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How Can We Improve Mental Health in the Workplace?

Mental Health in the Workplace -- WhyWhisper Collective

Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year? As many of us recognize, many mental health issues fly under the radar as a result of the stigma that surrounds them.

Those who are silently affected by mental illness can experience issues and limitations everywhere – especially in potentially stressful environments like the workplace. So while we continue to fight against this stigma, we encourage employers to take measures to care for the mental health of their employees.

Beyond its negative effects on individuals, failing to address mental health issues in the workplace is bad for business. Mental illness is the number one cause of disability leave for American business today, and untreated mental illness costs the U.S. more than $105 billion in lost productivity each year.

Luckily, there are ways in which companies can provide support to their employees – here are a few of them:

Address mental health openly & honestly

This might be the most important thing for companies (and individuals!) to do when it comes to mental health. Because of the stigma around mental health issues, it’s difficult to discuss and address openly and honestly, and it means that a large number of cases go undiagnosed and untreated. But in reality, mental illnesses are common in the United States, and we aren’t helping anyone by staying quiet about it.

Workplace environments can be stressful, and stress can be a trigger for mental health issues. Instead of brushing it under the rug, we need to talk about it and open up a dialogue about how workplaces can help mitigate that stress, support their employees, and encourage them to take care of themselves.

If you are unsure about how to talk to your employees or coworkers who you think may be struggling, here are some tips.

Include comprehensive mental health care in your benefits package

Given how prevalent mental health issues are these days, it just makes sense for employers to offer mental health care benefits that are as comprehensive as possible. As of 2010, the Affordable Care Act has provided one of the largest expansions of mental health coverage in generations, requiring businesses to include mental health care in their benefits packages in some capacity. That said, the level of mental health care that is covered is rarely comprehensive or long-term.

Helping employees get access to the mental health care that they need may increase costs upfront, but early detection and treatment of mental illness can also prevent crises and reduce health care costs later on. Encourage employees to recognize signs of anxiety and depression in themselves, and then seek professional help that is subsidized by the health care plan that you offer.

Implement an employee wellness program

One great way companies can prioritize their employees’ mental health is internally, through employee wellness programs. Until recently, many of these programs were centered on discounted gym memberships that employees could opt to use. While encouraging individuals to stay active in this way definitely has positive mental health effects, there are further steps that employers can take to support their workers’ mental health.

For example, employers can actively encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, whether it be a longer lunch period or several smaller breaks. Or they can provide yoga, massage or meditation at particularly stressful times of the year, or at regular intervals. Another option would be to offer employees the opportunity to work remotely, as needed. Before making any decisions, think about the specific individuals you work with, and what you think would be most beneficial to them. You could even do a survey to determine what their needs are and how you can meet them.

 

Know of a business that is taking action to support its employees’ mental health? Tell us about them and what they’re doing! Here’s how:

If you want to join the conversation around mental health in general, we put together a list of some incredible digital resources to help you get started. 

 

 

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Want to Change the World? Start with Your Workplace

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Want to Change the World? Start with Your Workplace

by Anne Rackow

“Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Changing the world for the better can happen anywhere - even the workplace. In fact, if you own or manage a company, it’s the perfect place to start: incorporating social responsibility at work can help attract top talent and improve employee satisfaction

This is especially true when hiring Millennials. According to a study by Deloitte, a sense of purpose was a major factor in workplace choice for 6 in 10 Millennials. This statistic increases to approximately 8 in 10 for Millennials who are relatively high users of social networking tools.

While non-profits and social enterprises may appear to have a leg up in this department, traditional businesses and corporations are actually joining the movement at an increased rate as well. We recently talked about a few of these “unusual suspects” that are incorporating impact into their existing business models.

Even companies with socially conscious missions can do things on this list to take it a step further.  Here are a few suggestions for how you can create an environment that supports social justice in your day-to-day operations:

Develop Inclusive & Equal Workplace Policies

  • Implement a flexible leave policy that is supportive of major holidays for all religions.
  • Ensure that the company leadership is diverse in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
  • Offer generous family leave for both males and females after the birth or adoption of a new child, and make sure that your policy allows you to be flexible with working parents.
  • If you contract with staffing agencies, make sure that their workers are getting a fair wage and safe working conditions.
  • Similarly, use ethical supply chains that do not use slave labor or sweatshops in the creation of the materials and products used or sold by your company. If you’re unsure where to find these kinds of products, Made in a Free World can help!
  • If you have separate restrooms for men and women, install changing tables in both. Also, consider gender neutral restrooms.

Support Your Local Economy

  • Decorate with art from local artists in your community.
  • Host regular companywide days of volunteering or offer a match plan for donations.
  • Cater events with and host company gatherings at local mom and pop restaurants

Get Sustainable in the Office

  • Stock your printers with recycled paper and print on both sides, when possible.
  • When you get new electronics, recycle the old ones.
  • In the restroom, use paper towels made from recycled paper, air hand dryers, and low flow toilets.
  • Close the blinds on large windows on nights and weekends, and use a timer to regulate heat and AC.
  • If you provide coffee in the break room, buy coffee that is fair trade and locally roasted. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to making the world a better place or increasing employee satisfaction; but if it is possible to do both at the same time, it sounds like a win to us! While it may not be realistic to try implementing every suggestion on this list right away, there is at least one thing on this list that your business or organization can implement relatively easily.

 

What are some small changes that you’ve made in the workplace that have had a positive social impact? Share with us! Here’s how…

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The Unusual Suspects: 5 Big Companies That Are Doing Good

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The Unusual Suspects: 5 Big Companies That Are Doing Good

by Kate Vandeveld

We talk a lot about businesses and organizations that are focused on doing well by doing good. These are social enterprises that have built their business models around social impact: doing good is part of their brand DNA.

Equally as important are the existing companies that may not have set out originally to contribute to social good, but have implemented programs and initiatives aimed at doing good as they’ve developed. Though social impact was not built into their business models, the work that some of these large-scale companies are doing is incredibly impactful as a result of their scale and global influence.

The Unusual Suspects: 5 Big Companies That Are Doing Good -- via WhyWhisper

What’s more, employees are an important part of the equation.  In a 2014 report, 55% of millennials surveyed said that a company’s involvement in cause-based work influences their decision to accept a job. So integrating social impact into a corporation’s strategy isn’t just good for the world, it’s actually becoming necessary for attracting and retaining talent.

Here are five of the many large corporations that are focusing on social impact, as well as how they’re doing it:

American Express

When you think of American Express, one of the world’s largest credit card companies, social impact may not be top of mind. But the company has actually developed a number of socially conscious programs in recent years. Their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs include a Leadership Academy, a historic preservation initiative, and incentivized community service.

In 2010, American Express even launched Small Business Saturday, which falls the day after Black Friday, a day that is well known for catering to large corporations. In contrast to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday supports small, local businesses by helping them spread the word about their own products and services, and encouraging consumers to shop there instead of going big. And shopping small business is important: small businesses are better for the economy, human rights, and the environment. As a whole, American Express’s efforts to have a positive impact both internally and on a global level have been huge.

Cisco

Cisco is a multinational technology company that designs, manufactures, and sells various types of networking equipment. Though its offering is not built around impact, its focus on social responsibility is one of its core values. As it states on its website, at Cisco, "any success that is not achieved ethically is no success at all."

Cisco’s CSR programs are numerous. The company leverages its tech focus to make an impact across the following areas: access to education, healthcare, economic empowerment, critical human needs and disaster relief, environmental sustainability, governance and ethics, and supply chain standards. Its Global Impact Map shows at-a-glance the incredible work that it’s doing globally, and its 2014 CSR Report details the impact that these programs are having. Cisco also has a strong focus on work-life balance internally, and works hard to foster a strong culture of empowerment, engagement and innovation among its employees.  As with American Express, Cisco has used its tech assets and scale to do immeasurable good, though social impact was not a goal of the company at its outset.

Patagonia

Patagonia, a high-end outdoor apparel company, has been making headlines for its social impact efforts over the past several years, specifically around sustainability. Patagonia has worked to increase transparency around its supply chain, giving consumers a glimpse into the environmental and social impact of developing and distributing its clothing through The Footprint Chronicles.  It’s made remarkable efforts to ensure that everything that goes into their products is traceable and responsibly sourced, as well as fair trade certified. Patagonia also gives 1% of sales to environmental organizations all over the world.

Beyond its efforts around sustainability, Patagonia has developed CSR initiatives to increase employee happiness and promote fair labor practices. As the company’s CEO Rose Marcario recently stated at the White House-hosted Working Families: Champions of Change event, Patagonia has seen a notable increase in employee retention as a result of its efforts to offer fair benefits and showing employees that the company cares about them. We’ve discussed the importance of fairness and compassion in business, and its results are made very apparent in this case.

Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. is a large-scale clothing retailer, with over 3,000 stores employing over 150,000 people globally. But producing and distributing clothing isn’t all the Gap is about. In fact, the company’s “Do More” programs are centered around its focus on positive social impact, including providing equal pay for employees of all genders, a focus on sustainability, and a commitment to maintaining safe and fair labor conditions in their 800+ global factories.

Gap Inc. also launched its P.A.C.E. program in 2007 to provide work and life advancement opportunities to the women who make their clothes. Using company resources and leveraging partnerships with local community organizations, the P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement Career Enhancement) Program provides skills, education and technical training to the women who make up 70% of the company’s team of garment makers. To date, more than 30,000 women have participated in the program.

Microsoft

As most of us know, Microsoft is a multinational technology company that primarily develops and distributes computers and computer software. We may not be as familiar with the company’s noteworthy commitment to social responsibility. The company’s social impact efforts are both internally and externally-focused, ranging from developing a diverse, inclusive, and respectful work environment for employees to consistently working towards more sustainable operations.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of Microsoft’s social responsibility efforts is its expansion beyond Microsoft itself. Earlier this year, Microsoft issued a new mandate to its contractors: If they want to work with the leading tech provider, they’ll have to offer their own employees paid time off. This concept is somewhat revolutionary, and one that only a company with as much clout and power as Microsoft would be able to pull off without losing an egregious amount business. Right now, only 12% of private sector employees are given paid sick days, which is problematic in a myriad of ways. Efforts like this will go a long way to change that in the absence of federal policy change.


These are just a few of the increasing number of powerful large corporations that are working to build out their CSR efforts and have a positive impact on their employees and our world. Do you know of others? Tell us about them! We want to talk about them. Here’s how you can do it:

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Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business

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Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business

by Kate Vandeveld

When people discuss “success” in business, the focus is most often on the bottom line. Numbers are tangible measurements of success that make sense to everyone. At WhyWhisper, however, we also spend a great deal of time defining success in terms of impact: How much are companies doing to make the world a better place, what effect is it having, and what does it look like in practice?

A subject that comes up often is that of employee happiness. Unfortunately, even outwardly impactful businesses and organizations will often overlook its importance. Meanwhile, studies have shown that when businesses treat their employees fairly and make decisions with compassion, it can positively affect their impact and their bottom line.

Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business

Last week, the White House hosted an event called Working Families: Champions of Change, which included discussions and panels with some of the country’s most inspiring advocates for employee fairness. At the event, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario spoke about the company’s efforts to treat their employees fairly, and why it’s been so crucial to their success. Her main takeaway? By offering fair benefits and showing their employees that they care about them, they make their employees happy, and instill a sense of loyalty that encourages them to work hard and stick around. All of this, she said, affects their employee retention and overall revenue.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating a company’s compassion and fairness:

  • Equal Pay: Paying people of all genders the same salary for equal work shouldn’t be a question – but unfortunately, it is. Today, women are still paid only 78 percent of what men are paid for equal work, on average. According to a report by the American Association of University Women, this problem exists in every state and occupation, is even more extreme for women of color, and gets worse with age. Companies that treat their employees fairly don’t operate like this; they pay men and women equal wages for equal work.

  • Paid Maternity / Paternity Leave: At the Champions for Change event, President Obama noted that in some employment situations, women aren’t even given a paid day off for the day that they give birth. It is crucial that mothers and fathers of new babies are given the opportunity to take time off for the birth of their child without sacrificing pay when it is most needed. Companies that value employee satisfaction prioritize post-birth parental leave.
  • Fair Benefits: Companies that prioritize employee wellness also offer them comprehensive health packages, if they are able. Some small businesses and start-ups aren’t able to cover healthcare costs, but as soon as a company has the capital to offer benefits, they should do so. Lack of healthcare coverage is a huge financial burden for individuals and families in the United States.
  • Paid Sick Leave: When paid sick leave isn’t an option, employees will continue to work while they’re ill, negatively affecting everyone around them. When sick people come into work, productivity decreases, illnesses spread unnecessarily, and morale can quickly plummet.
  • Career Advancement Opportunities: Factors that contribute to employee happiness are definitely not all financial. When employees have clear opportunities for career advancement, they are more likely to work hard to achieve goals and go above and beyond for their employers.
  • Work-Life Balance: Another non-financial indicator of whether or not a company is fair is the extent that it values work-life balance. Companies that expect their employees to work long hours and be available at the drop of a hat foster cultures of resentment and burnout. Instead of encouraging greater productivity, these companies push employees to work less efficiently for longer periods of time, which is detrimental to everyone in the long run.
  • Focus on Culture & Community: Companies that work to foster cultures of collaboration, kindness, and understanding in the workplace are much more likely to have happier, healthier employees. Stressful work environments can lead to a multitude of adverse health effects in employees that create a cycle of negative outcomes – both for individuals and for the company. At the end of the day, successful businesses simply care about their employees, and want to ensure that they are working under conditions that will allow them to thrive.
Why Compassion & Fairness Are Critical in Business via WhyWhisper Collective

When companies take these elements into consideration, here are some of the benefits that they see:

Higher employee retention:

When employees are happy at work, they tend to stick around longer. This is a very good thing, because high employee turnover has significant negative impact on a company. First of all, employee turnover can bring down company morale. When someone on a team leaves, others are often required to pick up the slack without a salary increase. Additionally, when employees see someone leave, it can cause a ripple effect leading to more employee departures.

Employee turnover also has a clear effect on a company’s bottom line. The process of seeking out, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding a new employee can be extremely high. Reported costs vary, depending on the study, but all indicate that it’s an expensive process, especially for higher level positions.

Increased productivity:

To put it simply, when employees know they will be rewarded for their work, they are much more likely to do it well. Incentivizing good work – whether it be with verbal praise, recognition to their peers, financial compensation, or career advancement -- makes a big difference in terms of employee productivity. Plus, most employees simply want to do better work for companies and coworkers with whom they have good relationships. By being fair to your employees, you will foster a sense of community, lessening any focus on office politics, and increasing the focus on output and impact.

Higher revenue and greater impact:

Both of these elements – employee retention and increased productivity – factor into a company’s bottom line as well as the level of impact they are able to have. In fact, according to a 2013 study by Aon Hewitt, for every one percent increase in employee engagement, companies can expect to see 0.6% in revenue growth. Because employee engagement increases with employee satisfaction, companies that treat their employees well will increase their bottom line.

What companies do you know that focus on employee satisfaction? We want to talk about them! Here’s how you can share with us:

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