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October 3, 2022

Check In With Yourself and Your Teams on World Mental Health Day

5 Minutes
Stephen Massey

October 10th, is World Mental Health Day, an international day of awareness and action to push back against stigma and support mental health.

It’s a timely opportunity for employers to check in with your people and rededicate your company to their well-being.

Here are 7 steps to having a conversation about mental health in the workplace:

  1. Start your meetings by asking how your employees are really doing. Just as it’s normal to say when you’re feeling sick, you want employees to say when their mental health isn’t doing so well. The more often you have these conversations, the easier they are for everyone.
  1. Do some active listening. Put down your phone, close the laptop and give your full attention. Resist the urge to break an uncomfortable silence — your employees are likely to fill that awkward space with how they’re actually feeling.
  1. Share observations with care and concern. Gently point out behavior that has changed or that has you concerned, then ask if they’d like to talk or how you can help.
  1. Ask open-ended questions. Example: “I see that you are under a lot of pressure with this project. What are you doing to cope with stress and how can I help?”
  1. Discuss next steps. Those might be connecting your employee to professional care, or maybe just making a plan for follow-up conversations.
  1. Set up an open-door policy. But as small business leaders have told us, no one is going to come through that door if you don’t reach out first.
  1. Encourage team members to check in on each other. Just remember, this is in addition to your check-ins, not to replace your initiative.


Want more? Check out our
Conversation Guide for Managers for sample prompts, helpful phrases and more.


MORE ACTIONS:
World Mental Health Day is also a great occasion to remind employees about your employee assistance program's (EAP) mental health offerings, or send a message from your company's leaders telling their own mental health stories. We have a full suite of resources to help you.


To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Jacobs, the global engineering consultancy, is organizing the World’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In — a campaign open to all companies to break down the barriers to conversations around mental health and a culture of support.


Companies can join by:


COMPANY INSIGHTS:
We spoke with Paul Hendry, Jacobs' Global Vice President of Health, Safety and Environment, about the company’s mental health journey.


Q:  First off, we want to acknowledge your leadership in launching the World’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In. Tell us why you chose checking in as the activity to rally employers around.

A:
 In 2020, we soft-launched the check-in app One Million Lives to Jacobs’ 55,000 global employees and shared it with interested clients and partners. We believe in its benefit to support everyone’s mental health, so that’s the reason the company is now promoting it more widely, with aspirations to create the World’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In to coincide with World Mental Health Day.

The check-in tool is completely free for anyone to access. We recognize that our employees’ family and friends can impact the day-to-day lives of our employees and, as such, we want this to be a free resource for all. Not one organization can solve the mental health conundrum on their own, which is why we wanted to rally and join forces with other like-minded organizations.

Q:  What results have you seen from the One Million Lives app?

A:
 Our One Million Lives tool was developed with an Australian psychologist, Peta Slocombe. It enables users to complete a mental health check-in so they can receive a rating, along with useful resources to support their needs. It’s not a diagnostic tool but it promotes self-awareness and encourages employees to see their doctor if issues are flagged. The app has already accumulated 28,000 check-ins. It has allowed people to talk about mental health like never before, by giving them the vocabulary to describe how they are feeling and to drive informed discussion and ask for help when needed.

We have many success stories from across the business of people taking the check-in and making serious changes on the back of their results, with one employee reporting that it “saved my life.” This is about personal accountability; as an organization, we provide the resources but it is up to the individual to get the most out of One Million Lives.

Q: Checking in is a crucial first step. What comes next for you and your employees?

A:
  The check-in promotes self-care. It gives people the resources to look after their own mental health and provides a baseline of what good looks like so that you can recognize the signs and seek support when your mental health may be languishing.

As part of our well-being program, we have introduced the Continuum of Care. Self-care and peer-to-peer support can be all that’s needed in certain situations, but other circumstances may require more. It’s important to share the appropriate resources for the level of support that’s needed, be it preventative, early intervention, dealing with a mental health crisis or post-acute care. This continuum provides our people and managers with the signposts and resources needed to intervene and act with compassion when most appropriate.

Q:  How does checking in mesh with the rest of Jacobs’ workplace mental health efforts?

A:
  Positive mental health promotes well-being, enthusiasm, stress resilience and employee retention, resulting in valued and supported staff who are far more likely to achieve their potential. Our One Million Lives app is completely integrated with our mental health matters program.

When the pandemic struck, we saw the utilization of our 2,400-person positive mental health champion network explode, and we began a mental health resilience series of calls. These covered a wide range of topics relating to mental health like fatigue, anxiety, depression, suicide prevention, imposter syndrome and the benefits of laughing. We’ve been very clear on how the calls should be run: we balance clinical expert input with real-life input from people in our organization. We cover a lot of heavy topics, but we balance that always with hope, and we finish with music that we feel relates to the topic! On a typical call, we get 5,000 attendees dialing in.

We have also used the data gathered from One Million Lives to make data-driven decisions. We have completely overhauled our well-being program, and most recently appointed a new Global Vice President for Wellbeing. Indeed, senior leadership involvement, particularly the CEO, has been another ingredient in our success. As is often the case, when senior leaders in the business support mental health programs like this, you see much better engagement. This is the case with Jacobs. Our Chair & CEO, Steve Demetriou, is a trained positive mental health champion along with all the executive leadership team. Once the top executive talks about it, it makes it easier for everyone else.

Q:  Any advice for employers who are just getting started focusing on the mental health of their teams?

A: 
Don’t be afraid to start the journey no matter how steep you think the hill is to climb. Small actions have big impact. Even the fact that you’re attempting to do something, and you’ve started the conversation means you’re already on the journey, and your employees will respond positively. Having your people share their personal stories and demonstrating that it's ok to be vulnerable can start to eliminate the stigma even before you put any mental health program in place.