- the next company perk. A competitive advantage in both attracting great talent and in getting the most out of their employees. Yes, a subjective area and potentially ripe for litigation (but we’re not America yet).

Much like the team manager who hired the truck, we’ll see more companies put resources into showing their team they give a shit about how they are feeling. And we’ll see benefits in terms of company performance (and share prices!) if they get it right. Caring, for cash as a company slogan? Cynical! Maybe a touch too transparent.

My overly simplistic two cents regarding mental health is that having some healthy habits personally- exercise, moderation in alcohol consumption (not something I’m professing to have mastered!), regular contact with family and friends and a desire for learning are cornerstones of a healthy state of mind. While I’ve got a pulpit, a great book I’m reading currently on the topic is “The Resilience Project” by Hugh van Cuylenburg. Highly recommend.

Anyway- how did we get here!? Let me know if you’d like a copy of the survey findings- or if you’ve got any great ideas or examples of nailing the mental health challenge.