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Mental Health

Panel Discussion Key Takeaways: Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace

Leaders share about recognizing reality, leading by example, and leaning into discomfort.
By Sharoon Gill |
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The recent tragic murder of schoolchildren in Uvalde was a stark and horrific reminder of society’s brokenness. Leaders and employees alike are experiencing fear, sadness, anger, desperation, and a litany of other emotions every day due to private and public events. When business leaders speak about creating an inclusive work environment, considering their colleagues’ mental health and state is an essential factor. Managers must be sensitive about how events impact employees, recognize reality, and value mental health, now more than ever.

D CEO recently gathered top leaders to talk about mental health awareness in the workplace as a part of its diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership series. The discussion offered insights into how organizations can provide mental health resources to help achieve support the mental health needs of employees.

Featured speakers included Awstin Gregg, CEO of Connections Wellness Group, Dr. Sabrina Kuhn, Senior DEI Consultant at Elevate.ac, and Cherice Williams, director of innovation US RTD & strategic ventures at Beam Suntory. Here are some key takeaways:

Gregg on leaning into discomfort to promote mental health:

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“I think we have an obligation to care for those who provide their time, energy, and effort for our mission and vision. And that’s a lot of fancy words, but what that looks like as a lot of preventative pieces and having the emotional intelligence to stop and pause and lean into a little discomfort that some might experience for the benefit of everything. When we overlook certain topics or don’t talk about certain things, they hide in the darkness, and we run away from them. We only run away from things that we’re scared of. This thing must be scary, and we avoid it even more, and it becomes compounding needlessly.”

Williams on leading by example in establishing work-life balance: 

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“In the spirits industry, some key seasonality is tough on us. There are tough seasons, and forcing your team to take time off after that was a great suggestion because I have to tell myself that too. But I think we can lead by example by forcing our team to take that time and baking that into our work versus expecting them to do it on their own.”

Kuhn on recognizing public and private tragedy for your employees:

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One of the things that are important for businesses to realize is to acknowledge that something is happening and check in on your colleagues, saying, ‘Are you okay? What do you think about what you heard last night?’ Even something as simple as taking a moment of silence centering the group in the middle of a meeting. Acknowledge that there are things in our community every day that we can’t pretend are not happening or not feeling impacted.”

Gregg on embracing the importance of mental health:

“I’m not always super pumped about changing the oil in my car, but I know why I do it. It’s so the engine, and the entire car does not become in disrepair. Whenever organizations invest in their employee wellness in this way, there’s no turnover, there’s no burnout, there’s no compassion fatigue, and there’s longevity in our organizations. If we switch the lens in which we see this, we might realize that we are very close to creating this dream culture. In an employee shortage, when there are difficulties recruiting talent, these small shifts change the entire paradigm.”

Kuhn on providing respite to leadership to improve mental health and reduce burnout: 

“You may need to look at doing a rotation in your schedule, where a leader, especially during or after a significant period of stress, rotates where one leader covers two teams so that that other opposite leader can have a day off or a morning off or a later start, depending on what your operation is. Another option is to create a committee where the decision becomes the committee’s responsibility. You can also raise up young leaders for people that want new projects and make that person be the assistant to the leader so that those minor duties can be handled by someone else.”

Williams on considering mental health and setting up people for success:

“We’re all human, and I think we have to meet people where they are. It’s tough sometimes to say, ‘We want to train employees or mid-level managers to do X. But we don’t know if they’re at that right space to receive that training.’ That’s one end of it. I think we have to be very conscious of the people we put in management positions and ensure that they are the right people. They can be excellent at their craft, but are they good people managers?”

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