The last two years’ events have kept the technology industry in a constant state of flux, and the impact on people’s mental health should not be underestimated. Working through the pandemic has been difficult, especially when combined with the need to adapt to new remote work environments, which can make people feel more isolated and disconnected from their teams.
According to research, nearly half (44%) of IT professionals’ mental health awareness has been impacted since the pandemic began.
To counteract this, tech leaders must prioritize their employees’ mental health. There are several approaches to this, ranging from redefining how well-being is perceived within an organization to creating safe spaces for open discussions about mental health and using data to find solutions for less traceable aspects of mental health.
Addressing Mental Health in Tech
The self-isolation caused by Covid-19, combined with the new reality of working from home, has created new challenges for both organizational leaders and their employees. Many problems have arisen as a result of our lack of in-person connectivity:
- How do we talk about mental health at the institute?
- What warning signs should managers look for, and when should managers discuss mental health with employees?
- How do we track seemingly intangible data that may have a positive or negative impact on team members?
- How should managers modify their leadership styles to promote positive change?
- How do we stay connected and engaged?
“Traditionally, the perception of mental health was solely that of mental illness.” People are beginning to recognize that we all have mental health problems, just as we all have physical health problems. This is the most significant perception shift: people realizing that you can have both good and bad mental health.”
And it’s easy to see how things could get out of hand. Employees who do not have the time or resources to complete their tasks may become overwhelmed, leading to burnout and depression. Employees who are dissatisfied with the company’s mission can also become listless and resentful.
Giving employees control over their work can also be a powerful motivator. Google famously allowed employees to work on their projects for 20% of their time, which resulted in the development of products such as Gmail and Google Maps. The company was able to capture enormous value by allowing individuals to take ownership of their projects.
Access to training and advancement opportunities and awareness in tech for employees can also be very important. According to recent Work Buzz research, more than three times as many employees would consider leaving because of an inability to grow or advance as they would quit avoiding bad management. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of workers would accept a promotion without a pay raise, demonstrating the importance of career advancement over immediate financial gain.
Businesses can also assist employees in finding meaning in their work by allowing them to give to charity, whether by donating their time and skills (while on the clock) or by directing how the company distributes pooled donations.
Creating Safe Spaces
The need to create safe spaces for employees to talk openly about their mental health is linked to the empathy point mentioned above. Currently, 59% of human resource leaders want to do more to support employee well-being, but company culture prevents them from doing so.
At the same time, 30% of technology workers want more mental health support, so leaders must ensure that employees can be open and honest about problems without being judged. It is possible to normalize the conversation about mental health by removing the stigma associated with it.
Acceptance without conditions is essential, and safe spaces are about listening. It may not be possible to fix something right away but listening to and validating a colleague’s concerns, and challenges is a good place to start.
A safe space can take many different forms, ranging from informal group catch-ups to more structured forums or even a Slack channel where colleagues can communicate virtually with one another, which is especially important in the new normal of hybrid working.
It is a well-established human rights principle that an employer cannot avoid its duty to accommodate by ignoring evidence of an employee’s disability. While the employer is not required to have actual knowledge of an employee’s disability, the critical question is whether the employer was aware of, or should reasonably have been aware of, the employee’s health issues, triggering the Duty to Inquire. Employers must be aware of their employees’ changing behaviours.
For more information on mental health in the workplace and how to best handle these issues and accommodate employees, visit Companies that take care of their employees will see increased output and trust, as well as increased resilience and resourcefulness. Employee engagement is poised to become one of the most important business metrics in the future, and no company can afford to ignore it.