By Kelly greenwood

The current turmoil of 2020 has raised awareness in workplaces of the importance of mental health and prompted leadership at all levels to contribute to this change for the sake of diversity, equity and inclusion. Executives shared their views at the Make A Difference Summit US in association with Mind Share Partners last month. Here are three ways to advocate for mental health in the workplace.

1. Integrate mental health into company-wide leadership

Some companies were already well positioned for 2020 from a mental health perspective, thanks in large part to their senior management. Mike Malloy, CEO of Rocket Mortgage, spoke of his long-standing approach, sharing that “it’s about making sure leaders are trained to identify and think through this as part of their role as leadership ”.

The role of a CEO is to be the culture creator. Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, encourages executives to “recognize that actions speak louder than words and that transparency is essential.” He said that “culturally we have taken a proactive approach and have had weekly, if not daily, discussions during the pandemic. Malloy added, “People need to feel like they can be on their own. We hold ourselves accountable by setting and communicating OKRs and not just letting it be a press release. “

Gowrappan also pointed out how being “ahead of the game” in supporting mental health ahead of the pandemic has allowed companies like Verizon Media and Rocket Mortgage to “react versus react.” However, an important message that all organizations should know is that it is never too late to start. Gowrappan encouraged, “It’s not too late. You just have to intend not to do things by “checking the box”, but to truly lead by example and put actions behind a plan. “

2. Integrate mental health into diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and vice versa

Amid political divisions, it is essential for organizations to create a culture in which employees can fully engage, including all components of their identity, at work. “Psychological safety is something that takes work, and maintaining it takes work, too,” said Robert Gill, Human Resources Business Partner at Square. “I’m a white male who identifies as queer and I’m really comfortable with that identity. I find it much harder to get out of my mental health at work. If someone like me who is in a privileged place and who works in HR is always afraid of disclosure, you can imagine how people in other communities might feel, ”explained Gill.

So how can leaders approach the intersectionality between mental health and FDI? Rachel Parrott, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at New Relic, said: “We have created an alliance program where intersectionality is the biggest part of what we teach. We have now elevated this training to mandatory training for new managers.

When it comes to supporting BIPOC employees during this time, Kevin Dedner, CEO of Hurdle, emphasized accountability. “It’s a responsibility we all share collectively. The first thing is to recognize a need for cultural competence and to allow people from marginalized groups to be heard. Pauline Miller, Head of Talent and Development at Lloyd’s of London, added that “Employers need to understand their role in the structural racism that exists in their organizations by looking at their data and learning what they need to change to eliminate these. structural barriers. “

3. Promote Safety Through Employee-Led Mental Health Initiatives

In 2019, employees reported that they were the least likely to trust senior leaders and HR when it came to talking about mental health. Employee-led initiatives provide a greater sense of security to start this conversation. Resource groups for mental health workers (ERG) continue to gain popularity and have become a vital mental health resource within organizations.

Jen Porter, COO and Director of Mind Share Partners noted that “Listening by peers is a concept that we have seen grow more and more, whether it is part of an ERG or its own program. Hyung-Do (HD) Kim, head of field medical strategy and business operations for U.S. medical affairs at Roche Genentech, is one of the company’s 150 mental health champions. “The Champions are trained mental health advocates and present themselves as a hopefully somewhat familiar point of contact within the community as a knowledgeable peer on the subject,” he explained.

Obtaining leadership buy-in is critical to the success of employee-led initiatives. Kate Busby, Senior Director of Marketing at Best Buy and Head of its ERGS for Disabilities, said, “We are fortunate that our Inclusion and Diversity team is actually the overall team that manages all of our ERGSs.” She said her communications manager was an advocate for the group, advising her and helping her overcome obstacles. “At the end of the day, without the defenders and the management team, nothing will be done,” she said.

If you’re starting from scratch, Kim suggests, “Be patient with internal teams (like HR, DCI, etc.) Meredith Arthur, content manager at Pinterest and founder of her PinAble mental health ERG, said she “established trust [with company leaders] by working on something together.


“The way we worked before the pandemic was unhealthy. It was not good for us. So now is the perfect time for us to recalibrate, ”Dedner explained. Simon Berger, co-founder of Make A Difference Summits, added: “Every employer on the planet wants to be more successful after Covid-19; when you care about the mental and physical health of your people, you care about your business.

Now is the time for all leaders, from senior executives to senior employee resource groups, to lead with empathy, build trust, and open the door for others to do the same.

Note: New Relic, Roche Genentech, and Verizon Media are clients of the author’s organization, Mind Share Partners, and Robert Gill is an advisor.


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