How to Build a Culture That Supports Employees' Mental Health

Traditional benefits in today's workplace culture just aren't enough.

Before starting my own business venture, my work life had taken me to a variety of companies where the culture was driven by the same thing: the bottom line. In one particularly frustrating instance, I watched as a colleague used all of her personal time off to care for an ill family member, eventually running out of days to take care of herself -- physically and mentally, and ultimately leaving the company. I made a promise to myself that when I started my own company, that we’d strive to deliver the bottom line - but without putting employees in that situation.

Fast-forward a few jobs and a few years later to my current role at RetailMeNot. Here, employees are our most valuable asset, and supporting their health and well-being only helps the success of our company. This support is something we can provide partially through traditional benefits. But that’s not enough. A culture that allows employees to take care of themselves and their families is crucial. We’ve tried a bunch of stuff to enable and nurture such a culture along the way, but here are a few examples that are working for our employees right now.

Offering Flexible Paid Time Off (PTO): A flexible PTO program allows employees the freedom to establish a work-life balance that works for them — because nobody knows the particulars of their needs better than the individuals themselves. We all benefit from employees who come back to the office as better, recharged version of themselves .

Our open PTO plan also maps back to transparency, which is one of our key values; we provide this policy as a means to empower our employees to have open conversations with their managers about getting the work done that their job requires, and having time for the rest of what their life entails. Additionally, this policy empowers managers to manage personally, saying, “Hey, I trust your ability to get the job done in a satisfactory manner and take off the time that you need for yourself or your family.”

Creating Relaxing, Restorative Spaces: I dare you to walk into a tech company today where the office environment doesn’t have some cool theme or fancy new toy in the office to foster creativity for employees. These offices champion a fun and collaborative culture. But it’s equally important to have spaces that allow employees to disconnect and work in a quiet space. A couple of ideas that we have implemented are outdoor spaces (with good Wi-Fi!) for when they need to step away from their desk, a dark and quiet library space where employees can work uninterrupted as well as massage therapy vendors and even our very own massage chairs for when you need a five-minute break.

Building a Well-Rounded Benefits and Wellness Program: Offering industry-standard benefits is table stakes in today’s environment, which is why it is important for companies to look for additional ways to engage and support employees through the many challenges they or a loved one may face. Our EAP (part of our healthcare benefits) helps team members and their families deal with a variety of life issues. As is standard, the EAP is completely confidential and is available to team members, spouses, significant others, dependents and anyone else living in their home. Through the EAP, employees have access to tools and resources to help deal with issues like stress, depression or other personal problems; family and relationship concerns; or even financial and budgeting difficulties.

Additionally, because research shows that physical exercise boosts mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety, a full wellness program can provide many benefits. By offering resources such as on-site fitness classes (including classes scheduled between the typical 9-5) or gym reimbursements, monthly challenges (my personal favorite has been Stairmageddon, a month-long challenge to use the stairs to navigate between our 5 floors instead of the elevators), yoga and more, we can encourage employees to find an option that works for them and improves their overall physical and mental well-being. 

Fostering a Supportive Environment

While there are more conversations to be had when it comes to mental health, mental illness and other aspects of inclusivity, there are a variety of things that companies can do to help their employees feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work each day. One of the things our team has done is establish the RMN RX Employee Resource Group (ERG) which facilitates awareness and provides education and support for a variety of illnesses and conditions, including mental health. It has become an important pathway to nurture the conversations that need to happen in our workplace. In fact, this is one of seven ERGs in our Diversity & Inclusion program, each of which share the common goal of building a more diverse and inclusive environment in our teams and spaces.

This is what’s working for us right now, but we’re always looking to improve. Does your company do something we haven’t thought of yet? I’d love to know — we’re always seeking more new ideas (and employees)!


Mental Health at Work

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