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Jillian Lukas Rodriguez

Chief Storyteller | Small Giants Community

November 30, 2020

Stepping Up: How to Support Your Team's Mental Health

Worried about the mental health of your employees? Struggling to genuinely connect with your team members while they work from home? Not sure how to balance employees' mental health needs with productivity goals?

With the events of this year, many leaders are seeing changes in their employees, from anxiety and isolation to financial distress and personal loss. Your employees’ experiences will vary based on their family life, home responsibilities, race, socioeconomic status, and much more. With so much uncertainty around us, how can you effectively support everyone on your team right now? 

Our recent roundtable on mental health in the workplace uncovered some great strategies and ideas for supporting your employees' mental health — you can check out the notes and video from our conversation here.

So many leaders shared the ways in which they are going above and beyond to do the right thing for their teams, and in this latest edition of Stepping Up, we're sharing three top challenges and purpose-driven approaches to resolving them.

Here are how three leaders are stepping up to support their teams' mental health right now.

Tools & Resources At A Glance:



Meet the Leaders

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Kornel Grygo, CEO
Tasty Catering is driven to provide the most valuable, high quality catering in Chicago and to consistently deliver successful events to clients.



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Erica Vester, Director of Development
Evergreen Devco Inc. is a national, fully diversified real estate company specializing in retail, commercial, and multifamily development.



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Keith Stout, President
Ace Metal Crafts serves as the manufacturing arm for its customers, with expert stainless steel laser cutting, forming, rolling, welding, polishing & machining.

 


 

How to Talk to Your Team about Mental Health

 
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Kornel Grygo, CEO
Tasty Catering

Mental health is often viewed as a taboo topic in the workplace, but purpose-driven leaders know that when mental health isn’t part of how we take care of our employees, we’re not serving the full potential of our team or our organization. At Tasty Catering, mental health is a top priority, and caring for employees' mental wellbeing is embedded into the company culture. In fact, Tasty Catering is a two-time recipient of the Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Honors.

Tasty Catering's strong company culture and core values have helped guide their decisions and kept the team strong throughout this difficult year. Tasty Catering CEO Kornel Grygo says much of their culture comes down to relationships: leaders should always be stopping to simply ask people, "How are you doing?"

A leader's job is to be consistent in building relationships with everyone on their team and to simply listen. If you're prioritizing relationships, it's likely any mental health issues will be uncovered.

"I build relationships with every single team member and we check in with everyone every day," says Grygo. "It’s about taking those personal disruptors out — if your family is struggling or someone is scared for their health, they’re not going to be productive at work."

Grygo recommends creating multiple platforms for communication so that you can reach employees at all levels, no matter their communication styles. Some will be comfortable picking up the phone and sharing what's going on, others may respond better to surveys and written communication.

"We want to give people platforms to share so that we can help them solve any problems," says Grygo.

Tasty also ensures all employees have access to quality, affordable mental health care: all team members can meet with an on-call industrial psychologist. Treatment is confidential, unlimited, and the company foots the bill. For context, Tasty Catering spent about four thousand dollars in one quarter on psychiatric services for employees — in the long-term, not addressing mental health issues can cost organizations billions in absenteeism and productivity losses, not to mention healthcare costs associated with mental health issues.

 

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Mental Health Tip! Struggling to get your team members to engage with your mental health initiatives? Try delivering the message about your mental health programs in a fun setting. Fatime Mansour, Human Resources Manager at Unitech Construction Management, launched 'Drinking Fridays' for their team and sent everyone the drink of their choice to their homes: wine, beer, tea, or coffee.

Throughout the casual happy hour,  Mansour and other leaders mentioned mental health resources, pointed out individuals they can reach out to, and built comfort with talking openly about mental health. 


How to Make Mental Health Part of Your Company Culture

 
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Erica Vester, Director of Development
Evergreen Devco, Inc.

A mentally-healthy company culture has to start with the leaders. If you want your team members to be comfortable talking openly about mental health, lead by example. Share your own struggles and discuss what you're doing to practice self-care. It's equally important to roll out company-wide initiatives that demonstrate just how much your company cares about mental health, like company-wide mental health days or paying for a meditation app like Headspace for your team.

At Evergreen Devco Inc., Director of Development Erica Vester is leading a month-long program to promote self-care for team members, both mentally and physically. Coining it 'YESvember,' the program focuses on saying "Yes" for yourself and prioritizing your spirit, health, mind, and relationships.

Vester put out a standing calendar invitation for Monday mornings in November for a casual Zoom call to discuss the weekly topic, reflect on the week prior, and share what they will say "yes" to this week. There's also a YESvember group on Evergreen's internal communications platform where team members talk about the program, share relevant articles, and post updates and mini-challenges. The response has been so positive that many employees have committed to keeping aspects of YESvember going in the coming months, including the Monday morning virtual meet-ups.

"People really like the 'no pressure' aspect of it," says Vester. "They can come if they’re free, show up as they are, and have a friendly, stress-free way to start off the week. It's helping people connect with one another and focus on keeping a positive spirit during not-so-positive moments."

 

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Mental Health Tip! As a leader, model the mentally-healthy behaviors you'd like to see in your team members. Brittany Hunter, Managing Partner at Atomic Object, is intentional about showing her team how she's prioritizing her mental health. "One way I do that is by going out on a walk for all of my one-on-one calls. I tell them what I'm doing, why, and invite them to do the same," says Hunter. "I'm making proactive changes in my behavior and modeling it for them."


 

How to Balance Productivity and Being Supportive of Mental Health

 
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Keith Stout, President
Ace Metal Crafts

With our team members facing so many distractions and disruptors, how can we keep them on track and productive? And how do we balance mental health needs with meeting company goals? It's no surprise that it all comes back to relationships. Check in often, have open and honest conversations, and regularly discuss progress towards individual and company-wide goals. 

Keith Stout, president of Ace Metal Crafts, points to their company town halls as a forum for transparent communication. 

"We have town halls that are honest and transparent, yet hopeful," says Stout. 

Transparency is a critical tool for keeping employees engaged during turbulent times. When you're transparent with your team about how the business is doing and what they can do to help, it gives them skin in the game. Turn it back to the team and ask for solutions: what ideas do you have? Engaging the team in the process of problem solving motivates them, but also gives them a sense of control during times of uncertainty.

Mental Health tip! Keep investing in learning and development for your team. Way-Ting Chen, Co-founder and Senior Partner of Blue Garnet, keeps employees engaged and motivated by setting learning goals with them every year during performance reviews. "The goals are a meld of their interests and desires for growth," says Chen. "This allows for a creative way to engage them and for them to know we’re investing in them."

 

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It's been a challenging year for all of us. But if we've learned anything,  it's that vulnerability is important in leadership. Even after the trials of this moment in time are behind us, it's important that these efforts to create a mentally-healthy workplace continue. Caring for our people, being vulnerable with them, and building relationships should always be a part of the way we do business and how we lead. If you're looking for a mentor to help you navigate workplace relationships and confirm you're on the right path in the year ahead, the Sounding Board mentorship program can help.

 

It can be lonely at the top.

Sounding Board pairs you up with a tenured Small Giants leader for purpose-driven mentorship.

Meet Your Mentor

About Jillian Lukas Rodriguez

As our Storyteller, Jillian finds what makes Small Giants special and shares their stories with the world. Jillian is also the .gif-wielding voice behind Small Giants on social media.