More and more we are realizing how mental health and work intersect with each other. When turning on the news or casually scrolling through our social feeds we see people in the spotlight who are stepping back to focus on themselves. Just recently, musicians Shawn Mendes and Adele decided to take a break from touring to realign and prioritize their well-being. The same can be said for the everyday employee. We all pay attention to what our peers, role models, and leaders do when speaking out about our mental health struggles. As this becomes more mainstream and not spoken about only within the four walls of a doctors’ office, employers must pay attention. There are burdens that our colleagues carry that sometimes takes them away from being “present” at work including what could be happening personally.
As leaders of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) alike, it’s important to identify when action and communication are needed to help the workforce feel secure, heard, and that they matter. Additionally, some events may enter the room loudly, like the Roe v. Wade overturn, there are others that present themselves differently or to a smaller demographic but require the same attention, like the current droughts taking place in various corners of the country. Here are four critical moments when employee communication is vital for mental health.
We all have been touched by mass shootings that have taken place across the country and events of police brutality. They create a ripple effect of despair within communities that leave long lasting impressions. For example, the murder of George Floyd caused an awakening across the globe, and as Seramount President, Subha Barry, stated “It is clear that this fight hasn’t been won just yet, so employers must keep listening to their talent, hold themselves accountable by being transparent about their progress in this area, and recognize that this commitment to DEI must remain strong, even during potential economic downturns.” Additionally, when Asian hate crimes began to spread during the pandemic, we saw significant mental health declines that caused unsettling distress. To help employers discuss both of these difficult events within their organization, Seramount created research titled the Pledge to Progress where we followed more than 100 companies pledges to improve racial representation and pay equity to bolster employment, health, and education in underserved communities. Additionally, we developed a communication guide to address the escalated violence against AAPI community, with the hope of helping leaders create dialogue both internally and externally for their employees and ERGs.
Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, TX in 2018 and was declared a “once in a lifetime” storm that permanently left its mark on the city. Dr. Asim Shah, professor and executive vice chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor, stated that “The first month after Harvey, we saw a lot of anxiety and insomnia. Close to a year after Harvey, we are still seeing depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as well.”
Recently, the west coast has experienced wildfires, Missouri floods are at its peak and New York has issued orders to conserve water. Natural disasters can cause anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental health factors that can impact work productivity levels. Swift communication that first empathizes with employees followed by solutions that provide resources and useful information can change the morale of an organization and the individuals within it.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization left many employees shaken and distressed. Dedication to ensuring that each employee feels safe and can bring their authentic self to work continues, and standards for civil discourse to build understanding across diverse perspectives should endure. In an ever-changing political climate where lawmakers and government officials are becoming increasingly divided and sometimes divisive to individual lifestyles, mental health should prevail as companies figure out if they should speak up about abortion rights and how.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, singer Lizzo stated that “Fame happens to you, and it’s more of an observation of you. People become famous, and it’s like—my DNA didn’t change. Nothing changed about me… my anxiety didn’t go away. My depression didn’t go away. The things that I love didn’t go away. I’m still myself. But the way y’all look at me and perceive me has changed. It’s a very weird, kind of formless thing.” It’s important to know that everyone’s mental health journey is different as well as how open someone is with what their current situation is. Consistent communication with direct reports ERGs and the organization as a whole can impact someone’s silent journey and potentially raise the level of trust between employee and employer.
The impact of the mental health and wellness of the nation’s labor force and society overall may be one of the longest lasting consequences of crisis situations. If you need help with communication in times of disruption, read our resource guide to support you as the world surrounding us continues to change and new crises arise.
To learn more about Seramount’s powerful DEI solutions, contact us.