April 27, 2022

Mental Health Insights in the Professional World


Episode Highlights

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While raising awareness about mental health in the workplace is still on the rise (and probably here to stay), ensuring long-term support and effectiveness can be a challenge in a remote world. What are companies doing to prioritize the well-being of their teams in a way that’s productive and solution-oriented?

Hirewell created an optional mental health forum for any employees to participate and the turnout has been incredible. Check out Hirewellians Jeff, Robyn and Jill as they discuss the importance of creating a safe space at work for employees to be heard and what we’re doing to support mental health for the long run.

Episode Transcript

Hey everyone! Welcome back. It’s a pleasure to be back online and putting out some more content specific to mental health and mental health awareness. Robyn and I did a video a couple months back that was really, really well received.

It was followed up by a video by our own Camille KB, as we call her internally and Jill who’s on the line today, also an overwhelmingly positive response. And you know, I think that the insight here is, and it’s been something that people are talking more about, but just the access to talking about mental health, talking about how you’re feeling in the professional workplace as it relates to mental health.

And I think today, we’re still trying to come up with a title for this. But we think it will be mental health insights in the professional world. Right ladies? I think that that’s where we’re going to go with this. We’re going to talk a little bit about the transparency, the visibility internally, as it relates to one’s mental health and how it’s important to have open avenues and spaces to talk about it within the professional work place specifically.

And I think secondarily, we’re going to just delve into Jill’s experience, personally as a newer team member and what it felt like to onboard and how that affected her own mental health. So let’s start with visibility. We had like a forum right? We had a forum where we had people, it was voluntary.

You could decide to come in. And I took a lot from it. I was able to break out into a group of people that I don’t normally talk to every day in my day to day comings and goings in business at Hirewell. And I felt really comfortable talking about my own unique struggles as did a few people that surprised me.

And I was wondering what you both felt the experience was like on your end. I’ll start. I really loved that we were given the opportunity to do the form in the first place. Like when we did the video, there was a lot of people who are not at Hirewell, who said it’s so important to hear people talking about this, especially in a professional context.

So we wanted to make sure that people at Hirewell felt the same way that Jeff and I generally do. We’re both varying levels of outspoken. So we can like, you know, we’ve gone down a path to like be able to talk about ourselves and our abilities and like have those conversations with the people around us. But not everybody might be at the same place.

So Matt wanted to based on kind of a lot of things, we thought that a forum would be a great place to kind of just hear what people wanted. We didn’t want to just give everybody like, oh, this is what you want. We’ll give you these things, you know? We wanted to hear what people wanted.

And I thought it was great. I was so excited for it and I loved it. And I really liked that, you know, we worked with Holistic to run it, which is our partner- sister company. They really helped us break out into different groups. So I was with all the people who are, you know, individual contributors,

don’t really have management roles. So talking about kind of their experience, it was actually really interesting because I was one of the most senior at Hirewell people there. So I was like, I’d been there for like a year and a half. And a lot of the people who happen to be in my group had been there for a lot less than I had been.

So like hearing their insights versus my insights was like really interesting. And also like led to some great conversations internally. And it also led to like a really great initiative that Jill’s leading, which with Camille, which is like really cool. So I’ll let Jill kind of hop in on there.

Yeah Jill, tell us about that, but also like what was your experience in that forum? Yeah, so my experience- I’ve done similar stuff like this, you know, different forms, mental health when I was a coach. So I think that knowing that you just even just having the open space to talk about it,

because it’s sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to know what you want when you aren’t sure about it. And I think just having that safe space to just talk about it is a huge step, no matter what. You know, from my experience yeah, I think sometimes people just don’t, they just feel like something is off or they don’t feel themselves.

And they’re not really sure where to go or what to do or resources or who to reach out to. And so it’s really easy, especially in this day and age onboarding remotely and just post pandemic and all of the residual stuff that is still impacting everyone it’s easy to kind of just get stuck and try and

work through it on your own. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s also nothing wrong with asking for help too. So I think by us getting in front of that and just keeping that safe space for everyone was great. I was really not necessarily surprised, but I was excited to see how excited other people got to talking about it.

And for being, you know, kind of having just a bigger group where I might, I haven’t met some of these people before and everyone was just really open. And I think that, that says a lot that people just want to talk. People just want to share what they’re going through. They want to be heard. And you know, my experience as a health and a life coach, that’s sometimes the biggest thing is just giving people the space just to talk.

And you’d be surprised at how people let it all go. They’ve been holding it in for so long. So I think it’s really, really great that we’re creating this space and just acting on what we’re saying. And I think that forum was great. And I think we can take a lot from that. At step-by-step, because there’s really no manual on how to handle this remote work, you know, post pandemic life.

We’re all just kind of surviving how we know how to. And sometimes we don’t know how to, so having spaces like this, it was really, really helpful. And you could see that. You could see that just the way that people were sharing and expressing themselves and being heard.

And that’s, that’s huge. That’s huge. Yeah. I absolutely loved that aspect actually, because I had been working in tech adjacent sort of things for like a really long time now. And I just never felt like I could- you know like I vent to like my friends, I vent to like my close coworkers. There was never like a safe space where I could like bring up things that were like affecting me based on work

and where I could like commiserate with people at large and also hear like other people’s opinions on like things that we could use. I’m very pro therapy. I know not everybody is pro therapy. So I was like, part of the things that I did to prep for the forum was I explained, I wrote a whole PowerPoint that I was very proud of on how to find a therapist using like our health insurance or if you’re not on our health insurance, et cetera, and stuff like that.

But hearing like kind of what everybody else suggested as great ideas in terms of how to take care of your mental health at work was just like really interesting because there was a bunch of stuff that I’d never even considered, never heard of from people that I don’t really, you know, talk to. People that I helped onboard and we had like, you know, six conversations and like once they’re trained, I was like, okay, go on.

I’ll miss you. So it was really great. My key take away as part of the leadership team, Jill, you referenced it, the word isn’t surprised. I feel like I was really encouraged. And there were two things. The participation numbers alone made me feel like we had curated the safe space. That was number one, that people felt comfortable participating, even if it was just to be

a fly on the wall. That’s fine. The participation is the key. Secondly, when we- and this is a big kudos to Holistic because I didn’t even think about this. The beginning of the meeting started with a baseline of where are you at? And it was like a scale of one to five. It was like, I’m feeling great.

I’m feeling miserable and kind of everything in between. And not that I want people to feel miserable. Like the goal is to get people out of that, but there was a realistic variance there. Everybody wasn’t afraid to give their true selves, even to that little snippet, which again, it makes me feel like we’re driving towards a place where everyone at least at Hirewell feels

in their own way to Robyn’s point, that they can communicate their struggle in a way that’s productive and solutions oriented. If that makes sense. So that was my takeaway. And like I said, I felt like I got some insights, just like you both did from some of my coworkers that I would have never known that I would never know

folks were struggling with this and that. I mean, I have been again open like Robyn about my own struggles. If you want to look at the old video, you can check it out. Lots of depression, lots of GAD, nice little soup there. But folks that I never ever would have thought struggle do because we’re all human. That’s the whole point of this whole thing.

So to get back to Jill, I don’t know if you wanted to talk about like a new initiative or conversely, if you wanted to jump right into just your experience as a newer team member, kinda joining this whole group remotely. Like what it feels like. I mean, I think your experience is super interesting in that you’ve already got professional experience under your belt.

It’s not like you came in fresh out of college. You’ve got the business acumen and the real world experience to bank on. But this whole recruiting thing was totally new to you, which is a whole nother can of worms, right? Yes. That’s like a whole, gosh- I feel like I could break this out into so many different things.

Because I mean, yes, so I am 34. I am starting, you know, I started my entire career over. And I think that with that, of course, there’s excitement. You know, I think I’ve gone through a lot to know, you know, identifying what’s important in my life. Values, you know? Like what I’m working towards right now and Hirewell just checked so many of those boxes. But the learning curve, of course, no matter how much you can prepare for it until you are in it, it’s a whole different, whole different ball game. I mean, I was tapping into like my coaching certification notebooks and being like, what do I have? Let’s get back to the basics on how to keep myself positive and not spiraling when I’m learning something new that everyone else is already passing me up.

So it was a lot of that, a lot of mental work to just reassure myself I’m good. This is, this is life. This is how it’s supposed to be. But of course, on the other side of that, it’s still, didn’t always make it easier. But everyone, Jeff, Robyn, I mean, everyone made that much easier for me to just kind of stumble through, fail, ask questions, be supportive.

And I think that there’s only so much you can do on your own. Like I can, I have years of professional experience as a coach. I have all of that, but when you are in it, like I said before, like when you were actually in it and really need to tap into that, there’s only so much you can do on your own.

There’s only so much that I could do to prepare myself and to kind of get through those down days and remind myself, it’s only temporary. This is all part of the plan as Jeff Hall, he says, just trust the process. You’ll be fine. But on the other side of that, it’s so, so important so vital to have a space in a company and a team and an environment that allows you to kind of fumble through and figure out what you have to do.

Ask the questions, ask the dumb questions, ask all of that. The space for that is so important. And I’m so grateful to be here because I don’t think that starting a completely new career over at age 34, there’s not many places I’d be able to do that and still come out of it mentally sane. So I think that onboarding remote and fully remote, it’s new for everyone.

Like I said before, there’s really no handbook on how to handle all of this professionally. You can have check off all the boxes and everything looks great and perfect, and this is the onboarding and it’s awesome. But again, until you’re actually in it and realizing you don’t have your teammates just to yell across the office and say, “Hey, I’m struggling.

I need some help.” And it’s really easy to get siloed and kind of stuck in your own ways and try and figure it out on your own. But again, A place like Hirewell just opens that up to be “You do not have to do this alone. You are not alone in this at all.” And I got that from the very beginning. And I knew even though it was still challenging and it still is challenging.

But knowing that I have so many resources, so many people to go to just makes it not as scary and not as lonely as it could be. Yeah, we focused a lot and again, you’re right. We’ll never have the playbook. There is no playbook for this. We reiterate over and over as a leadership team, that the only way folks can grow and progress is to be put into safe places to fail.

And if you feel like if you’re in a situation you’re over your skiis a little bit, you’re overwhelmed. You’re not going to get slapped on the wrist if it goes sideways. It’s okay. But the trust has to be there that that’s not going to happen. And my observation of folks coming in, especially remote is you don’t get to physically see me or the leadership team.

I don’t get to physically see y’all all the time. And all of those little cues are things that we miss out on. So it becomes even more important to be able to literally verbalize either openly with your cadence or on email or Slack, or like you have to be able to get it out somewhere and it’s not all going to be body language or interpretation. So it’s just key to the safe space

and the trust in that space is the most important part of this as it relates to working remotely and having that relationship between individual contributor and manager. Yes. That trust is so huge. That was something that Jeff, I remember in our first conversations, I think actually even before I was officially onboarded and hired you said- you were like “This is

the trust and mutual trust that you have between the team”. I think you said something along the lines of like, just trust us. And if you trust this, like you will succeed. And I think that it’s not just performing and not failing because that’s not it at all. But just having that trust, like exactly what you said, a safe place to fail so that you can continue to learn while taking care of yourself because of the lack of being physically together. But that trust,

something that I’ve also never experienced or even heard- like we’re not talking about mutual trust between teams. So I think just to hear that for the first time here was really what, everything I needed to hear that I didn’t know. So I think that’s really huge that safe place to fail and just kind of be human. We’re all human is really important.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a robot, so. I feel that way too sometimes. I think that at the end of the day, this is- it’s really important that everybody cultivate a space that feels inclusive, feels safe, feels all of these wonderful things, right. And it’s easy to say, trust me, on both ends.

It’s another thing to behave in a way that fosters the trust and builds the trust. Again, when you’re thinking about building these programs for anybody watching this, it has to be built on blocks. You’re not going to get buy in and you can’t just scrap it if only three or four people participate the first time. Everyone is struggling, like both Jill and Robyn said. The longer you put the program in place, the more bedrock you build, the more people buy into the process.

The more they socialize it and say like, Hey, this isn’t Hocus Pocus. This is- this is legit. It’s actually helping me be well at work. That’s when the good fun momentum starts. Speaking of the good fun momentum, like we said, we’ve been trying to build an environment that fosters communication.

We had the open forum a couple of weeks ago that was facilitated by Holistic, which is great. But we want to make sure that conversation keeps going, which is what Jill and Camille have started doing now. So Jill, do you want to quickly talk about like what the next step is? Yeah. Yeah. So Camille and I, we recognize that burnout and stress is just so, so heightened these days.

Especially with this post pandemic, you know. Okay we’re still in it. There’s a lot going on. But my personal experience with burnout, which happened a few years ago where I literally had to go to the emergency room because I was so stressed out that my body literally literally shut down and I could not, I was in fetal position literally for like two days straight.

And so when I recognized I could never, ever, I could not get back to that. I was in so much pain and the physical part. I had never gotten to that point of actually experiencing that physical burnout before. I had no idea what was happening. So it really took, it really took a lot to get out of there by reaching out to people and finding those resources and everything.

But I recognize that there’s so many different things that must be put in place to prevent that. Because once you hit burnout, it’s too late. You’re destroyed mentally, physically, emotionally. And so a lot of what Camille and I did was of course talking about what to look out for for burnout. And burnout essentially is, without getting too much detail, essentially compounded stress over a significant period of time.

Not even significant- just over time. It looks different for everyone, but just recognizing that you don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to get to that point, but then also on the other side of that is figuring out different proactive things that you can do in the workplace, hugely important.

We spend majority of our time working. If we don’t have that space to take time off or PTO or mental health days, that stress if you’re not addressing it just keeps compounding over time. So burnout is a huge topic. So we talked a little bit more about our personal experiences have been now

with candidates and job seekers and that work-life balance that keeps coming up. How are people handling mental health? There’s a lot of those conversations that are still happening, talking with candidates and job seekers. So our next thing is just kind of figuring out what does that look like?

What do conversations sound like? What questions can you ask in interview processes that address mental health. What are different safe things that you can talk about? Whether it’s with your employer, your future employer. We’re still messing around with what is most important, but just acknowledging

that burnout is real and that stress over time, there’s so much that we can do to be proactive about it. But just acknowledging it I think is a great first step. But more to come on that later. But yeah, just speaking from a personal experience and then how to actually implement that and help other people identify burnout and prevent it is what we’re aiming for.

You actually just touched on something that I wanted to bring up, which I think is really important. Talking about PTO and mental health days. And I feel like a lot of people think that when they’re taking a day off from work, they need to have like a reason to take a day off from work and a lot of people, unless you get to a point where you have been in a burnout, have been physically ill from mental health stress or whatever.

A lot of people don’t think of like, “Well I’m just stressed”. If take a day off, I’m just going to be more stressed down the line or anything like that. So like having a policy in place for people to take mental health days or like making sure that people have room to take breaks from work.

Specifically since we’re talking about a work context- I won’t get into like how you take mental health days from like your actual life, because that’s a whole other conversation but we recently switched to a PTO unlimited PTO plan. And I know a big part of the conversation in terms of like making sure that the unlimited PTO plan went off without a hitch was to make it very clear that the unlimited PTO plan means that everybody needs to take

long breaks. So Matt included a lot of the verbiage in his emails about it to make sure that everybody takes a significant number of, I think it’s like two weeks off, like two week off breaks, or like make sure you at minimum take a certain number of days off kind of thing. And like, these are the days that we’ll have off as a company.

But also when we were in the forum, we talked about making sure that if you are stressed or beginning to feel burnt out, that you can and should use your unlimited PTO to take a day off and like figuring out kind of like a structure around that so that people feel like safe and enabled to

do that very basic sort of like self care thing. Like a lot of people think of self-care as like, oh, I’m going to buy like nice lotion and like this good bath bomb. But sometimes self-care is like, literally, like I cannot work. I need to like lay in my bed and stare at the wall for like three hours.

Or is that just me? I’m not sure. And then kind of like, you need to have like a day where you kind of just like stare into space or just a day where you go on a lot of walks, where you turn off your phone, you focus in, or just like any sort of thing that constitutes everybody experiences mental health days differently.

I’m projecting my own sort of like mental, how I treat mental health days, but like everybody has like their own perspective. But it’s important when you’re setting up those conversations and like creating an environment that you make it very explicit that you should be taking mental health days.

Yeah. It’s a good point. Everyone’s going to experience it differently. And I think we at Hirewell, made the conscious decision with our unlimited PTO policy as Robyn described to make sure that folks used it appropriately. That folks didn’t feel the need to have a reason to take a day off other than I’m just kind of gassed.

Take a week off. Take your phone off. The point of this is we’re a team and we can cover for each other. We’re recruiting. We love our customers. We love the services we provide. We are not curing cancer. It’s okay. Like everybody can and should detach from the stresses of your everyday life in the professional world.

It’s also why we mandated the minimum amount of time that you must take off. And I will hold my team and everybody else accountable. If you haven’t taken time off, you’re not working at the end of December. It’s not going to happen, by design. So more to come. I think that there’s lots of different things that we can do to address this and attack it both as companies, but also as individuals.

We hope that this was helpful.

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