In recent years, the American public and businesses of all sizes have been battling more than just COVID-19. The mental health crisis continues to impact the lives of millions of Americans. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark sat down with Accenture’s North America CEO, Jimmy Etheredge, to discuss the crisis, how employers can support their employees, and lessons learned from different programs and initiatives.
Understanding the Crisis
Last year, 76% of U.S. adults reported having one or more mental health conditions – up from 59% in 2019. These numbers indicate that most employees are likely suffering from some mental health difficulties. Jimmy Etheredge attributed this rise to the stressful environment of a global pandemic and drastic changes to work and home environments. He also asserts that the “Great Resignation” can be tied to this crisis and the extreme fatigue workers had from working “crisis mode” for 12-18 months.
A silver lining of the increase in reporting is bringing the conversation out of the shadows. As Etheredge says, the notion that “it’s okay to not be okay” and “it’s okay to talk about not being okay” has changed the perception of mental health struggles in the workplace. By opening the conversation with candid, personal examples from leaders like Jimmy Etheredge, it starts to create a more open environment to treatment and understanding.
Recognizing, Validating, and Creating Access
Accenture has adopted a pioneering approach to addressing mental health at a large scale in corporate environments. When creating a plan, Etheredge emphasized the importance of starting by listening and validating without judgement. Especially in the world of consulting, it’s second nature to want to solve the problem right away but acknowledging your employees’ feelings is an important first step.
When creating programs to address these needs, Accenture’s priority was accessibility and efficacy. Accenture employees and dependents can access quality treatment options from anywhere with a WiFi connection. Moreover, Accenture collaborated with Thrive Global and Stanford Medicine to create Thriving Mind, a self-paced learning program that looks at how individuals deal with stress and how to recharge their brain’s batteries. Etheredge also pointed to the importance of leadership posture to admit when your own life isn’t perfect and the need for leadership to be more accessible personally to their employees. Etheredge explained all of Accenture’s North America leadership team is trained by their mental health and wellness resource group to be “Allies,” or designated people employees can talk to if they’re looking for non-judgmental and confidential support.
Lessons Learned and Reflections for the Future
As a result of this crisis and the pandemic, leaders can see their full responsibility to their employees. Leaders and productivity benefit when their employees can show up to work as their authentic self. Work from home has benefits, but so does a positive company culture. Understanding the diverse needs of your employees and being flexible to accommodate those needs demonstrates that you care and want to support your employees as individuals. The mental health crisis is far from over, so creating programs to support employees is key.
Regardless of the size of your business, investing in your employees’ health is essential.
If you want to learn more about this mental health crisis or how to create a comfortable environment for your employees, check out Accenture’ s webpage and brochure on mental health. Keep the conversation going and be sure to join us on October 4th from 1pm – 3pm, at our virtual Health Forward summit with a segment on mental health. Register here.