- Noelle Tassey - CEO of Alley
- Kelly Greenwood - Founder & CEO of Mind Share Partners
- Moses Balian- Senior HR Professional at Justworks
In this virtual panel, we spoke to leaders and how they deal with their mental health and leading a team. Leaders can face unique challenges when it comes to addressing their mental health. In this conversation, we hear from leaders from Alley, Justworks, and Mind Share Partners.
- Resources to Support Employee Mental Health During COVID-19 -Mind Share Partners' resources synthesize research and best practices to support the mental health of employees.
- Corporate Wellness Workshops And Advising Depression & Anxiety At Work - Mind Share Partners' interactive workshops equip managers and colleagues to build safe spaces, facilitate hard conversations, and learn tools and strategies.
- Mind Share Partners Institute | Certificate for Mental Health at Work - A certification program to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to create a culture of support for mental health at your organization.
- COVID-19 Resources | Justworks -The global impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve. Use these resources to stay safe and informed.
- Virtual Events | Justworks - Our community thrives on ideas, shared knowledge, and human connection. That’s why Justworks is offering online talks on topics that matter most when protecting your business and taking care of your team. We're all in this together.
Noelle Tassey 0:00
Hello, everybody, we're gonna get started now. Thank you so much for everybody in the audience for joining us and to our two panelists today. I'm so excited with March being Mental Health Month— Oh my god, I mean May. Clearly, I need some help. May being Mental Health Month, I'm so excited that we could have this panel and this incredibly important dialogue about mental health and leadership. So I'm so excited to introduce our panelists. First, a little bit about Alley- I'm Noelle Tassey, the CEO of Alley, and at Alley, we're building a community digitally and physically with startups with social impact and technology at their core. And we work with our corporate partners to run labs and accelerators including the 5G Lab, which you should definitely check out on our site and on Verizon. We have some really exciting programming and coming up with them including the future of AR and VR next week, and tomorrow an interview with Andrew Shearer, the founder of Green Shelf. So we're very excited about all of that. And now over to our panelists. Kelly, do you want to kick us off with your intro?
Kelly Greenwood 1:12
Sure. So I'm Kelly Greenwood, I'm the founder and CEO of Mind Share Partners, which is a national nonprofit really focused on driving culture change around workplace mental health so that both employees and organizations can thrive. Really, ultimately trying to normalize what it looks like to have a mental health condition like depression or anxiety at work which is most of us at some point over the course of our lives. So we do that in three different ways. We have corporate training and strategic advising, we build public awareness, and then we also have professional communities for individuals across companies and also employee resource group leaders of mental health groups. So thanks for having me today.
Noelle Tassey 1:56
Awesome. Thank you. Moses?
Moses Balian 1:59
Hey, thanks, Kelly, a pleasure to be on there with you today, and Noelle, thank you so much for having me. My name is Moses Balian, I'm a certified HR consultant at Justworks. Justworks is a New York City-based software company first and foremost, that also helps customers administer payroll and benefits, as well as provide HR and compliance support. I am that third piece of the puzzle. But we really are a design-forward solution that helps our customers run their business and grow with confidence.
Noelle Tassey 2:29
Awesome. So we're gonna have a really, you know, wide-ranging discussion today on this topic. Such an important one, especially in the current crisis, when any underlying mental health issues are most likely being exacerbated, and some people are kind of having to come to terms with this for the first time. So I really want to start off with a general question before we wade into some of those specifics, which is what does mental health in the workplace mean to you? So whoever wants to take that first, but would love to hear from both of you
Kelly Greenwood 3:01
So I'm happy to dive in. So for me, this is really personal. So I started Mind Share Partners because I really wanted to create the resources that I wish that I had had, that my managers and my organizations had had when I was really struggling. So I have generalized anxiety disorder, which is really well-managed now. But twice in my life, it has led to debilitating depression, including having to take a leave of absence from work. And I've always been in very sort of competitive schools and work environments and, you know, a very high-performing and that aside, cheerful individual. And so I had just a tremendous amount of shame, in fear of people finding out about this and having professional repercussions. So, for me, even since founding Mind Share Partners a little over three years ago, we have seen more and more companies really understand how important it is to be open around metal health at work and to do something about it. I think folks are still trying to figure out what that is a little bit. But for me, it's, you know, mental health at work is really just being able to talk about mental health as normally as you might, you know, a physical health diagnosis without sort of that shame and stigma. But just as a matter of fact, this is what's happening, and, you know, no fear of going to therapy or anything like that.
Moses Balian 4:29
Certainly. I think some of the wisdom I've garnered from my professional and personal network is that mental health is physical health. They're one and the same, this sort of Mind-Body duality is dissolving in the more contemporary way of thinking about wellness and mindfulness and health. For me, mental health in the workplace ultimately comes down to inclusion. I think we're at— in the midst of an inflection point in the way mental health is perceived in the professional environment. I think in the last few decades and until now, it's been met with an increasing degree of tolerance. And now we're at the part of the conversation with where tolerance is not sufficient, and not sufficiently inclusive. I think those companies that are on the vanguard of mental health in the workplace, aren't thinking of it as a problem that needs to be fixed. I know as an HR professional when working in-house, it's a very challenging conversation, to have. You never get used to it to have an employee approach you to request a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, which is not because of their broken arm, not because of their carpal tunnel, but because of their generalized anxiety disorder, because of their major depression. And these are bona fide medical conditions that need to be— you are compelled as an employer to engage in the interactive process to find an accommodation. So for that reason, it's historically been approached through this paradigm of fixing the problem and that is an outdated and not future-looking way of thinking about the problem. Rather, we need to seek to engage the perspectives and the dialogues of neurotypical and neuro-atypical people alike in building a more diverse and collaborative workplace.
Kelly Greenwood 6:18
Yeah, I absolutely agree with that Moses. One of my kind of catchphrases is that mental health is really increasingly the next frontier of diversity and inclusion. And increasingly we're seeing mental health fall under diversity and inclusion leads to the extent that companies have them, you know, and certainly, it also is a different lens of diversity and inclusion in that it affects underrepresented populations at work differently. And so thinking about that intersectionality is really important too.
Moses Balian 6:52
Noelle Tassey 6:53
Yeah, absolutely. I'm just so happy that both of you touched on sort of the topic of fostering a dialogue and opening this up for kind of open conversation and just how important that is, is the stuff and it's one of the reasons I'm so happy that we're able to be here having this panel because I think you know, 5, 10 years ago it would have been much harder to open up this dialogue and, you know, have such a thoughtful and nuanced conversation about it. Both of you touched on the themes of, you know, kind of de-stigmatization, and again, having an open conversation, what advice would you give to employers around how to facilitate that in the workplace? And, you know, Kelly, you've been very vocal about your personal experience, so how much does that factor into opening up that dialogue? Or do you try to kind of keep your experience out of it when it comes to creating space for your team?
Kelly Greenwood 7:50
Sure. You know, I think for my own team, we're very unique in that we're about as mentally healthy or at least mental health-friendly as you can get. So I am definitely very open with my team. And I would say frankly, in doing so sometimes I feel even still a little bit of that self-stigma in doing that, which just speaks to how ingrained this is in our society. And I think especially for leaders, you know, what a— what a leader looks like and what a leader should act like. But, you know, this year, even pre-COVID has been really challenging for me, my dad passed away unexpectedly in January, my mom is in D.C., I'm in San Francisco, and she's, you know, isolated. And I've really shared— I've been pretty open with my team. I think the difference is, you know that now I'm also really prioritizing, you know, therapy and if you know before when I might have missed a session when I get busy, now I add a session and so my lens is very different. And my team by virtue of what we do is all trained up on kind of best practices, and so I definitely err on oversharing in— with the lens that it may be helpful to other folks on my team who are also experiencing challenging times. So now during, you know, our all-hands check-ins, I will go first in terms of saying how I'm doing and I don't expect people necessarily to be as candid as I am, but if they want to, I want them to feel comfortable doing that.
Noelle Tassey 9:29
Moses Balian 9:31
Kelly, I want to applaud you so much for the openness and vulnerability you've demonstrated with your team and in your organization's mission and ethos. I've spent a long time pondering this question and I'm not sure there's any other way to do it. I'm an oversharer, myself, I'm an empath and an extrovert. And I think, to your point, you know, this is sort of the new frontier of inclusion in the workplace. Maybe it's a matter of coming out— the leaders speaking candidly and openly about their own experiences. And I can't think of anything short of that, that will make the broader employee population, managers and individual contributors alike comfortable with not just whispering to HR when they need some help, but in fostering this dynamic and mental health-friendly workplace that we talk about, this sort of utopia that I see us coming closer and closer to honestly. So, yeah, it's a beautiful sentiment, I think, you know, you can talk about de-stigmatization in the workplace, all you like, but— and we're mental health-friendly, but ultimately, until you start really being vulnerable, that you— that you get to truth. I'm a big fan of Brené Brown as is just about everyone in my field is, and if you're not familiar with her, she is sort of the leading expert on vulnerability through a professional lens. And when we do practice the mindfulness to be vulnerable, you know, it sounds cliché, but we're actually demonstrating strength because we are admitting to ourselves, our own weaknesses and strengths alike. But it ultimately is a practice of mindfulness. And then using those when you're vulnerable, you know what— where you can trust yourself and where maybe you're better suited— better served to lean on other people. It's just— creates so many more nodes of connection between people in a collaborative space. So I think that's the way of the future.
Kelly Greenwood 11:36
I couldn't agree more and I think Brené Brown has done a, you know, done us all a major service in terms of bringing the research base toward the efficacy of being vulnerable at work, you know, it's not as squishy of a topic as it used to be. You know, and I think having the leaders go first is so important, and that's what we really recommend with companies that we work with is to have a senior leader share their own experience or you know, in an ally capacity, and in a hopeful way so that people understand that this is incredibly common. And, you know, in a study that we did last year in partnership with SAP and Qualtrics, it showed that you know, C-suite folks are just as likely as your entry-level individual contributors to have mental health symptoms. And so they're really in a position to— to start that conversation and to make it transparent. And one thing that you said just in terms of it being a coming out experience, I that's something that we often think about is just the parallels to mental health at work and the LGBTQ movement and how successful that was, relatively speaking, and in a short amount of time. One of our advisors works in HR and he— he is a, you know, gay man living in San Francisco. And he said that you know, he came out in his 20s as being gay. And then he came out again in his 30s at work as having depression, and that that second coming out was actually far more challenging. But he felt that you know, given his role in HR people kept coming to that— to him about mental health experiences. And he felt like he was being disingenuous by not sharing his own— his own experiences. So I think this is just the next level of being able to be authentic at work and bringing your full self to work. And, you know, and for me, the act of kind of having to hide my mental health challenges for so long was arguably harder than the mental health condition itself. And so just being able to, you know, be able to bring that part of you to work just like everything else, I think is so important for employee engagement and a sense of belonging.
Noelle Tassey 13:47
Definitely. I'm so glad we kind of jumped straight into the vulnerability topic because this comes up a lot and this is something that— so personally like this is a question that I've asked a lot of people because when I started to tell our team a little bit more about the fact that you know— I personally suffer from depression, or I'd say I live with, and you know, it really is what it is and kind of coming to that point of opening up a dialogue around it, there's a question of how vulnerable is too vulnerable? At what point is there a boundary, especially if you're performing kind of authority leadership, being in control of the ship? And I think this is especially an issue you know, a lot of my peers who are maybe younger female leaders, especially suffer from this feeling of if I open up if I'm vulnerable about this, will they see me differently? You know, is this really like such a delicate situation? And then there's the internal stigmatization on top of it, that Kelly you were speaking to. And so, we would love your thoughts on that. This is something that I've heard again and again, and everybody has a different opinion from, you know, put on your own oxygen mask before you help others to like, you know, sit down and have a group therapy session, which is probably not the response. But yeah.
Kelly Greenwood 15:06
Well, Moses, I'm sure can speak far more to the compliance end than I can, but I think in terms of the group therapy session, we really never advocate that in the workplace. Certainly peer support is important, but we never want, you know, managers or colleagues to be feeling like they are therapists or empowered to be so after any of our trainings. It's a terrible idea to try to have your manager be your therapist for a whole host of reasons, obvious in that. But I think in terms of your first point, in terms of how much to share, we certainly never advocate widespread disclosure, you know, for anybody, you know, if they're C-level, or if they're Junior. You know, unfortunately, I don't think we're quite there yet as a society for that to be completely safe. And so I think it is really very much an individual decision. So to your point that everyone has different opinions, I would say it's different for everyone in terms of making that decision, and do they feel comfortable sharing at a high level? Do they feel comfortable sharing at all? For me, sometimes it is harder when I'm kind of, you know, in like a few day blip, which, fortunately, right now is kind of as bad as it gets, and doesn't really affect my work. But it's always harder in those moments when I'm actively struggling to talk about it. So I think, to your point about, you know, what does a leader look like, you know, and being a younger woman leader, I do think that there's more challenges. And at the same time, I think to the extent that folks are comfortable, you know, I think so much of what's been happening in the last, you know, 5, 10 years just with management and leadership broadly is expanding what that you know, ideal leader looks like and what an effective good leader looks like. You know you look at, you know, government leaders to the COVID response. And there's been a lot of dialogue that you know, Angela Markel, and Jacinda Ardern are knocking it out of the park with a very different style of leadership than we've typically seen. And so I think, you know, leaning into that a little bit, and taking a little risk, you know, to the extent that you're comfortable, is helpful in modeling what a different type of leader can be.
Moses Balian 17:26
I can't even begin to pretend to speak from the female perspective, but I guess I will offer the validation of something I've observed that I think males have benefited from this type that is the unstable genius or the creative genius, whether we're talking about Vincent van Gogh or modern contemporary politicians, there's been sort of this like, sexiness or power or inspiration that arrives from the unstable creative type. And I don't think that is a trope that women have received the benefit of historically is something I've observed. And so I just, I really, really value both of your perspectives on that.
Noelle Tassey 18:10
Thanks. And we had a great— you know, somebody just wrote in with a question, it was about half what we just talked about. But the other half I think is great in sort of the other side of this point, right, is as a leader, if you're going to open up this dialog, this person asks, "How do you prevent team members who typically like to keep personal and work lives very distinct? How do you prevent them from feeling uncomfortable when you're so candid and open and sharing and this is an issue that I've seen come up again, and again, you know, from my peers, their companies, this is something that like, we've kind of had to figure out where that line is, as well. And I would love to hear from you guys. How do you do that for people who are just more private and uncomfortable with any conversation around this?
Moses Balian 18:55
I think there's definitely been historically the mentality of compartmentalization in the workplace. You see this— there's— this has been fictionalized in some great classic TV, I think of like Mad Men, or Nine to Five, which I rewatched recently and that has aged phenomenally. But where you have your business self at work, and then at home or in your personal life, you can relax and be your true self. This is something that's not going to be sustainable, particularly in the current environment. One thing I'm actually excited about is I think, in this situation, we find ourselves we just by nature of the logistics of it have had to open up and share a little bit more with our teams about what our personal situations are, what our bedrooms look like. I mean, we're just like learning more about our colleagues in a really cool way than we ever would have if we just all kept going into the office, and life continues as normal. So I'm excited to see where that goes. And then when it comes to compartmentalization I was speaking to a friend of mine who is a mental health professional recently and talked about how she says, you know, people's— you can't live that way, people's B.S. meters right now are particularly acute and will pick up on any sort of masking or superficiality that you're trying to put on. And so rather— you can't expect someone to feel immediately comfortable bringing their whole human to work, of course, but maybe rather than compartmentalization, we think of it as segmentation. And so what I do bring to work is still fully comprised of my true self, even if it can't realistically be my whole self.
Kelly Greenwood 20:39
Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. And, you know, Moses, one of the things that we've been saying too, is that I think one of the silver linings very much of this experience is kind of normalizing people's challenges and people's realities. I similarly am in my bedroom, my two little kids are downstairs so hence the headphones. But, you know, I think that is one silver lining is it's pretty impossible to not struggle with your mental health during this time. You know, it may not meet an official depression or anxiety diagnosis, but it'd be hard-pressed to find somebody that hasn't had any symptoms of something like that during this time. So I think that you know, that is making it easier to open the conversation and to be real with folks. In terms of, you know, Noelle, what you were saying in terms of not everyone being comfortable sharing, we definitely see that is the case and also very much so across generations. I think Millennials and Gen Z are much more comfortable, sort of talking about things at work that some of the older generations have historically left at home. And so I think there is a little bit of a culture clash happening right now. You know, and one of the things we say too, is, you know, just because, you know, one person decides they want to share doesn't necessarily mean that everyone has to. So, you know, perhaps if someone's finding in their organization that a lot of people are kind of uncomfortable with that, then maybe you just share at the high level and, you know, have those deeper conversations offline or one-on-one with the folks who, you know, want to engage and want to go to that deeper level. You know, but what we say too is, it's just so important for managers in particular, to kind of be opening the door for conversations if people want to have them, but if they never want to have those conversations, that's completely okay too.
Moses Balian 22:33
Certainly, I mean, one doesn't have to share their whole experience to have made more comfortable feeling less alone, less weird, less constricted, knowing that this is a dialog that is— well the door has been opened, precisely.
Noelle Tassey 22:50
That's— I mean, Kelly, and I think, to the other side of what you're saying, if you're the— so the other person who wrote in you know, it sort of sounds like— it's more like they're made uncomfortable by other people sharing.
Kelly Greenwood 23:02
Noelle Tassey 23:03
So, you know, is there any accommodation you can make there? Or is that just one of those things you're gonna have— you have to live with to create a more open and inclusive work environment is the fact that some people are going to be uncomfortable with it?
Kelly Greenwood 23:17
Yeah, I mean, I think it's a great question. It's a tricky one, right? You know, I'm curious to hear Moses's opinion on this too. I think for me, my— you know, to the extent that that person is comfortable, you know, sharing, you know, to the individual, that is, you know, opening up a lot maybe that they're not as comfortable with that in the workplace. And, you know, that might be one avenue, so that that person again, can kind of maybe keep it higher-level and take those meteor conversations offline. And at the same time, I do feel like we're evolving, you know, as workplaces and as society and when you think about diversity and inclusion broadly you know, it is incredibly important, despite what your political views may be to be inclusive in the workplace. And so I do feel like the tides are turning in that respect and in terms of tolerance and inclusion in the workplace. And so I feel like there's a little bit of a middle ground and some, you know, compromising and accommodating, perhaps on both ends to move things forward.
Moses Balian 24:28
I think so too. And I— it might be a little harsh to say employees who are uncomfortable have to live with it. But I do think business— I'm uniquely excited to be in business at this moment, broadly and acutely. Because I think business has an opportunity right now to be on the forefront of social change, because it's an apolitical collaborative environment where we set aside any sort of ideological warfare and instead just focus on how do we move forward together productively, collaboratively and inclusively? It's like it's not about anything more than what it's about. So there's a beauty and an egalitarian— egalitarianism in that, that I think puts business leaders in a unique, privileged position to be on the forefront of social change right now.
Noelle Tassey 25:24
I totally agree. Positive change through the private sector is like one of our favorite things to talk about it Alley because it's like so core to what we do and the companies that we work with and the dialogue that we're trying to facilitate, right? The next thing that we were just touching on, and we've talked about a little bit throughout this conversation is how this crisis is actually in some ways, a very interesting opportunity, not just for kind of what yourself at work looks like and creating more accommodation for just a wider range of humanity and the ability to at least be a more full version of yourself in the workplace. But also just an opportunity to really open up a dialogue around mental health. And so I'm curious, the other thing— you know, the other side of that coin is, of course, that you're getting a lot of questions as a leader right now about what can you do as a company to support me and support my mental health? And this is something— we so we've experimented with this a little bit at Alley, we've done a few things, you know, like, kind of really strongly encouraging people to take time off and giving them extra PTO and things like this and making space for you to take an afternoon off if you're burned out. But you know, I think there's this question of like, what else can you do for your employees in this crisis? And I just love to hear what both of you have to say about that.
Moses Balian 26:44
From my perspective, as an HR professional, I think there's a few things A) we are in uncomfortable times, and I think leaders would be well served rather than trying to force control onto ultimately uncontrollable circumstances probably isn't doing anyone any favors. Rather, what we have to do is acknowledge the current reality of things and contextualize the narrative within that and within the parameters of reality. And so more now than ever, I talked about employees' B.S. meters, like, you know, don't feed me this line of workplace restructuring or whatever, no, like have a conversation with me, give me the credit to understand the business's decision-making so that I can feel assured in A) that the business is had— has its head on straight, B) that it's probably nothing personal. And if I have to be laid off, if my salary has to be reduced, in most cases today, it doesn't have to do with my acumen and my capabilities as a professional, but simply the economic realities on Main Street and Wall Street. And so giving employees the credit to understand where you're coming from, helps them give— I think gives employees so much more peace of mind. It's— if you can't control the narrative, at least you can orient yourself in space and understand— the more we can understand what's going around— going on around us, probably the more self-assured employees feel. And then also, again, from a pure HR perspective, employees will always be— former and current will always be your brand ambassadors. And so I know one topic we wanted to get to today Noelle, is off-boarding, maybe we aren't there yet. But just the importance of off-boarding employees with care whether this is employees who resigned, those who have been laid off, or even terminated for performance. And so I'll pause there, but I think that's so crucial to consider right now.
Noelle Tassey 28:42
Kelly Greenwood 28:43
Yeah, I think, you know, I think Noelle and Moses, all the things you've said, I absolutely agree with. I think one of the most important things that a leader can do is also just modeling that healthy behavior themselves. So certainly I think that being vulnerable to start is really important. But also, you know, not necessarily working around the clock or, you know, making time for those therapy appointments and saying that's what they're doing. Because, you know, as much as somebody, you know, communicates, "oh, you can take this time", you know, if they don't see their leaders or their managers doing it, they're not gonna do it themselves. And I think that there is much more juggling that's happening right now, certainly in my house with two little kids and distance learning happening. But you know, also, I think everyone's challenges are different, but everyone has challenges, right? You know, if you're home alone, you don't have a roommate. That's a whole separate challenge. And so I think it's really important for leaders not to assume what people need, but you know, this isn't rocket science. This kind of goes back to like, organizational behavior 101 in terms of best practices, but really having those check-ins and asking folks how they're doing and what they need, and trying to be as flexible as possible. You know, for me, I've even told people if they can't work their full hours, even if they're contractors we'll pay them for their whole hours just because, you know, recognizing how much is going on right now. You know, one of my team members lost a cousin to COVID. And I— and she's a contractor and I said, if you don't do all your hours, we'll pay you the normal hours that we pay. So really just trying to lead with compassion as much as possible. Versus, you know, having kind of a cookie-cutter approach for everybody since, you know, there's such a huge spectrum right now of the particulars of everyone's situation.
Noelle Tassey 30:41
Yeah, absolutely. And I think the theme of compassion is so important in something— it's actually not a word that gets used a lot in this dialogue. I sometimes— we actually talk a lot about having compassion for yourself in our team meetings because like, if you can't have compassion for yourself, you're definitely not going to have it for your teammates. But, you know, I think that it kind of ties in really nicely with that off-boarding conversation, right? Because there's a tendency, I think, to just okay, well, we're just going to furlough or we're going to do layoffs. And then that's that. But, you know, truly from a human perspective and in terms of making a positive impact in society and also laying people off with integrity and in a way that represents the values of your business from start to finish during somebody's time with you. What are some of your tips, some of the things that you guys have seen, that you've done to really facilitate that and make sure that you are handling any sort of staffing reductions responsibly, carefully, with compassion, with humanity, with integrity?
Moses Balian 31:46
I don't mean to downplay it at all, but I think ultimately, like don't overcomplicate it, and it's a rather straightforward process. I am you know, privileged to say that— well, I'm a customer-facing HR consultant now, I've never had— I haven't had to lay anyone off due to COVID-19. Due to like workplace realities in the past few years, sure, but that's a bit of a different conversation because that's sort of a, here's our decision. But really yes staffing reductions, and salary cuts at this time, I'll go back to saying like, give employees the credit to understand the decision-making. And then, more importantly, don't make any promises. You're not doing any current or former employees any favors by reassuring a return to work date, by promising that salary will be resumed to 100% at a certain point. Again, it's all about contextualizing the narrative in the sense of what is and isn't controllable. And even if things aren't controllable, they might be containable. And so where you can serve employees and I'm speaking more to current employees right now. PTO and time off is huge, but it doesn't solve every single problem. I think having human-to-human dialogues and conversations with employees validating their concerns asking them for— asking them what they need, even if you can't give them all of it is crucial to helping them feel heard throughout this time. A smooth off-boarding process is going to be crucial in any layoff or reduction in force, but it's a matter of sort of putting your own oxygen mask on first and speaking from a place of authenticity and confidence.
Kelly Greenwood 33:31
Yeah, I mean, fortunately, you know, we haven't had to do any reductions. I think what we have seen you know, as best practice, that I'm sure you did, too, is Airbnb's process for doing the layoffs. So it was just incredibly empathetic and compassionate but also very clear. So you know, the CEO sent out an email after sort of like explaining the entire thought process, apologizing that this was necessary, and I think really did as much as possible to have that off-boarding with integrity. So folks got to keep their laptops, there was a change in equity agreements so that people could kind of get grandfathered in from an equity perspective. There was a lot of job support in terms of making that transition. And so I think just the thoughtfulness and then really trying to do as much as possible to kind of support folks in that off-boarding process and sort of ongoing was above and beyond what I think we've seen from a lot of other companies that have been in similar situations. And so, again, I think just you know, leading with compassion, and I agree with Moses, you know, not over-promising things that that you can't deliver, especially in an increasingly uncertain environment. But just being open and honest about what is handled— what is happening, and I think the more folks can communicate from a leadership position along a number of different topics, the better. Because people, you know, are just feeling anxious, you know, uncertainty inherently breeds anxiety.
Noelle Tassey 35:18
Yeah. And that's— yeah, that's true. Pretty much everyone's day-to-day right now— I think that last part, which— which has been interesting, you know, we try to create space for our team to connect and to share how you're feeling. And sometimes it'll be like, you know, out of 10 fingers, like, what's the mood today? And it's like, five, because what's happening in the world, really, and unfortunately, we can't solve for that. So— which is, you know, it's difficult as a leader to have to say "I don't know" about 10 times a day. I'm getting used to it, personally. It's kind of a tough transition. So you know, in addition to I think like being very thoughtful in your approach to off-boarding employees, what training can you just give your managers, in general, to be more supportive of the mental health of the people that they're managing more responsive to it? In general, like what resources, what training can be done, especially for smaller organizations that are, you know, probably high-growth and potentially don't have the resources or the time to like, send everybody to some sort of course on this, for instance?
Moses Balian 36:34
Well, I think it's important— managers should not be made, like psychologist lite, right? Like, I think you should assure your managers like no one is expecting you to be a mini-therapist, or to assist your employees or even offer any recommendations as far as you know what they can do to better serve themselves. That said, you know, I want to be specific and actionable here; so I know around the country and specifically in New York City where I'm based, there is this public offering called Mental Health First Aid. And you see these great ads on the subway where— I mean First Aid is like the perfect name for it. It's not surgery, it's not a doctor's visit, it's first aid. And so it's a point where if you have employees approach you or you open up a conversation, or friends or whomever about where they need help, it's a way to stop the bleeding, help them feel heard, and then redirect them to resources where they can receive sort of the care and support from a trained professional. And so I think if you know any— a lot of times this is free. It certainly is in New York City and among other places, too. If you can get a chance to send your— once we're back in the office, send your employees off-site and receive this kind of Mental Health First Aid training, that would go a long way and make managers at least feel comfortable being the recipient of such a dialogue, even if they aren't, you know, they shouldn't be psychologists about it.
Noelle Tassey 38:02
Kelly Greenwood 38:04
Yeah, I think Mental Health First Aid is great, particularly from a crisis perspective. For us, we do provide trainings and advising as well. And we see them as a bit more upstream and preventive in nature. So it really is, you know, intended to give everybody a bit of a baseline in terms of workplace mental health 101 and debunking about a bunch of myths around mental health. So we really, again, kind of come at it from a management angle. We purposely don't have clinicians on our team. And so then we also really work with managers and colleagues and executive teams also, in terms of how to think about tools and strategies for helping a colleague or direct report navigate and again, it's definitely not you know, trying to get them to diagnose or anything like that. But really how to open up that conversation, how to normalize and de-stigmatize mental health in the workplace, and then how to co-create a plan with the employee and with HR to help them move forward and certainly, you know, direct them to professional resources. But we really focused on, you know, what can— what's in a manager's wheelhouse in particular, and talking with executive teams about how to change the organizational culture as a whole. One of the things that is really helpful for companies that may not have the budget to do trainings, there are two things: one is we offer an Institute for just individuals within companies to attend and they can sort of become certified and a mental health champion and, you know, spread some of that knowledge throughout their own organization— that's virtual. And then also, increasingly, in the last sort of year to 18 months, we've seen a huge growth in mental health employee resource groups or affinity groups. And those are often kind of grassroots efforts. Increasingly by folks right out of college, you know, who had mental health clubs in high school, in college, and don't understand why people aren't talking about this at work, and the culture clash again. But, those have been really powerful, you know, forums for folks to come together, you know, build awareness throughout the organization, connect with like-minded folks. You know, when you think about best practices in terms of culture change, it really needs to be sort of top-down and bottoms-up. But that's a really powerful bottoms-up approach that particularly if you can get an executive sponsor, you know, can have a lot of benefit to an organization at you know, no to low cost.
Noelle Tassey 40:44
Yeah. I love that. That's super cool. And you know tools like Slack, obviously, are so helpful in terms of facilitating groups like that even at a distance which is—
Kelly Greenwood 40:55
Noelle Tassey 40:57
Yeah, so somebody wrote in with a question that I just want to field quickly. So it's actually one that I think I like encounter quite a bit and it's kind of a challenging— it's a common misconception or blurred area around mental health in the workplace. So this person asks "employers will make accommodations for star employees if they experience a temporary or even periodic episode of 'X', whether you know mental health or what have you. Just somebody perennial— perennially has an issue, should employers really be expected to continually have to accommodate such an employee?" So I'd love the humanistic side of this, I bet— I know Moses is like HR hat on, ready to go. So whoever wants to go first. Moses?
Moses Balian 41:45
If you don't mind. This is a conversation I have often and it's a great question. There is no catch-all answer but there's a lot of great generalized guidance. And so the asker touched on the two sides of the coin that I want to cover and the one is the compliance side and the other is the employee relations and engagement and morale implications. So let's talk about, you know, the letter of the law first. Employers with 15 or more employees and often with fewer than that on a state and local level, are compelled to engage with employees in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation for their bonafide mental health condition. And so this is where you might be in the uncomfortable position of kind of having to ask for medical substantiation for a request to just get a sense of like where you're at on the legal spectrum as far as your employer obligations. All the time I talk to customers who have employees say— coming to them and saying (this is pre-COVID) "I'm depressed. I can't work an eight-hour day." How long of a day can you work? "Six hours" Okay, do you— but like so can we— great, can we give you a six-hour day from 10 to 4? "I don't— see I don't really know if I— when I wake up that day if I'm going to be able to come in." And now these are all super legitimate concerns, but what we have to ultimately suss out from a compliance perspective is, is this person depressed? Or do they have major depressive disorder? And it's uncomfortable to have to probe but we do. It is important to ask for medical substantiation not to say, hey, you know, have your doctor give us your diagnosis. No, it's like, but we do need a doctor's note from an MD that says exactly what about the role you can and cannot fulfill. And as part of that interactive process, it's appropriately named a reasonable accommodation. Now there is room for a company for an employer to claim undue hardship. And what undue hardship means is that there's a fundamental incompatibility with what's being requested and what can be offered. So the example I gave is a great one. Employee says, "I can't work an eight hour day." Okay, no problem. You know, maybe we'll reduce you to three-quarters work at three-quarters pay proportionate to the adjustment no problem, your new schedule will be 10 to 4. Now a great example of what would be untenable is "I get to work whatever six hours in any particular day I want. Or I get to work any 30 hours from Monday through Friday, whenever I feel up to it." That might not be tenable. Maybe it is, and that'd be great. But you really kind of do—
Noelle Tassey 44:19
I've employed people in the past where it's like 40 hours you pick, but—
Moses Balian 44:25
Totally! And I mean, that's— that's feasible. I think you know, we— the people here are privileged enough to be in an office where that would totally work— what some people are calling a results-oriented work environment. In other places, it's not. So if that's something you can say, great, no problem, just get your 40 or 30 in, I mean, that's awesome. But you don't have to bend over backwards, and you don't have to acquiesce to everything an employee asks for. The— as far as the morale implications, I think we just touched on it. You do want to be as generous as reasonably possible. Other employees will hear from that employee, will see how generous you're able to be, and we'll be grateful for whatever benefits you're able to extend. Just the other piece I wanted to cover is, you know, doing this for rock stars, but maybe not other people, you do have to be careful about that. That is a reality. I— the HR textbooks would say, that's not cool. I'll be a realist and say that you probably are willing to make some more accommodations for historically high performers than others. You just have to be really careful that if another employee approaches you with the same or similar issue that you— you know treat it similarly, or equitably, and come to an agreement that couldn't get you in any trouble if let's say your rock star demonstrates— or doesn't demonstrate a particular characteristic, protected characteristic that another employee who requested it does. So work with counsel on that. But yeah, I understand the reality of things.
Kelly Greenwood 45:56
Yeah, I mean, obviously that is all accurate from a legal and compliance perspective. You know, my HR partners, we say that we're really trying to help folks be compassionate and compliance. You know, I think oftentimes people err more just on compliance, but really trying to be a human as much at work as possible. So I agree with all of that. At the same time, you know, part of our approach is really that, you know, proactive preventive approach. For me, I ended up kind of in the lead-up to that leave of absence, I was at a new job, and I stopped going to therapy because they didn't have a flexible work-from-home policy, and I was too embarrassed to say like, I actually really need to work from home because I was commuting from San Francisco to my job, my therapist was in San Francisco. And so I basically stopped seeing my therapist during a time in a work environment that was pretty dysfunctional and short-staffed, and I should have been seeing my therapist more. So a lot of things actually can really be prevented if you get them far upstream. So you know, most mental health conditions are very treatable sometimes that— it takes a while to figure out the right treatments from a medication or therapy lens. But you know, a lot— 8 in 10 workers don't seek treatment because of the shame and the stigma. And so we're really trying to focus on kind of cracking that nut, so that people will actually take advantage of the mental health benefits that they have because oftentimes they don't, for a variety of reasons. And so certainly that doesn't, you know, that doesn't work for absolutely everybody. And there will be those instances and the more extreme case, but there are a lot of things that can be prevented if they're kind of gotten out in front of.
Noelle Tassey 47:42
Moses Balian 47:42
I really appreciate all your sort of upstream perspective, Kelly. I guess one thing I want to plug a— an HR benefit that's been around for a long time, the employee assistance program. If that's something you can offer as an employer that is— does so much to break down the barrier between an employee seeking care and not. It's generally going to be some kind of hotline where you can sort of speak to a first responder from a mental health perspective who can then connect you with a therapist or a mental health provider that you can see on an ongoing basis. So I'll say all benefits-eligible employees on Justworks have free access to an employee assistance program. Definitely something to look into if— as a third-party provider too, it pays for itself in productivity.
Noelle Tassey 48:29
I was actually gonna ask you about that because I'm sure that our head of HR is like on this call right now, like ready to reach through the computer and strangle me because I actually didn't know we had that. Super cool. So we'll be talking about that at our next meeting, which I love. Thank you. I always— I say this, like every time we do one of these, I always learn something on these panels— like a lot actually, that you just never know what the takeaways are going to be. That's a great one. So, Kelly, you mentioned this 8 in 10 number which I've never heard before, that's incredibly high. Somebody asked what proportion of the adult population roughly is considered like neurotypical versus neuro-atypical? And it's really it's a question about, obviously, like how rampant mental health issues really are and how under-diagnosed. So if you could shed some light on that, both with the numbers and then I think the other side of that question is definitely around, like, what really rises to the level of a diagnosable mental health condition, which I think is misunderstood.
Kelly Greenwood 49:38
Yeah. So I think what's so important in how we really frame things is, you know, mental health is a spectrum just like physical health. Heart— like no one is 100% mentally healthy, and very few people are, you know, zero percent mentally healthy, similar with our physical health. And we go back and forth along that spectrum across the course of our lives. So from for our perspective, we're not actually really that concerned about what the diagnosis is, you know if it's even diagnoseable, but is it causing that person discomfort? If it is, then that's when we say yes, you should definitely go to a therapist and get help, you know, regardless if you meet a certain criteria or not. But I think it is just so incredibly common. And I think that like, for me, I don't understand why therapists don't actually just like give those stats to people when they first walk into the office because that would have helped me so much because I didn't actually know how common this was, especially among high performers until I started doing the research to start Mind Share Partners. So, you know, the stat is, you know, 1 in 4, 1 in 5 US adults will have a mental health condition in any given year and again, they may not necessarily know it, but if they were to walk into a doctor or therapist's office, they would meet the criteria. The latest research shows—
Moses Balian 51:00
[inaudible] I'm sorry to interrupt. But like, that's one thing to say too, is that— if it's 25% in a year, that might be— 17% will be the same the next year and a new 8% will come in and experience similar things.
Kelly Greenwood 51:13
Yeah. Absolutely. And that brings me to the next stat, which is, you know, latest research shows that up to 80% of Americans over the course of their lifetime will experience a diagnosable mental health condition. And so for a lot of those that may be just moment in time, you know, triggered by a death in the family or job loss or another stressor. And for other folks that may be more chronic, or it may be something that they experienced, you know, one year and then five years later, and so, it's incredibly common, and you know incredibly stigmatized. We— in the study that we did with SAP and Qualtrics, we didn't ask people to self-identify with a mental health condition knowing how stigmatizing that is, but we asked them to kind of mark off mental health symptoms. So symptoms of different diagnoses and 60% of respondents— so employees across the US at a statistically significant level said that they had had some sort of mental health symptom in the last year. So that is much higher than the 1 in 5, 1 in 4 number that's often quoted.
Noelle Tassey 52:23
The— the question— the participant who wrote in about pulling your weight versus— or sorry, not pulling your weight, that's the follow-up question but who wrote in about reasonable accommodation had a follow-up question that I think also touches on a lot of common tropes around mental illness in the workplace. Which is, "what about— how do you handle the morale implications of employees who aren't— who are perceived as not pulling their weight due to perhaps reasonable accommodation or just a mental health condition, especially when it means that others are perpetually covering for them?" I think, yeah, which is quite interesting. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Moses Balian 53:05
It is interesting, I'd say do your part in filling that staffing gap to the extent that you can. You shouldn't have to ideally, ask others to pick up slack or others in my example where somebody needed a 75% regular working schedule, try to fill that 25% with a part-time hire, with a temp, or maybe you know, redistribute work in such a way that's equitable. Because you don't want that person to be perceived as not pulling their weight. Also, maybe train managers just to you know, a good adage is sort of worry about yourself first. When speaking— I was given a great piece of coaching advice early, early in my career is that when speaking with your manager and advocating for yourself, never ever compare your performance to someone else. I'm doing more than ____. Because you— there's probably a lot you don't know and it's just really— you're really not in the position to be making that sort of assessment. The manager is, leadership in HR are. And so I would encourage employees to sort of draw their own— set their own boundaries as far as workload and also draw their own boundaries with themselves to like, worry about number one, because that's, what you can control. And maybe give managers the guidance of like, you know, there— you don't need to know— or about what's going on with worker X, Y, and Z, like we have— that's you know, that's just—
Noelle Tassey 54:33
Kelly Greenwood 54:34
Yeah, I really— we're almost at time so I'm just careful of not going over. I definitely agree with that. You know, and I think one of the things that we found is folks that even don't have mental health conditions really appreciate companies that take care of those employees. And I would say, you know, definitely agree with everything Moses said in terms of those morale points, but also you know, there may be a time when you need that help, too. It may not necessarily be for a mental health challenge, but maybe, you know, one of your family members gets sick or maybe something else happens. And you need a little bit of slack, too. So trying to, you know, remind everybody that, you know, we're just trying to help each other out as much as possible.
Noelle Tassey 55:17
Yeah, absolutely. And that kind of— that's easy to get lost in the shuffle, especially if you're up till 4 am working on someone else's project, but it's important. Really, it's— it's one of the most important things really. So I know that we're at time and if anyone needs to jump off now, definitely do it. But we always close out with one kind of lightning round question. So Moses and Kelly, last question for both of you, what's the one most important thing you've done for your own mental health during the current crisis?
Moses Balian 55:50
I'm gonna be really vulnerable here and say that I left New York City. Sorry to say, I got in the car and I drove to my parents' house in Wisconsin. And that did everything for me as far as just feeling like there's more space, not feeling the immediacy. And in my line of work I was dealing with COVID stuff, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the CARES act every minute of every day, watching Cuomo's press conferences at 11, family going on a walk outside and trying to stay six feet away from people in Brooklyn, it was just too much. And so it's a very privileged thing to be able to say, but it's by far the most important thing I've done.
Kelly Greenwood 56:26
I would probably say just sort of keeping up with my regular therapy appointments. I think that's been hugely important. And just, again, kind of reaching out to the folks on my team, right? In both ways in terms of trying to understand what's going on with them and really supporting each other is I think what we've noticed in our team is that everybody's had peaks and valleys at different times over the last couple months. And so trying to support each other through that has been really great.
Noelle Tassey 56:54
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you both so much, and this has been you know, it's been such an honor and a privilege truly to have this conversation, especially with both of you. And thank you to all of our attendees for coming and spending your afternoon with us. A recording of this will be available on Alley.com. So, starting tomorrow— so please feel free to log on, share it with anybody in your community. And you can see all of our upcoming events there as well. Moses and Kelly, thank you again. This was really great. Best of luck. Stay safe and talk to you all soon. Thanks, everyone.
Kelly Greenwood 57:27
Thank you so much.
Moses Balian 57:29