Tackling mental health and wellbeing is no easy task. However, employers and HR professionals are in a powerful position to help change attitudes and offer a support system for their teams.
In March, we introduced the Employee Wellbeing Month at Recruitee, a weekly series of activities ranging from meditation to stress management classes, online workouts, and mental health check-ins. All employees received free consultations with online psychologists, OpenUp.
To continue raising awareness on the importance of mental health, we sat down with Gijs Coppens, Founder and Healthcare Psychologist from OpenUp to have a discussion about how employers can be more proactive in introducing wellbeing initiatives, and what to do if employees are struggling.
Here’s what they had to say:
Recruitee: Hi Gijs, can you tell us about OpenUp and how you support companies when tackling mental health?
OpenUp: Sure! With OpenUp we are on a mission to make mental health accessible for all. From small changes to complex challenges, OpenUp offers employees easy and direct access to psychologists via chat, phone, or video. We offer personalized content like health checks, webinars, self-help programs, and videos so employees can work on their mental health by themselves. According to our research, up to 60% of employees said they didn’t know what to do when facing mental health challenges. By offering personalized coaching and content, it enables employees to grow and tackle challenges at an early stage. We’ve also heard companies say that introducing mental health check-ins has triggered their organizations to truly open up.
Recruitee: Besides working with us, have you been collaborating and supporting many other companies recently?
OpenUp: Yes, last year alone, we onboarded 65 companies on our platform, including Picnic, VanMoof, Exact, PwC, Hellofresh, Erasmus University, and Ace&Tate. We see that the need for mental health support has increased rapidly. Partly due to Covid-19, where working from home resulted in less control over the wellbeing of employees. But also partly because employees themselves find mental health more and more important
Recruitee: 65 companies is quite the number! How can employees look after their mental health at work?
OpenUp: Taking care of your mental health requires space and time. How exactly you use that space and time differ per person. Most people benefit from light exercise to keep the blood pumping (especially with desk-heavy jobs), others use the time to eat healthier and prepare meals, and some use it to connect with others and themselves. All of the above activities are beneficial, and it is important to find out what you need personally to reach the next level of mental health.One of the most important aspects of taking care of your mental health is talking about your challenges. This can be with your family, partner, friends, colleagues, but also a psychologist. Talking about it allows you to get it off your chest, and helps you to reflect on the situation. It’s amazing what saying words out loud can do. By talking about it you can learn how others deal with these challenges. How you look at a situation, is often not how others perceive it, which helps you reflect.
Recruitee: Are there any other mental health resources and tools that managers and supervisors could/should be looking into?
OpenUp: It's important to acknowledge that every person is unique. For that reason, we try to provide as many different types of content as possible, to allow people to decide for themselves what works for them in helping to improve their mental health. For example, at OpenUp, you can check out our blogs, webinars, self-help programs, interviews, or take part in 1-on-1 consultations with mental health care professionals. The most important thing is to try and create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. If this doesn't work with internal set-ups, look outside of the organization. But working with all these amazing companies we’ve encountered lots of great initiatives to make employees' lives easier. For example, we’ve heard of initiatives where employees can nominate a team or colleague for their great work to get a company gift. Or using the ‘donut’ tool by Slack, which connects two random employees every week for a virtual coffee break.
One of the most important aspects of taking care of your mental health is talking about your challenges. This can be with your family, partner, friends, colleagues, but also a psychologist. Talking about it allows you to get it off your chest, and helps you to reflect on the situation.
Founder and Healthcare Psychologist from OpenUp
Recruitee: How can employers monitor staff wellbeing if they're not in the same building every day? What are the tell-tale signs of mental health problems?
OpenUp: Some of the most common signs of mental health problems include, a feeling of disconnect, lack of care or commitment to the company, increased emotional responses, and decreased patience. A general sense of unhappiness, less oversight, reduced memory, and tense muscles are also tell-tale signs to look out for.As an ‘outsider’ it’s hard to really know how somebody feels unless they talk about it. Try to stay connected, even if you’re not in the same building every day. Something else you can do is set out an anonymous survey every quarter, this at least allows you to get a better understanding of what's going on in the organization. For example, we never share anything with the employer that can lead back to a specific individual, but we do support them by giving insights into trends.
Recruitee: How can companies make sure they're running wellness initiatives as effectively as possible?
OpenUp: People need to be reminded quite often before they take action, even though they know it greatly benefits them. Being reminded doesn't have to be through the push e-mails. Employers can keep mental health top of mind by encouraging more conversation around it and make mental health a part of personal development. For employees, knowing yourself better is one of the best ways to improve yourself as a professional.It can also benefit an organization to address the importance of mental health externally. For example, you can do so by raising awareness via an interview with mental healthcare professionals, or by adding mental health services as a secondary benefit to your vacancies.
Try to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. If this doesn't work with internal set-ups, look outside of the organization.
Founder and Healthcare Psychologist from OpenUp
Recruitee: What advice can you give to companies looking to create a mentally healthy workplace?
OpenUp: Create a variant of different ways to discuss mental health, not just one medium. A small step in the right direction is already a lot better than no step at all. For example, every week one of our team members comes up with a mental health question, that the other team members discuss for 15 minutes in small groups of 3 people. This can be a question as simple as ‘how do you deal with nerves for a presentation?’. The most important thing is to make time for mental health. Oh, and when necessary, work with an external party.