As we close out Mental Health Awareness this month, it’s important to continue the conversation and reevaluate how to support our tech teams’ mental health and well-being effectively. With record numbers of tech layoffs juxtaposed with an insatiable appetite for innovation and digitization across all industries, our tech teams are undoubtedly feeling the pressure. With that comes increased anxiety, stress, and feelings of burnout at work that permeate beyond the workday. Employers must tune into how their workforces are managing negative influences and factors and take measures to mitigate threats to mental health at work.
“One in three U.S employees say their job has a negative impact on their mental health.”
That is a powerful statement. And while it is not attributed solely to tech employees, it is a strong indicator nonetheless of how today’s workforces are functioning daily.
An SHRM survey recently uncovered the above admission and also shared that “30 percent [of survey respondents] said their job has made them feel overwhelmed,” according to the March 2023 data. Further, the survey also revealed that employees (according to 45 percent of respondents) are turning their eyes towards their employers for support.
“This finding suggests that employees are looking to their organizations to take an active role in supporting their mental health,” said SHRM lead researcher Ragan Decker, Ph.D., SHRM-CP. “This reflects a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace and the need for employers to address it. Employers will need to recognize and adapt to these changing expectations.”
The notion that employers must prioritize mental health awareness at work is not new but has garnered increased attention in the last five years. As we continue to face a mental health crisis cited by leading medical organizations, the positive side stems from an American Psychological Association report late last year noted that “71% of workers acknowledged employers are showing more concern for mental health support at work.“
While that revelation is encouraging, new concerns have since transpired, particularly in the tech industry with massive job loss, triggering a new wave of anxiety. Daily headlines continue to break down tech worker anxiety according to geography, remote vs. other work environments, job-stealing technology, and more. The point is that anxiety and uncertainty are pervasive, and organizations must prioritize their mental healthand wellness policies now.
How can we address mental health concerns about work?
Help combat loneliness
One way is to help teams forge fulfilling peer relationships at work. Loneliness has been an unfortunate by-product of the pandemic and the shift in the way we work. In fact, the US Surgeon General recently weighed in on loneliness, stating it has “risen to the level of being a public health crisis” and ‘focusing on rebuilding social connections in the workplace is essential.’
Ways to do this include:
- Ensuring there are set check-ins with teams – in-person or virtually- to see faces and talk regularly.
- Partnering workers with other team members on projects to boost collaboration.
- Creating a formal or informal mentoring program, particularly for newer employees. A simple program that outlines regular check-ins, career advice sessions, and more can start the ball rolling.
- Planning company-wide training events and seminars –helps build skills to boost confidence while also creating opportunities to network with peers.
- Choosing a cause to rally around, where team members can participate in drives, awareness campaigns, and more. This encourages teamwork and supports the community at the same time.
Be transparent about the state of the company
Layoffs are not usually an overnight decision in most instances; there are warning signs, indicators, and better methods than others to manage and deliver the news. Contributing to the current anxiety levels is the fear of what might happen. Being open with your team and keeping them in the loop can make a world of difference.
- Be graceful. We’ve read stories about layoff announcements that went incredibly wrong and others that were handled with grace, even when delivering difficult news.
- Give your team time to plan whenever possible. Assure them that if layoffs are imminent, you can work together on an exit strategy.
- Help socialize talent. Managers can use their networks to spread the word of availability, offer recommendations, and put workers in touch with recruiters—being supportive in the face of layoffs can help.
Know the Mandates about Mental Health Policies at work, and don’t stop there
It’s inspiring that more organizations have put mental health support at the forefront for their employees. However, there are some actions that they are bound to by certain laws to implement, according to the DOL and other governing entities.
Family leave policies, job protections, and benefits that cover mental health treatment must be adhered to by many organizations. Familiarize your company with what is required and build upon that to create a comprehensive mental health support system for your team.
- Things that employers must do pertaining to mental health support.
At SSi People, we are a culture driven by putting people first. While we look for the best talent, are competitive in the market, and reach for success, we also strive to build relationships that encompass a whole person. Continue reading here for more information on how best to support the mental health and wellness of our tech workforces.