Envato’s reputation as a great place to work is built on more than just pool tables and good coffee. It also reflects the focus the company has on supporting staff holistically.
It may seem obvious now, but the push for greater support for positive mental health in the workplace has undergone something of a generational change in the last few years, with new research bringing increased clarity to the impact it can have on the lives of both workers and businesses. A recent Deloitte report found that investing in high-impact mental health workplace programs can boost ROI, while another recent study of more than 28,000 US workers revealed that transforming workplace culture and improving wellbeing could save American businesses $225 billion every year. As thousands of intimate, personal stories about mental health are being shared by people around the world this October as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s clear that the discussions being had around mental health at work are heading in a more positive direction.
Dana Scheider is emphatic when asked why having excellent mental health support at work is so important. “I have lost every one of my previous jobs, either being fired or quitting to avoid being fired, due to my mental health and my employers’ unwillingness to support or accommodate me in good faith. Mental illness can be truly debilitating and disabling.”
“But as we are learning with other disabilities, people with disabilities can still be the best people for the job. Refusing to accommodate their needs adequately sets them up for failure and reinforces the idea that people with disabilities are less desirable workers.”
Better accommodating and supporting people at work with positive mental health practises has become increasingly important, especially as many organizations are now transitioning to remote work. Even before a global pandemic shone a fresh spotlight on the pressures workers face mental health at work had become a key talking point, but in 2020 people are feeling more disconnected than ever before, with the stress of isolation and juggling parenting or other home duties putting an even greater strain on everyone’s energy.
“This year (2020) has been a very interesting year,” continues Dana. “I’ve seen many of the neurotypical people around me experience mental health problems for the first time. We’ve had to be ready with resources and information for people who have never experienced or sought help for a mental health problem before, preparing them for the process.”
Dana is part of Envato’s Mental Health Inclusion Working Group, which includes ten dedicated Contact Officers, five of who are also trained in mental health first aid. It’s been an important point of focus for the company ever since the inception of the Diversity & Inclusion directive, as Organisational Development Manager Bec Covington highlights.
“For someone to be able to openly speak up and say ‘I’m having a really rough day today’ and know that their team will be there to support them is so important in how comfortable someone feels about bringing their whole self to work. We wanted to ensure that this culture of openness and support remained even as we have scaled the business.”
“The concept of Contact Officers was something we had spoken about for quite some time. While our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) service is brilliant and has always been well utilized, we wanted to give our employees an additional option to reach out to someone who they already had a connection with through work. These volunteer Contact Officers are specifically trained to deal with any work related issues, not just mental health, that might arise for someone, and are also proving to be great option for someone who isn’t quite ready to reach out to our People Team or our EAP provider just yet, but is still looking for a confidant to work through a situation with.”
The Mental Health Inclusion group has also worked hard to coordinate a program of support beyond one-to-one connections, from events centered around RUOK Day, workshops for leaders on how to support their teams in a fully remote environment, through to a special all-company presentation from Audrey McGibbon, a psychologist and wellbeing expert, who spoke in the middle of the pandemic on issues of mental health and resilience.
“It was by far the most well received presentation I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been at Envato,” remarks Bec. “We had to get her back so she could continue to answer the questions she was flooded with, and it just cemented to us how important this topic is for our team; that we need to continue to find ways to support through our Mental Health Inclusion initiatives.”
Ben Leong, one of the accredited mental health first aiders in the Working Group, said such support was critical, regardless of the external factors that may be at play this year. “We spend so much of our lives at work, and co-workers form a huge part of our social contacts - even more so during 2020, when we’re so restricted in terms of how we see other people.”
“There are a few different factors at play here. We need the ability to be ourselves in the workplace, and part of that is acceptance and inclusion of people who are neurodiverse or have mental illnesses. Another part is having a workplace that actively supports mental health and neurodiversity. Underpinning all of that is the need to not make life worse for people,” Ben continues.
“To do that, we need a better understanding of how our workplace practices and behaviours can impact the mental health of staff, and a willingness to make changes to improve those.”
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone about any kind of mental health crisis, reach out for help to Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au.