Why are so many employers reluctant to talk to their employees about the mental health crisis pervasive in the American workplace? According to Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace 2022 Report, only a third of employees say the company’s leadership speaks openly about mental health and well-being. But in Levi Strauss & Company (LS & Co)They set the gold standard for transparency and accountability for the mental health of employees.
In the past few years, LS & Co has taken employee wellbeing and mental health to the forefront of business. The company believes it must respond to the need to prioritize the mental health and well-being of its employees. And that’s just for beginners. This forward-thinking organization does what most corporate leaders fear to do: create a human-centered work culture by speaking openly about their mental health challenges.
I sat down with Tracy Linney, Senior Vice President of LS & Co and Director of Human Resources, who explained how they are reshaping the company’s culture around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. “If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that the old way of working just didn’t work,” Lenny told me. A “always” mindset contributes to burnout, no matter what level in your career. This unprecedented time we are living has inspired us and sparked important conversations related to mental health and well-being and how we as employers can support our employees.”
She acknowledged that employees bring their full selves into the workplace and spoke about how LS&Co has built a holistic approach and understanding of mental health, including a culture rooted in empathy. Part of this includes sharing their stories and struggles and opening up with colleagues and teams, according to Layney. And here’s the mental health challenge story she shared with me:
“Several years ago, I had the biggest mental health challenge of my career – I suffered from extreme burnout. For a long period of time, I worked non-stop, always on call and never had a shutdown button. Like many of us, this seemed like what it should be. Doing at that point in my career when I wanted to keep growing and progressing.But soon the everyday things I used to do to take care of myself mentally and physically no longer worked. This was new to me, as I always had a high capacity for work, and usually I was Able to recover after extreme periods.But eventually I got to a point where I no longer recovered and started feeling the physical and mental burden of being so tired.I realized that the only way I would ever be able to fully recover from it was to take a step back and prioritize my mental health.So, I took time off and it became a potential career and financial growth to recover mentally and physically from burnout. It was the best decision I could have made for myself and my family. But it wasn’t easy. I share my story because it shouldn’t get to that point for our employees. Since then, I’ve found ways to allow I want to be successful in my career, something I love and care about very much but also keep myself healthy mentally and physically. From seeing a therapist, to getting enough exercise and sleep, to spending time with family and friends – we all need to prioritize our mental health and well-being. “
I asked Layney what advice she would give an employee on the verge of burnout, and her answer was to do what she did – prioritize your mental health. “It’s hard to hear because you might well be thinking, ‘If I could do that, I wouldn’t be here. That’s how I definitely felt,'” she explains. “But in that moment, do whatever you need to do to get yourself back on track. If stress is building, get enough sleep, be with people who give you energy and don’t be afraid to step away from your computer or turn off your phone. As a result of my experience Personal, I’m an evangelist for small investments in the things you do every day to prevent burnout. We have moments in our days, weeks and years that are designed to recharge, and we should take advantage of them. I’m a huge fan of reset, and it can happen in the middle of your day if you’re in a stressful meeting Even if you’re just jumping on the Zoom call and going to your meeting or you have a customer in the store, take two minutes or 90 seconds and do breathing box Or walk around the building. Within five minutes, you can reset your nervous system and not take that tension with you into the next interaction.”
Layney said it’s employers’ responsibility to make sure workers don’t have to choose between career growth or health. She stressed the importance of providing a workplace environment where employees can prioritize their well-being and their work. Here’s what the human-centered work culture looks like at LS & Co:
- Invest in ongoing partnerships like the ones they have global flourish To provide resources and tools to manage stress, improve focus, strengthen connections with others, and improve overall well-being.
- Provide access, always on resources: from Wellness Rally Training To virtual therapy through TalkspaceThese tools can help relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression and support employees as they work to prioritize their mental and physical health.
- Develop robust employee assistance programs: to provide immediate support from professionals to help with a range of issues including stress, anxiety, depression, financial or legal questions, marriage and parenting issues, substance abuse and more.
- Availability of Behavioral Health and Substance Use Plans: To provide a benefits solution to employees that can support access to the right care at the right time.
- Prioritize Paid Leave Policies and Bereavement Leave Programs: To ensure that no employee has to choose between their job and taking care of themselves or loved ones.
I asked Layney what advice she would give someone working for an organization that might view them unfavorably if they shared a mental health challenge. “We were made friends so we wouldn’t talk about what’s going on with us, so we might assume other people wouldn’t be sympathetic,” she says. “Of course, there are work environments where people don’t empathize, and we have to be realistic about that. But there are employers who are more empathetic than you think, especially because in the corporate world we’ve been seeing it in people’s homes for the last couple of years. We’ve seen their children and pets. Hopefully you have An HR team you can go to for help. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, ask what you need. And if the environment doesn’t support that, I advise people to look for an environment that will.”
When I asked Layney what she’d like to see in the future of work, she said the biggest mistake any company can make is to go back to the old ways of thinking and doing and pretend it’s 2019 again. “We will miss a wonderful opportunity to make our workplaces stronger, healthier and more productive,” she noted. Instead, what I hope for all of us is to imagine a better way of working and for people to feel good about their work and integrate it into their lives in a way that they get meaning from the things that are most important to them—their family, their community, and whatever their personal passion, they come to work every day and happen difference”.
In her breakup thoughts, she told Lee, “This is the moment for companies to understand the implications for the mental health of their employees, to make sure that there is meaningful work for everyone and that people feel connected to their company. It’s important to acquiring and retaining talent, which is what we all think about these days. It’s time for action. Something different to help everyone – employees, shareholders, customers. It’s good for business and it’s good for society.”