How to Support the Workforce by Protecting Mental Health
Today’s best employers are focusing on how to best support and protect their employee’s mental health. Is your company?
What started as an exercise in temporary adjustments has become a more long-term reality. Now, as the pandemic strengthens its grip on the world, many employees realize that teleworking full-time has become a long-term necessity.
Sure, we pulled together the technology necessary to pull off this workforce transition. Yes, we were nimble enough to handle any physical and workspace challenges that came along. And our people quickly rallied around this new reality. But what is the long-term impact of all this change? From an emotional and mental health perspective, how are your people doing?
If they are like many of us, they feel stressed. Fatigue is setting in, and the anxiety that comes with not knowing what comes next is creeping up on them. Hard data support these feelings. In fact, a tracking poll by Kaiser Family Foundation in July found that 53% of adults in the United States reported that pandemic-related issues have negatively impacted their mental health. That number is up dramatically from 32% in March when the pandemic began.
So, in what has become an unexpectedly long-term transition, and with the realization the coronavirus will continue knocking on our doors for the foreseeable future, the question must be:
How do companies help remote employees tackle mental health challenges?
Our Guest: Dawn Mitchell, Vice President, HR at Appian
On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Dawn Mitchell of Appian joins us. In one day, Dawn’s organization of 1,400 employees went from a very on-site, hands-on culture to one that shifted successfully to remote work. Now, Appian focuses on how best to help employees deal with the emotional and mental health issues that come with remote work and COVID-19’s extended threat. As you’ve probably already figured out, this experience makes Dawn the perfect person to answer our question!
“At first,” Dawn said, “We saw a huge spike in productivity. We were in fight or flight mode. Our employees are fantastic, so they chose ‘fight.’ But we soon learned this wasn’t a typical remote work. For example, we had to work and parent at the same time. Plus, we had the isolation issue. So we knew we couldn’t sustain this forever.”
Dawn shared with us some of Appian’s focus points: “We put a heavy emphasis around our parent community. We also developed empathy tool kits for managers. We wanted them to get more comfortable talking to their teams, to understand their home dynamics. So we pushed on their soft skills. And, we wanted them to be flexible, yet acknowledge we still have work to do.”
Combating Mental Health Issues Through Over-Communication
Dawn added: “To inspire big ideas, we placed a heavy emphasis on communication. As a leadership team, we knew we needed to be more connected. So at the initial start, our CEO was communicating with our workforce bi-weekly. We also launched a podcast. With a workforce that averages 27yo, we updated our internet to ensure that employees working at home with kids were getting the most relevant information when they needed it. Most importantly, we sought to understand how employees were thinking and feeling.”
Of course, I had to ask about outcomes. I wanted to know precisely how Appian’s approach helped. In response, Dawn was quick to point out employees are even more engaged now: “We’ve had about a 6% increase in our employee response rates. At the same time, our employees’ satisfaction (despite all the change and stress) only dropped a percentage point. Overall, we were about 2% over the previous benchmark. It was great to see employees felt supported by their managers. They felt satisfied. And they felt that Appian was a place they wanted to tell their peers about; that we were their employer of choice.”
High praise, indeed. And from the people who matter most: The very employees asked to make such a huge transition during a global crisis.
Please take 20 minutes or so to listen to my conversation with Dawn. I learned so much about how Appian supports the mental health of their remote team members. And I’m sure you’ll hear several emulation-worthy tactics to protect the mental well-being of your employees!
Appian sponsored this episode of #WorkTrends!