Featured in today's briefing:
- The components of an effective workplace mental-health strategy.
- Projected salary increases for 2023.
- A better way to thank your colleagues.
The Macro Context
- Some 26% of workers are “very” or “moderately” worried about catching Covid at work, down from 33% in July, according to a new Gallup poll of around 3,700 US adults. A majority of employees in a recent survey by OnePoll and Theralfu said that barring severe symptoms, they would go into the office while sick.
- US consumers are decreasing their holiday shopping budgets, relying more heavily on coupons and homemade gifts, and trimming or nixing year-end charitable donations. Despite recession fears, companies in the S&P 500 spent a record $222 billion on capital expenditures in the third quarter, suggesting an optimistic economic outlook.
Focus on Strengthening Workplace Mental-Health Support
The US Surgeon General’s recent framework for workplace wellbeing marked a sea change in the way mental health at work is discussed. “For a long time, employers thought, ‘Let's push people to self-care and [employee assistance programs] when there's mental-health concerns,’” says clinical psychologist Joe Grasso, the senior director of workplace transformation at the workforce mental-health platform Lyra Health. Now I think employers are recognizing the workplace itself shapes mental health.”
We spoke with Grasso about what it means for employers to take a broader view of employee mental-health support. Here are excerpts from our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity:
What are the components of an effective workplace mental-health strategy?
It’s learning and development around mental health at work. So that means addressing not only how to destigmatize mental health and recognize when a colleague is in distress and make sure you know how to support them, but also more on the prevention side, how to lead teams in ways that reduce risk of workplace mental-health distress. Things like how to promote psychological safety on teams, how to lead with emotional intelligence as a people leader, how to make sure that we're designing work in ways that reduce the risk of burnout.
The second component is expert mental-health support for leaders of internal peer-led programs like employee resource groups or affinity groups. For example, in 2020, we saw Black [employee resource groups] really wanting to address racial stress and trauma given the tragedy of racial injustice that was especially prominent. So making sure that an employer's mental-health vendor or partner is supporting these internal programs with how to address the unique mental health needs in your communities, how to talk about mental health in a way that's productive and not going to trigger folks or lead to more stress than before. And making sure that they have best practices for how to promote mental health and their individual communities.
A third component that's often overlooked is measurement, making sure that employers are making data-driven decisions about their mental-health strategies. That means first understanding the state of the workforce: What does their mental wellbeing look like? Not just what is the symptom profile of people seeking care, but how is work shaping the mental wellbeing of the entire workforce? Where are there potential risks or hazards in the workplace to employee mental health? So let's make sure we understand, with data, the ways in which work may be contributing to distress, and then also using measurement to assess the impact of programs rolled out to support employees. You'll hear employers say, ‘Oh, we rolled out yoga or meditation Mondays, or some kind of workplace wellness program,’ but making sure that they're actually measuring the impact of these programs on employee mental wellbeing, and not just assuming through anecdotes that they're effective.
The fourth piece is making sure employers are addressing the ways in which [diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging] and mental health intersect. When employers are thinking about a DEIB strategy, are they also considering the ways in which racial stress in the workplace might need to be addressed? We need to make sure to talk about mental health inclusively, but also recognize that different groups within the company are gonna have different mental-health needs and different mental-health attitudes, and also different mental-health journeys potentially.
The fifth one is making sure that employers are responding to timely events that are happening in the world by addressing the mental-health fallout, whether that's a mass shooting or the war in Ukraine or political turmoil. The employer is responding by acknowledging what's happening, by acknowledging that there's a mental-health toll and by providing just-in-time resources so that the whole workforce has access to tools to help empower them around mental health.
Of course, in the background of all of that is the need for robust individual care support, so that when you do break down stigma and get people talking about mental health, you're pointing them in the direction of care that's going to be easy to access and effective.
Let's say I'm a manager, and I've cultivated enough psychological safety on my team that I have an employee come to me and say, ‘I'm really struggling with my mental health.’ Ideally, what happens from that moment?
That really is an ideal scenario. That's what we hope would happen, and that a manager would respond first with some empathy and validation. Then learn just enough about what's going on for this employee to understand, is this a personal issue or is it a workplace issue that's driving the employee's struggle? If it's a personal issue, their role is to point to the mental-health benefit. Your job isn't to diagnose and treat. Your job is to say, ‘Mental health distress, yes or no? If yes and personal, use our mental-health benefit,’ and to frame it in a way that normalizes it, makes it more likely that they want to reach out.
If it's a workplace issue that's driving the distress, that's where the manager, has a lot of latitude and can look at what's within their power to help alleviate the problem, and what might need to be explored in collaboration with HR if it's something related to performance or a company policy that's bigger than me and my employee.
Read our book briefing from last week on The Burnout Challenge. Charter Pro members on Friday had an exclusive session with the authors—you can apply to be a founding member and access expert guidance on your pressing workplace questions.
What Else You Need to Know
The labor market is forecasted to remain hot into 2023. A new report from Glassdoor and Indeed indicates that a tight labor supply will continue to drive competitive labor-market conditions that foster worker empowerment while making hiring and retaining staff difficult for employers.
- The report points to demographic shifts that will limit the labor supply in years to come, including an aging workforce and reduced immigration.
- Proposed solutions include increasing immigration, investing in technology that increases productivity, and reducing barriers for certain kinds of workers, like those with criminal records, caregivers, and workers with disabilities.
Employers plan to boost salaries by 4.6% in 2023. According to data from a Willis Towers Watson survey of US employers, companies intend to continue increasing worker pay next year in spite of an economic downturn.
- A tight labor market and continued inflation are driving these increases. Organizations plan to finance the increases in a number of ways, including redesigning compensation packages, increasing prices for consumers, and restructuring or reducing their workforces.
Many companies with DEI programs are doing it for show. Two-thirds of employers in a recent report from talent-acquisition site Lever said they have interviewed a candidate solely to meet a diversity quota, a tactic that candidates of color see through. Some 71% of Black and Latino candidates said they have experienced being a token interviewee. The report also found that:
- Four in 10 employees said they felt discriminated against at work.
- Half of job applicants said their race, ethnicity, or gender had hurt their job prospects.
- Some 44% of employees said they felt like their employer promoted their race or gender to make the company appear more diverse than it actually is.
Disney chief executive Bob Chapek ended a CEO tenure tarnished by a flip-flopping response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Chapek, who was fired by Disney this week and replaced by Bob Iger, the man he had succeeded as CEO, had initially declined to take a public stance earlier this year, writing in a company memo: “Corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds.”
- Amid mounting public and internal pressure to denounce the bill, which bars discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in early elementary school, and an employee walkout, Chapek eventually issued an apology statement, prompting criticism of “wokeness” from Republicans and a new law from Florida governor Ron DeSantis revoking Disney’s special self-governing tax status.
- Some experts counsel that leaders should anchor public stances on issues in a company’s need to support its employees from discrimination—an approach Chapek initially eschewed, and then roundly fumbled.
Return to workplace speed round:
- While over 40% of senior managers and workers say that working arrangements have little bearing on productivity, managers are significantly more likely to hold conflicting views and also say that working from home some or all of the time negatively impacts productivity, according to new data from WFH Research.
- A new survey shows that just 13% of companies in Asia now require full-time in-person work, compared to more than half pre-pandemic.
- Salesforce is reportedly telling some of its employees to return to the office, despite previous statements from CEO Marc Benioff that such mandates are “never going to work.”
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Don’t wait for the new year to apply for that job. Companies often receive fewer job applications in December, even when they’re actively hiring. For an applicant, this could mean less competition.
- Anchor your thank-yous in real-world examples. When expressing appreciation for a colleague, include concrete instances of times their behaviors or actions impacted you or your work. This positive feedback also helps coworkers to recognize and focus on their strengths over the long term.
- Be transparent on your calendar. Model flexibility for caregivers by making your own caregiving responsibilities public. Instead of simply marking yourself as “busy” for the block of time you’ll be offline for daycare pickup, for example, enter it as a calendar event for others to see.
- Use a respectful interruption to break up meeting monologues. If a colleague is dominating all the time, try redirecting the conversation with a line like, “But also, we should consider this question,” or “Here’s something else that has been on my mind.”
It’s showtime (for one overlooked return-to-office indicator). As a growing number of workers resume their daily commutes, New York City’s subway buskers are noticing a happy upside: more money being tossed into their open instrument cases and tip jars.