By Bill Greene, Principal at Mind Share Partners
Business leaders—and the rest of us—had hopes that when the pandemic ended, work would return to “normal.” Clearly, that was just wishful thinking. Global conflicts, climate change, political unrest, economic disruptions, social, racial, and cultural upheavals, and yes, the lingering pandemic all shadow our lives in and out of work. Efforts to “return to office” at many organizations are bringing additional uncertainty and stress to the mix.
Very simply, it’s a hard time to work. And employees are feeling it. Since the onset of the pandemic, Mind Share Partners' 2021 Mental Health at Work Report found that:
76% of employees experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition (most commonly burnout, depression, or anxiety).
80% reported symptoms cumulatively lasting a month or more, with 36% of that group having symptoms lasting five months to the entire year.
Companies everywhere have been challenged, but those in financial services face a few additional unique issues.
The most significant is that financial service firms are at the nexus of all of the world’s disruptions. Not only have financial markets been roiled by global events—creating added complexity and pressure on their work—but many financial service companies are global, and their employees are near (or on) the front lines of disruptive events. So leaders and employees need to address not only business impact, but real and personal employee impacts. This is showing up in our data, too.
80% of employees in financial services, compared to the 76% figure across all industries above, experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year.
69% of financial services workers, compared to 50% across all industries, have left previous roles due, at least in part, to mental health reasons.
Leading financial service organizations have been working to address mental health impacts in their workplaces over the past several years. Although the call to action has come from various sources (e.g. employee resource groups, Learning and Development, HR, business leaders, and board directors), the most successful responses have included the following five steps.
Leaders in financial services lead on mental health.
Of course, senior leaders need to sign off on the resources needed for this work to happen. But in the most successful approaches we’ve seen in financial services, senior business leaders are visibly engaged in the effort, especially to reduce the stigma of talking about mental health. Mind Share Partners coaches leaders on how to share their own stories and how they have managed mental health challenges in their own lives—either personally or as an ally supporting family members or colleagues. Over the past year, we have seen CEOs, COOs, and other C-suite leaders step up to this request. For example:
At one asset management firm, the CEO recorded a video shared with all employees describing his experiences living with his father’s depression, the impact it had on his life, and how he was able to support his father but also learn better how to take care of himself over his career.
At another investment firm, several senior leaders have shared their personal stories at various meetings, as well as volunteered as mental health champions within the firm.
The visibility of these leaders has an immediate and powerful impact on reducing stigma, refuting the idea that high performance and mental health are at odds, and showing that there are ways to get support for those challenges.
Managers in financial services have tools and know how to use them.
Managers are on the front lines of creating the employee experience. When it comes to mental health, Mind Share Partners trains financial services managers to focus on three areas:
Self-care—reinforcing that their teams take cues from managers on how to be successful at work, including whether taking care of yourself is part of the formula for success. When managers model self-care, it is easier for others to do the same.
Being a proactive ally on mental health—including taking the initiative to check in with team members on how they are doing, not just about work tasks.
Using adaptations with their teams. For example, talking about and supporting different working styles, or agreeing on after-hour or weekend email protocols, helps create more healthy, inclusive, and sustainable work cultures.
One Mind Share Partners' client, who is a global financial services firm, recognized that they needed to view managers a bit like an ongoing parade. Training existing managers was a start. But new managers came on board, others left, and even current (trained) managers had questions or wanted refreshers. So the training approach included an initial launch, incorporating content into new manager training, and offering on-demand modules plus periodic manager forums to provide ongoing support.
Supporting mental health gets embedded in the organization.
Having robust benefits for mental health, including effective Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and mental health ERGS, is an essential start. But leading financial service organizations are working to embed mental health support in a wide range of HR and business infrastructure throughout the employee lifecycle, including recruiting, onboarding, new manager training, and performance management. Learn about PGIM's mental health champions program, which creates an ongoing program to support mental health year-round.
They also are incorporating mental health-related questions in employee opinion surveys, and working to align and coordinate mental health education and discussion across related initiatives and employee resource groups—especially with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging efforts.
Mental health resources are promoted, then promoted again, and promoted some more.
People need mental health support at different times and under different circumstances. Leading financial services organizations recognize this and build communications that create a gentle drumbeat of reminders. This way, when the need arises, an employee knows where to turn and that it is safe to turn there.
One financial services firm we worked with recognized that even with a robust set of benefits and EAP services, employees felt vulnerable about utilizing these resources. This company developed a comprehensive communication plan, including regular promotional updates and videos of leaders sharing their stories about mental health, to normalize the use of mental health resources.
This campaign helped lower the vulnerability hurdle so that regardless of the resource— such as another person like a manager, a peer-ally, HR, or an outside resource like an EAP—employees felt more confident about taking the risk and reaching out for support. The campaign worked. EAP utilization went up significantly, as did employee survey results related to “feeling supported on mental health.”
And not only is it happening, but it goes beyond measuring prevalence like depression, anxiety, and burnout. It uncovers data and insights on the broader conditions of a mentally healthy workplace, such as safe and inclusive cultures, sustainable cultures of work, and manager/leader engagement in mental health initiatives.
Leading organizations are building dashboards, combining various data sources—from employee surveys, prescription drug trends, mental health care claims, leave of absence information, and EAP utilization—to begin establishing a profile of how mental health shows up in the company. Over time, this information dashboard will help these financial services organizations understand what mental health looks like, what factors have the most impact on mental health, and where support resources should be targeted.
When addressing mental health in the workplace, many options are available, from adding a new benefit plan, offering a new class, to adding a new app. But there are no quick fixes. While recent and unprecedented events have brought mental health challenges to the forefront, the underlying workplace factors affecting mental health have percolated for many years.
Leading financial service organizations recognize that addressing these factors takes time and a sustained and visible commitment following the five steps outlined above. The results are encouraging—both for the mental health and engagement of employees and the organization's success.
Partner with Mind Share Partners to take away the guesswork, and get a custom strategy to address the unique workplace factors impacting employee mental health at your organization.
About Mind Share Partners
Mind Share Partners is a national nonprofit that is changing the culture of workplace mental health so that both employees and organizations can thrive. It builds public awareness, hosts communities to support mental health ERG leaders, and provides custom workplace training and strategic advising, as well as on-demand solutions. Its clients include leading companies that span industries, such as BlackRock, Genentech, Morrison & Foerster, Pinterest, Tinder, and Yahoo, among others. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) are intrinsically tied to mental health, and that lens is core to its work and activities.
As part of Mind Share Partners’ focus on building the movement around workplace mental health, it offers free toolkits, frameworks, research, and resources in its blog. It also runs two columns in Forbes and Thrive Global and publishes articles in Harvard Business Review. Mind Share Partners has been featured in prestigious media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TIME, Good Morning America, The Boston Globe, and Bloomberg, among many others. Learn more at www.mindsharepartners.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.