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5 answers on managing mental health at work

5 answers on managing mental health at work

Jonathan Davies


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8 mins read

Wed, May 3, '23  

This week’s expert insight is written in consultation with Andreja Filipan, HRBP at Happeo, and former HR Operations Specialist at Tesla, and HR Officer at DEGIRO. 

From the industrial revolution came the need for ergonomics. People were bending their bodies backward to meet productivity quotas. These days, you aren’t bending your back, but your mind. Yet even today, raising workplace awareness on mental health is nowhere near as common as ergonomics.

In the past few years, the term “workplace” has drastically changed –  unfortunately, it isn’t the case for “human nature”. This implies that work is not just about satisfying material needs, it’s about establishing a meaningful place of a person in society. Gallup research shows that, before all of this, people were already demanding a renewed focus on their life anyway. Their specific request? Work is not just a job, and managers need to consider all facets of an employee’s life.

We asked Andreja Filipan, Happeo's HRBP to identify some tactics and habits that companies can use to improve their employees' wellbeing.

#1 How do you make sure mental health is understood across the company?

When I started at Happeo, I made it clear that every single Happster can approach me if they need to get some things off their chest. Instead of saying "I'm sorry this is happening to you", I found that some find it more encouraging to focus our conversations on the positive, i.e. "Let’s find ways to be more productive". But no matter the personal approach an HRBP or People & Culture Manager brings to managing mental health, we can only help people understand it if we communicate openly and frequently about mental health.

Mental health is universal: it doesn’t matter if you’re in a senior position or an intern, many of the feelings we're dealing with are essentially the same. That's why we introduce initiatives that everyone would want to participate in: we did yoga, we talked about nutrition, we signed onto OpenUp, and now we’re focusing on career development.

#2 Should employees take each others' mental health into account? 

Absolutely. But in hybrid and remote workforces, it’s difficult to understand how people are actually feeling because any employee can pick themselves up for a 30-minute meeting and it'll make their coworkers think that all is well. That's why it's important to offer multiple channels and methods for people to communicate in a way that they're most comfortable with. This could vary from dedicated channels for things people don't mind sharing in a group, to 1:1s with HRBPs or buddies, Teamspective or other pulse surveys, to personal walks with the CEO — all of which we've been practicing since founding Happeo.

#3 How do you talk about work stress specifically?

I truly believe that it’s important to address it proactively because it will prevent employee burnout or leaving which at the end of the day, will also save the company a tremendous amount of effort and costs. I also think it’s important for people to take mental health days. You don’t have to have a fever or stomach bug to call in sick. If you feel anxious or overwhelmed, you might want to focus on some time for yourself and return to work much more productive later on.

#4 How can managers create a safe space for their teams to raise (non-)work issues?

At Happeo, we encourage all managers to proactively follow up on the results of pulse surveys in their 1:1s, department meetings, and quarterly kickoffs. For the managers that are new to their roles (and for those that need a refresher), we offer training on giving and receiving feedback and managing escalations.

#5 How can you as HRBP give people the confidence to open up about their mental health?

As HR Business Partners (HRBPs), we make it our priority to create a work environment where everyone feels comfortable discussing their mental health. We want to make sure that our employees feel safe and supported, which is why we place a lot of importance on fostering a company culture that values mental well-being.

Happeo has built a culture where colleagues are not just coworkers but also friends, making it easier for people to open up and share their experiences.

We also work closely with managers and leaders to establish a psychologically safe workplace. By promoting psychological safety, we encourage open and honest communication, break down the stigma surrounding mental health, and create an atmosphere of support and empathy. This approach helps all Happsters feel comfortable expressing themselves and seeking the help they need.

On top of creating a supportive environment, we actively prioritize mental health initiatives. We offer our employees a variety of resources to take care of their mental well-being. This includes hosting workshops on gratitude, sharing articles about resilience, and providing practical tips on boosting mental well-being.

I really believe that by offering these resources and making mental health a priority, we can improve the overall well-being and performance of our employees.