Workplace Wellness: Fostering Mental Health and Productivity

Please enjoy the webinar!

What you’ll learn:

  • Showing companies how to raise productivity and engagement through better support of employees with mental health conditions.
  • The webinar also covers topics for job seekers and employees as to what mental health services exist, why, and how Inclusively supports them.

Webinar Transcript

Christina Mallon 0:00
Awesome, so we’ll kick it off. It’s two minutes after the hour. So we’re going to start with some introductions. So want to welcome everyone here to Workplace Wellness: Fostering Mental Health and Productivity. Super excited to have you here today. I’m Christina Mallon. I’m the Head of Inclusive Design at Microsoft and Advisor to Inclusively. I’m also a neurodivergent person, with dual arm paralysis who has an anxiety condition so this is a topic that is close to my heart. And same with Amy and Joni, so I’m going to kick it off. We’ll start first with Amy to introduce themselves and then we can go to Joni.

Amy Banko 0:39
Hello, Thank you, Christina. I’m so excited to be here. I’m Amy Banko and I proudly serve as a lecturer within Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers University. I’m really blessed in my role at Rutgers to blend my passion for teaching implementation support, with my dedication to advancing the field of psychiatric rehabilitation. Through innovative research and community partnerships. I’m so we’re a lot of hats that recurs including consultant researcher and professor. But my expertise is in rehabilitation counseling, and specifically the implementation supervision and evaluation of to evidence based practices supported education when supported employment. These services are really focused on obtaining occupational and educational justice for people with mental health conditions, helping them to access and maintain those normative developmental life roles, like student and worker that kind of build the key social determinants of health. More recently, my work has encompassed traumatology counseling interventions to mitigate traumatic stress and trauma informed approaches as I prepare to complete my PhD in counseling education and supervision with a specialization in the treatment of trauma. I currently serve as Vice President of the New Jersey Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, and I’m also a proud member of the andragogy committee for the network for anti racist teaching and counseling. I’ve served as Co-investigator on several federally funded studies exploring post secondary ed employment for individuals with mental health conditions. In addition to co authoring several manuscripts. I’ve also co authored manuals to support individuals with their career development, who experienced mental health conditions. I also identify as someone with lived experience. So I bring that perspective into my lenses. And I’m just really happy and excited to be here with Joni to explore with everyone present building equity and inclusion in the workplace for people with mental health conditions.

Christina Mallon 2:52
Thank you so much, Amy, for sharing your story. Over to you, Joni.

Joni Dolce 2:55
Thank you, Christina. And I’m proud to work with Amy. We’ve worked together for a number of years and I’m also just thrilled to be here today to share insights and my experiences on the benefits of creating workplaces that value mental health and employee wellbeing. I’ve been in at Rutgers for several years. I’m an assistant professor, and I specifically provide implementation support and consultation around improving employment and education outcomes for individuals with mental health conditions. I’ve had the pleasure of working with job seekers, behavioral health providers, students, and employers. My research and consultation interests include gaining a broader understanding of employers views on hiring and employing individuals with mental health conditions. I presented at Society for Human Resource Management conferences and other business groups over the past several years, on the topic of creating mental health friendly workplaces. Over the past few years, I’ve been involved with a SAMSA technical and transfer center workgroup on dissemination and implementation of evidence based behavioral health services. And my current research, which is my dissertation that I’m finishing up is focus focuses on the impact of disclosure decision making, and developing a plan for that decision making on employment outcomes. One of my more rewarding tasks within my role at Rutgers includes working closely with providers of mental health services in their community directly with individuals that they’re working with providing on site mentoring. So I’m able to see firsthand, and I continue to observe the positive impact that workplaces in recovery from mental health conditions. So thank you for having us here today.

Christina Mallon 4:50
Wow, I’m just so impressed by the work that you’re doing. Yeah. I feel like there is not a lot of individuals doing that type of work. So I’m just excited to be in this conversation today. So let’s get started. So Joni, in the context of job searching with a mental health condition? What advice would you give to people about disclosing their accommodations?

Joni Dolce 5:10
As I mentioned, my dissertation is around developing a disclosure decision making plan and really, really exploring the impact of that decision. And I think this is an important question to start our discussion today. For many jobseekers with mental health conditions, the decision to disclose is often filled with worry concern about the impact of this decision. Once someone discloses, there’s really no undoing this, you know, the analogy of the toothpaste is out of the tube. So, really being thoughtful and planful. But this decision is so important. Important because stigma and the real potential for discrimination may prevent someone from requesting a needed accommodation or other supports. My suggestion for someone facing this decision is to really have them consider what are their functional implications? Or in other words, how do the symptoms of their disability impact functioning of certain job tasks? And how can an accommodation provide the necessary support for them to be successful? How will the accommodation address or mitigate the challenges or functional implications, the job seeker experiences so a good first step would be to weigh the cost and benefits of disclosure? So if you notice, I’m kind of using managing personal information interchangeably with disclosure just if I can just highlight what that means. You know, researchers in Australia, namely Jeff Waghorn, and his colleagues have shifted from using the term disclosure in favor of managing personal information as a more normalized term that all of us at some point may need to consider. So you’ll hear us kind of interchangeably use managing personal information and disclosure. There’s oftentimes an unfortunate shame involved with the term disclosure. But job seekers can benefit by identifying what are their preferences for disclosure or managing personal information? What type of script can they develop, and the script could include things like the who, the what the when, and the house. So for example, the who would be the supervisor, or maybe the HR person, what information maybe the job seeker wants to start with more general information versus a full blown diagnosis. Although the employer may request that information, at some point, starting with those more general terms is always best. When will the job seeker request this accommodation will be for the interview after the job offer? Once there is a need for an accommodation? And how could it be through email, and in person discussion, maybe a letter. So those are the types of decision making processes one can go through. And I always recommend when someone is developing a script to start out with examining their strengths and skills. So kind of coming out at this from a very strengths based perspective, identifying and leading this conversation with what those skills are, what are my strengths, what’s helped in the past. Additionally, researching a company’s policies and practices around accommodations, as well as the work culture can also provide very valuable information to assist in this decision making.

Christina Mallon 8:47
I wish I had you as my guide, when I first really started into my career as this was something that I kind of brought a lot of anxiety and nervousness when time decide, do I disclose, do I not disclose? And I think, you know, I over the 12 years that I’ve learned through trial and error, and I really like a lot of your suggestions and think that they can help a lot of people. So, Amy, I’m gonna take it from, you know, the employer side, how can employers best support employees who need accommodations for mental health conditions?

Amy Banko 9:23
Hmm, Christina, excellent question that emphasizes that employers need to be accountable. Right, they need to be accountable for providing a supportive workplace for all employees, including employees, individuals with mental health conditions. First, I want to take a look at the overlap of the general workforce and the subset of the workforce that has a mental health condition. That’s okay. I want to be clear on how this issue really impacts many workers. So in the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health Have they recorded it that nearly 20% of adults experience a mental health condition in any given year? Right one in five, about half 50% of all individuals will meet the criteria for a mental health condition at some point during their lifetime. Right? Yeah, that, that that figure was really staggering for me too. According to a mindshare report, mind share is a national advocacy organization on workplace mental health. But in 2022, they put out a report, noting that 76% of US workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition, right, so they were experiencing maybe some of those subclinical threshold levels of a mental health condition. And in that same report, 84 respondents said their workplace conditions contributed to at least one mental health challenge. Additionally, 50% of workers reported leaving their job due to the interaction of the work environment and their mental health. So really want to underscore that employees with mental health conditions, and those like subclinical Mental Health Wellness concerns are not a small subsection of people. Right? This is in fact one of the disability groups that anyone can join in their lifetime. And so these employers perspectives have a wide reaching implication for many of their employees. With that, with that sentiment in mind, right, employers need to adopt a multifaceted approach in prioritizing both proactive measures and strategies to support employees who may need accommodations for mental health conditions. When supporting organizational changes, because this is a potentially be a big organizational change, or initiative, right. It needs to be something that’s done intentionally kind of systemically throughout the organization, not haphazardly. So Joanie and I in our consultation work have utilized an implementation science approach, called EPIS developed by Dr. Gregory Aarons. EPIS stands for exploration, preparation, implementation, and sustainment, which are key stages in implementing any organizational change or intervention. And this framework again, evidence base provides a structured approach to managing change within an organization helping to ensure that interventions are intentional not performative, that they’re carefully planned, effectively implemented, and also sustained over the long term. This model used in fields like public health, education and business management to successfully make organizational changes. So what would that look like? Right for employers supporting employees with mental health conditions? First in the exploration phase, we’d want to see the organization of the employer conducted needs assessment. They want to administer surveys, interviews, focus groups to understand the mental health needs, mental health, wellness in their organization, and maybe challenges faced by their employees. Also in the exploration phase, they want to analyze their existing resources, evaluate current mental health supports, are they present? Is there an absence a gap? Are there resources lacking, look at benefits, but workplace policies to have identify strengths, and those areas for improvement. And then we also want to research and exploration best practices, investigate successful initiatives that have been implemented by other organizations to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. In that preparation phase, we’d want to see that organization develop comprehensive mental health initiatives and wellness policies, right create or update policies that promote a supportive and stigma free work environment, outlining policies procedures, when accessing resources can get, you know developing accommodations, supporting accommodations. We’d also want to see training and training for managers and staff. You know, in prepping for this webinar today, one of the key findings in several surveys in regards to this mental health wellness in the workplace is that managers aren’t trained, and they’re lacking information on how to have a discussion about mental health wellness, right, so we want to see training sessions on mental health awareness, D. stigmatization, stress management wellness initiatives for both those supervisors and employees. But then also in preparation resources, right securing budgets, initiative die or thrive by a budget. So allocate appropriate resources for mental health resources initiatives, counseling services, EAP, right, the employee assistance programs, wellness activities, and that implementation phase we want to see communication and awareness campaigns, launching an organization wide A campaign to raise awareness, care resources, establishing those channels of support. And offering some of the we talked about universal design in the domain of education, we want to see similar things offered in the work environment, things that are supportive for everyone for their mental health and wellness. So, we’d like to see offering flexible work arrangements, right? flexible work hours, remote options, time off for mental health days to support that work life balance. We’d also want to see regular check ins, encouraging supervisors, leadership, and employees to have regular discussions, as well as like cracking outcomes, seeing how things are going. And that’s going to be a key part of the sustainment phase to an implementation plan. So sustainment would look like evaluating program effectiveness, monitoring those key metrics such as employee engagement, absenteeism rate, turnover rates, satisfaction surveys, utilization of the initiatives, right, the different employee programs, also gathering feedback during the sustainment phase, soliciting feedback from employees, their surveys, focus groups, suggestion boxes to continuously improve those mental health support programs. I’m an overall, you know, in sustainment, contributing, and promoting a culture of well being right integrating mental health support into the organizational culture. So I guess, in summary, really, the way in which employers can help individuals support individuals with mental health conditions and accessing accommodations, and being successful in the workplace is creating a culture a work culture of wellness, where people are informed resources are available, and there are meaningful strategic plans in place to carry out this, this particular implementation plan.

Christina Mallon 17:02
That definitely makes sense and and then like how you provide ways to make it sustained. So that it’s not really a one trick pony, or just a action that you put in for one year is really a long term plan that really focuses on company culture. Because everyone, you know, will have a mental health condition at some point in their life. So why are we not addressing it in the workforce? It seems that, you know, it’s more expensive to replace a worker rather than make accommodations and make a good culture for that person to stay. Joni, I would love if you could, like, share more insights on how mental health support in the workplace can lead to enhanced productivity and employee engagement. What are the first steps that employers should take to foster this environment?

Joni Dolce 17:47
Yes, absolutely. research around this consistently shows that investing in mental health support in the workplace can yield significant benefits in terms of productivity and employee engagement. So just like you said, Christine, Christina, this is important. This is something that employers need to pay attention to. A study published in the Journal of Cccupation, Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that for every dollar invested in mental health interventions company saw company saw a return of $4 in improved productivity and reduce absenteeism. That’s big. Additionally, a report by the who suggests that addressing mental health issues in the workplace can lead to a 35% increase in productivity. So just to kind of frame it that this is an important issue. Real things happen there’s there’s there is benefit to incorporating policies and practices to improve mental health conditions. According to the CDC, workplace health promotion initiative. The workplace is really kind of what you said, Christina is an ideal setting for establishing a culture of health and mental well being due to several factors. There are already existing communication structures in place, right, that can facilitate the dissemination of information around mental health. There are also centralized teams who are responsible for formulating policies and practices and programs. There’s also an accessible social support network that contributes to overall well being people feel supported by coworkers and supervisors and that’s already in place. And employers can provide incentives, right, encouraging healthy behaviors, and other mental health and well being practices among employees. And then finally, the workplace is an ideal setting, because data can be collected and utilize the track progress and measurement of mental health initiatives. So the the work setting is really this optimal environment to do To promote mental health and wellness, to foster a mentally healthy workplace, employers should take proactive steps. These include conducting I think Amy touched on this a thorough needs assessment and identify areas of improvement. Also implementing comprehensive mental health training for all employees to increase awareness and reduce stigma, establish clear policies, practices and procedures around mental health issues, and promoting open communication channels where employees feel comfortable and confident discussing their mental health concerns without judgment or the potential for discrimination. Creating a supportive environment by offering resources such as employee assistance, program, assistance programs, real you know, that are actually utilized and, and encouraged to be utilized, not just kind of put on paper, flexible work arrangements, stress management workshops, these can all significantly contribute to an employee’s well being and engagement.

Christina Mallon 21:09
I mean, I’ve really benefited from the services at my company around giving Spring Health, which is free therapy, and it’s been really helpful. And I’ve seen, you know, my productivity gone up.

Joni Dolce 21:24
Absolutely. The Surgeon General issued a report in 2020, outlining a framework for workplace mental health and well being so this is this is an important issue. And, and one of the quotes that Dr. Murthy said, which I think is perfect to close out this question is a healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities. And just kind of sums up the importance that workplaces can play, not just for the employees, but kind of it goes beyond just that workplace.

Christina Mallon 21:57
I love that quote. That’s amazing. Okay, so, you know, we talked about the importance of that kind of marketing things and ensuring that it’s inclusive. And let’s say any, you know, employers doing everything right, you know, doing everything that you know, you and Joni really talked about advise that, that the training in house programs, they really care, how can an employer effectively communicate their mental health awareness initiatives to their employee, and then also people who are interested in the company? I mean, I feel like organizations do provide a lot of services, but it’s hard to find them. So how can you market it? Or kind of serve it up so that it’s easy to find? For employees or companies?

Amy Banko 22:41
Yeah. Thank you, thank you. Christina, I appreciate you said, this company that’s doing doing it right. And immediately, I think, you know, I hope that hypothetical company knows that doing it right is not a destination. It’s an evolving target. And so they’re always, you know, checking in and using that implementation plan. But when I reflect on how employers effectively communicate their mental health and wellness initiatives to employees, first and foremost, I immediately think of congruence, congruence between what they are doing and their organizational information. So we want to see the sentiments of their workplace culture, their commitment to wellness in the workplace, you know, these initiatives integrated right into mission statements, the values, the strategic plan, as well as onboarding materials, employee handbook, the company’s website, or the employee portal, job descriptions, or any other company materials, they want to have information woven in an integrated. Additionally, we want to see them maintaining updating wellness initiatives that will communicate and convey right their dedication to these initiatives, that they it’s not a one off, like we mentioned before. We know those don’t work, right, it has to be sustained. So having information about how they’re sustaining it, how they’re tracking things, the provision of resources, and again, this particular initiative wellness initiatives, fostering healthy workplace, culture and environment could be a budgetary priority that they can speak on that they can communicate with future employees, potential candidates as well as their current employees. I think all of those things, you know, speak volumes. We also want to consider marketing and dissemination strategies. How does the company get the word out? About their wellness focus for culture and wellness initiatives? in disseminating information? Right, employers should utilize multiple channels to reach their current employees and prospective candidates. This could include incorporating initiatives in external and internal communication platforms. You leveraging social media company website recruitment materials to highlight their commitment to employee well being and showcase those specific initiatives such as you know, whether they’re doing mental health workshops, counseling, or what have you, whatever is included in their initiative, get it out there, get the word out there. But you know, some of these approaches I feel can be superficial and meaningless without the alignment of action. If the guy hit on this before, we want purposeful over performative, so I think Christina to effectively communicate mental health and wellness initiatives to employees and prospective employees. Employers must prioritize that authenticity, the alignment between their actions and their messaging, and the creation of that supportive work environment. Right? Well, the messaging of the mission statement, and the plan and values are important, they have to be reinforced by tangible action. I mean, I think it was Mark Twain that said, Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often. So, you know, we want to see employers begin aligning actions with their messaging. And this would involve demonstrating genuine commitment to mental health and wellness through tangible behaviors and their own implementation of their policies. Company leadership, in particular, wields a significant influence in shaping the culture of the workplace, but employees look to their leaders to gauge what’s acceptable, right? What are the norms, when they draw cues, not only not only from words, but their actions. So when we think about, like the context of promoting workplace mental health and getting that communication out, the leaders are gonna play a pivotal role, right when leaders are openly discussing mental health, wellness, sharing their personal experiences, it’s going to encourage employees to do the same. Similarly, when leaders prioritize wellness, they embrace flexible work schedules utilize the company resources for mental health, wellness, it’s setting a precedent for their employees to follow suit. So really, you when you think about communicating mental health, in the workplace, the leaders need to participate. You know, other things that come to mind for me, I’ve worked at organizations where they said, like, we have this wellness initiative, but you weren’t expected to be available. 24/7. Right, answer emails on the weekends. Please note that this is not my current place of employment. My previous work experiences, you know, the leaders didn’t take sick days, you know, They prided themselves on coming to work sick, or they would pride themselves on going on vacation and being accessible. So we want leaders to communicate their wellness initiatives by you know, modeling, modeling the initiatives, on taking sick days when needed using vacation time to recharge, setting boundaries, and not being available 24/7 modeling that work life balance and prioritizing self care. And I think, you know, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that employers need to communicate their initiatives by also including anti stigma initiatives to encourage supportive language, right when we want to look for those anti stigma pieces, because then it really gives, I think, the leaders and you know, from the top down in the organization, supportive language that fosters respect and dignity when discussing mental health in the work workplace. So we want to see those D stigmatizing campaigns, right, openly addressing positive communication, providing resources for employees, leaders to build supportive language, the language I think that we use, or the language that we exclude, really can communicate a commitment to wellness initiatives and developing positive mental health work culture, where we want language to be inclusive, and considerate of diverse experiences, ensuring that all employees feel valued and supported in their workplace.

Christina Mallon 29:13
Yeah, I mean, the biggest thing that I’ve seen consulting with companies on mental health inclusion is when leadership is open about how it affects them personally, or they talk about their commitment, it really is impactful to get culture change, in addition to the other things that you’ve said to. And it just, you know, destigmatizing it is really key. You know, when I’ve tried to look at companies and things like that, to understand that they’re inclusive, I’d find somebody on LinkedIn, sometimes I’d be successful. Sometimes no one would talk about how they, that company they work for approaches mental health. What are some other ways outside of like reaching out to the person at the company that you’re interviewing I think you can find out if it’s a supportive workplace for mental health needs.

Amy Banko 30:04
Oh, yeah. That is, I think such a huge concern for job seekers. Right? How do I find a work environment that’s going to be supportive? So I think when evaluating potential employers, job seekers with mental health conditions should not try and prioritize finding those companies that demonstrate that we’re talking about that genuine commitment, right? That authenticity to overall mental health and well being of their workforce. Right, we want to have the job seeker look to see in it, in addition to offering comprehensive mental health benefits, are they having different initiatives to access, you know, resources, counseling services, have a flexible work, scheduling, remote or hybrid options, right looking for these like, key indicators that this isn’t an a work environment, that prioritizes mental health wellness in the workplace, they should provide training and education on mental health awareness that, you know, is folded in into their initiatives. And job seekers should also in this process, be knowledgeable. And Joni talked about this earlier of some of those like functional implications of the mental health condition, they can see what concerns they may have in particular, and seek out employers that can accommodate these needs, or just quite naturally by the design of the environment, work well with their preferences and their needs, right. And again, functional implications, referred to as like practical, practical consequences, or the impact of the condition on the ability to perform tasks or activities. And today, we’re kind of specifically speaking to that domain of work and in the workplace. So in the context of mental health in the workplace, functional implications would describe how the mental health condition is affecting the individual and their functioning at work. And that could include, you know, their ability to do deliverables, their interpersonal relationships, just overall, overall well being on the job productivity, things of that nature. And so, Joni, and I, in our one on one individual service, with job seekers do a whole bunch of different assessments to kind of get a sense of what are those functional implications? And what what employers would be a good fit, given those concerns. And I think inclusively as well, also offers services to look at some of those functional implications and develop accommodations, or I think they’re called Success enablers if I’m not mistaken. So yeah, we want we want jobseekers to be knowledgeable about what their needs are, empower them to look for opportunities in environments where they’re going to thrive. As Joni mentioned earlier, work can have profound health benefits, we see that work can offer people a meaningful identity to offer people financial autonomy, bolster their social determinants of health. But if they’re in a work environment that is unsupportive, we’re not going to see those really good benefits. Is it? You know, I mentioned it. Additionally, job seekers might consider researching the company’s track record on mental health initiatives. Are there any awards that they received recognitions that they received partnerships with advocacy organizations, where they’re doing some good quality work? And, you know, speaking to their outcomes. They can also seek out employee testimonials, or reviews on platforms like Glassdoor to gain insight into the organizational culture, and how mental health is prioritized within the company. Speaking to current employees, connecting with individuals on LinkedIn to learn about the culture of the company, we also want to empower the job seeker to ask tailored questions during the interview process to learn more. And so some of those questions might look like, but can you describe how leadership demonstrates support for employee mental health and wellness? Can you share how the company’s approach and or initiatives for mental health in the workplace are implemented? How has the company measured the effectiveness of its mental health wellness programs and what efforts are made to improve them? Right so we want people to come into the interview, feeling empowered and prepared to ask the hard questions, dig a little deeper, get some of the information that can help Have them determine is this the right environment for them? Lastly, but I think this is really important. organizations committed to fostering supportive workplace for mental health wellness, could also be prioritizing diversity, equity inclusion, and those dei initiatives. And so we want jobseekers, especially job seekers with intersecting identities, and historically marginalized or oppressed identities to be able to look at, right? Is this this organization implementing anti discrimination policies? So they offer unconscious bias training? Are they actively recruiting and retaining diverse talent? So we want to be mindful and supporting those those job seekers as well?

Christina Mallon 35:47
Definitely, I mean, what I’ve been, you know, when I have a lot of, you know, interesting people reaching out to me trying to see like, where do they fit as a disabled person in the workforce and, and a lot of the advice who have given now I definitely get them. And I also say, like, look at the companies. They’re associated with, you know, at Inclusively, we probably talk about what brands use our platform. And, you know, for them to take the initiative to create and want to create a more streamlined process for accommodations shows the effort. So I think, if you can’t find some companies are tend to be a little bit more private about their actions. But a lot of times you can see who they’re associated with that shows, I think a commitment there and at least a hint at it. That company is taking the right steps to be more inclusive.

Amy Banko 36:39
Absolutely, Christina.

Christina Mallon 36:41
So Joanie and Amy, I have one more question. Joni, I want to start with you because we really talked about like, you know, stigma and improving experiences for employees. How can improving the stigma around mental health in the workplace improve experiences for all employees, not just employees with mental health conditions?

Joni Dolce 37:00
I’ll start with an astonishing statistic. A 2023 survey conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and University of Queensland found that one in every two people in the world will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. I think Amy touched on that a little bit earlier. Astonishing. The staggering the this figure is staggering, and really illustrates the enormity of the current mental health crisis, maybe not even current the ongoing mental health crisis. As mentioned previously, employers are in those key positions right to demonstrate their collective commitment to improving stigma around mental health in the workplace. The workplace is where most of us spend the majority of our waking hours. So we’re in in these places that can really have the potential to address mental mental health and wellness and certainly, address stigma. When stigma around mental health conditions is improved, workplaces become sources of support and refuge for many people. A recent study by Steiner and colleagues in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that employers who prioritize those critical elements of work culture that improve mental health and well being such as employees having a good work life balance or autonomy in the in the workplace, limiting excessive workloads, having a zero tolerance, practice and policy around bullying or use of offensive language or other types of harassment. We’ll see enhanced productivity, employee engagement and retention. So this has been studied and researched. And it’s been shown that employers who include those aspects of a work culture, you know, with zero tolerance and and really promote productivity or well being and improved mental health, really do see an outcome. So I think to answer your question, improving that stigma really does improve not just the experience for the employee, but overall morale of the organization.

Christina Mallon 39:28
That makes total sense. Amy, do you have anything to add there? I saw you shaking your head. So I want to give you the chance.

Amy Banko 39:34
Yeah, I was just agreeing with what Joni was was sharing. You know, workplace culture that encourages mental health stigma really impacts employee satisfaction. And what we see in recent literature is employee retention. I was astounded to see based on the American Psychological Associations 2023 work in America survey Um, that 92% of workers said it was very important to someone important for them to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological wellness and well being. Additionally, 81% of those respondents from the APA 2023 survey said that Employer Support for mental health will be an important consideration for what they look for in their future work and staying at their present work. Right. So 81% of job seekers and our current employees are going to make decisions about who they work for, based on how the company prioritizes their mental health and wellness, we see that having a stigma free environment aligns with that, right. So conversely, when we think about these employers that are not on the bandwagon and not joining, developing meaningful initiatives, right, do not develop anti stigma campaigns, mental health wellness programs, they’re not going to retain a competitive edge in acquiring or retaining talent, right, they’re going to be losing out on job candidates because of their lack of, of organizational change.

Christina Mallon 41:20
Yeah, and I think, with, you know, the really low unemployment rate, and it’s hard to find people within jobs, businesses should be doing whatever it takes to ensure that, you know, their employees are happy within their environment. Yeah. So why don’t you send it over to the audience, because I’m seeing some questions and want to make sure they can participate. So first question we’re saying is, Can you say more about how employers should avoid gaslighting employees with accessibility or inclusivity or belonging interventions and programs? Yeah, sorry, bad connection here. So the question is, Can you say more about how employers should avoid gaslighting employees with accessibility inclusivity and belonging, interventions and programs?

Amy Banko 42:11
Yeah, thank you. Thank you. For the attendee who is inquiring about meaningful, purposeful initiatives. Unfortunately, we do see a lot of organizations, kind of developing initiatives to just check the box. And unfortunately, singular employees may not have a lot of influence in how that organization or that employer goes on to make adjustments to make modifications that are meaningful, purposeful, intentional, right. And so what we see often is that employees are leaving these companies, there may not have ways to express their dissatisfaction, where because of that gaslighting, they may feel like there could be retaliation for expressing their dissatisfaction. That is not a positive work environment, right, that work culture that is being developed, or that is in place, I should say, is not supportive of the employees working there. And so what what Joni and I do see are folks leaving, finding different employment opportunities that support right their wellness, and prioritize mental health? Unfortunately, I wish you could say, you know, here’s the approach that we can take in encouraging organizational change. But unfortunately, we think about the process of change. There are stages, right? Stages to change, for a person making contemplating a change to an organization constantly contemplating a change. And that first stage is pre contemplation, right when the person or even said organization is committed to staying the course they don’t realize there’s a problem there and like complete denial, like, everything’s good, we’re fine. We’re not making any changes. And we do see some of these organizations, some of these employers in that pre contemplation stage. And you know what the catalyst for change is often employees leaving in droves, that high turnover rate. Unfortunately, I wish I had a better answer for you, in terms of like, this is what you could implement.

Christina Mallon 44:37
I mean, sometimes it’s like the carrot or the stick. And they decide what they want to take. But no, thank you for that transparency. Would love to understand we have another question in from Dan Middleton, wanting to understand like and one, thank you, first off Joni and Amy for all of the amazing information and insights you provided. And he would like to also know, kind of what’s your experience with companies like Inclusively or Mentra with their accommodations to match the candidates and the types of jobs being offered. And you know, how both companies require employers have training before accepting them and need to design job descriptions to identify accommodations that it’s designed for/.

Joni Dolce 45:21
You know, in full transparency, I did not hear Inclusively until you reached out to invite Amy and I to do this. So I don’t know if my responsible will be very much will have the breadth of information that you need. But I certainly think any platform that is encouraging this job match between individuals, and employers, and as Christina mentioned earlier, Inclusively kind of vetting employers and employers are, are, are reaching out because they want to make change happen, and they want to improve mental health in the workplace and other, you know, encourage people with disabilities to, to apply, I think, I think that’s certainly something that I would love to see more of happening. And I’m curious to even learn more about inclusively after today’s webinar and kind of see how I can certainly see how it could be assistive with some of the teams that I’m working with and job seekers that I encounter in some of the work that I do the consultation work. So I don’t know that if that answered your question. I, maybe Tiffany or Christina, who have a little bit more intimate knowledge with Inclusively would would be able to respond in a robust way.

Christina Mallon 46:46
I’ll let Amy get in before me, just because I know we’ve got about 10 minutes left, and I want to make sure that Amy can add to it.

Amy Banko 46:55
Yeah, thank you. Thanks, Joni. Thank you, Christina. So, you know, working 10 plus years, with students with mental health conditions with workers, job seekers with mental health conditions. Oftentimes, these individuals were unaware, right, that the ADA applied to them, that they were available eligible to receive accommodations. And furthermore, the development of accommodations for mental health conditions, and being very challenging. It’s very individualized. It’s not like, Oh, if one person has depression, right, here’s all the accommodations that are going to work for them. It really comes down to developing accommodations based on not just the diagnosis, but what are the symptoms? And how do the symptoms impact a person’s functioning? This is a process that people really need to consult with experts on in terms of what is available to me. A lot of times we see a primary area of need for individuals with mental health conditions, with executive functioning skills, right? How individuals are able to utilize things like recall, retention, memory, focus, their ability to organize, to initiate tasks, and developing accommodations around this really takes a level of expertise. So any organization like conclusively that can share with job seekers, their ADA rights, right, exploring the functional implications of their health condition, the ability to match, right, the the accommodation that will offset the functional implication of their health condition is so important. We have very few resources and services that do this. And so hats off to Inclusively for providing this to individuals, you know, and going that step further in matching job seekers to organizations, I think, again, as Jodi noted, it wasn’t a resource that we were knowledgeable about. But oh my gosh, I am, you know, impressed by the services that you guys are reporting and certainly will, you know, as I’m teaching my supportive employment class, share this with students because I’m doing my trainings for practitioners in the state of New Jersey share this resource because this is pretty powerful people to access, again, the supports and resources to be able to thrive in the work environment.

Christina Mallon 49:29
Yeah, no, thank you so much for your support and offering to elevate Inclusively and in the work that is done I joined Inclusively as an advisor because I felt like this was really needed in the market. And I wanted to spend you know, my free time really supporting it and nurturing it and helping in any way I can. Love the point about the intersection of cognition and mental health. I think a lot of people don’t realize that and we are hired to do cognitive work. So why when we’re looking at productivity and cognition, why aren’t we looking at mental health tomorrow? I’m actually dropping a toolkit that my colleagues and I worked on at Microsoft about designing at the intersection of cognition and mental health tomorrow at ability summit at Microsoft, you can, you’ll be able to find it at Microsoft inclusive dot Microsoft dot design tomorrow, but I think people don’t understand how much mental health affects your workplace. And I think, Joni, you and Amy provided so many good resources for not only job seekers, but also for employees to really create evidence based, you know, data based processes that have been people have been using for years and apply it to their companies at scale. So I want to open up you know, is there any more questions? I’m going to check the q&a Okay.

Okay, so, one of our attendees he is a 36 year old male was diagnosed with ADHD in 2022, and have been trying to develop coping strategies with limited success. My work quality generally good, but in 2023, due to issues at home with my son born with significant medical needs, my productivity tanked as a result, my manager has taken my enclosed office and has remote without my remote work. My review for last year was also poor. Is this a situation where you would recommend I disclose to head off any potential adverse actions I know my boss is not thrilled with mental health situations, I had to take two emergency weeks of leave in the summer due to him grilling me for a week and he was upset, I took the time off for short notice. So I’ll open it up to both Amy and Joni to answer.

Amy Banko 51:56
Yeah, thank you so much for for sharing a little bit about what you’re experiencing. I’m so sorry to hear that there have been some challenges in terms of the your work experience, especially when you are taking care of your son. And you know, what’s really important. And so I’m hearing in what you you wrote that the things that would potentially help you to thrive in the work environment, your remote work, as well as having that enclosed office, right, are going to be things that impact your ability to perform well, those common, they were essentially informal accommodations, right. And formal accommodations are things that may just happen and occur naturally in the work environment that are assistive for you. Right, I’ve worked with people who, you know, have schizophrenia, and they had trouble with being distracted during the workday. And so they, you know, naturally would have a desk away from the window, versus, you know, being seated by the window, where that might interrupt their workday. And so they didn’t ask for this accommodation, it was just something that was available to them. And so I’m hearing that your informal accommodations, right things that should happen quite naturally, were vote, right. So things were taken away from you, almost sounding like a punitive action. And so that, that can emphasize the importance of having formal accommodations, right, having something in place to solidify the ways in which you offset the functional implications of your health condition. And so I would write if we were working together, I would explore the pros and cons of potentially using that managing personal information approach to see right would would getting formal ACOP accommodations be assistive? Would you want to share with the specific person, right, so oftentimes, that’s even resources, a little bit about your health condition, so that you May access your ADA, right, of reasonable accommodations that should be able to include having that office and working remotely. Right, those are all under the ADA reasonable accommodations, so long as they don’t impact the essential functions of the job duty. But I’m hearing that those things were in place before. So yeah, I would, I would look at the pros and cons of that managing personal information and sharing a little bit about what you’re experiencing developing a script if you choose to chair to get those accommodations, supporting you in writing an accommodation letter. Again, my apologies that you’re experiencing such challenges at work currently. And hopefully, you can explore what it looks like for you to reach out and work request, again, your ADA right to reasonable accommodations.

Joni Dolce 55:05
I also wanted to follow that up, Amy, just with some information about a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, Mary Ellen Copeland created a tool. And it’s been adapted for employment where you are, kind of walk through a toolkit where you identify your wellness tools or strategies you’ve talked about, you know, what things What’s your daily maintenance plan, you identify different stressors or kind of red flags to sort of indicate when things are starting to, you know, maybe break down a bit, and then identify a crisis plan and a post crisis plan. So it’s a toolkit, Mary Ellen Copeland, it’s wellness, recovery, action plan.com. They have resources available and kind of self guided tools to help you walk through looking at your own wellness and recovery and taking action.

Christina Mallon 56:02
Amazing. Please no, please go!

Amy Banko 56:06
For Christina, I was just going to share, they have versions that are specific to the domain of employment, and they have versions specific to the domain of education. So it can be a great resource like Joni is saying and domain specific.

Christina Mallon 56:21
Amazing. So we have one more question left. We have about two minutes left from Aditya. Okay, so he is launching a startup and he’s a seed investor Inclusively, he has a personal experience in the area of mental illness. Can you both give an example of how startup without an EAP and other such reasons can recruit and retain the high end talent we need? We already have remote and flexible hours. They need that themselves. So how can we overcome the false assumptions that startup employees had to give everything to the company at the expense of other things? That’s a really insightful question.

Amy Banko 56:58
So that cut off for a second. So sorry.

Christina Mallon 57:02
No worries, bad internet connection. So we have a attendee he is just launching a startup, is a seed investor in Inclusively, they have personal experience in the area of mental illness. Can you give an example of a startup without an EAP? And other such resources can recruit and retain the high end talent that they need? They already have, from what work and flexible hours? But you know, how can they really overcome that false assumption that other employees have to give everything to the company at the expense of other things?

Joni Dolce 57:38
I think a lot of that goes back to what Amy mentioned earlier, just having that culture and that, you know, the messaging that set identifies what type of, of mental health and well being resources are available, how committed your organization is just making sure that you’re messaging that out and potentially reaching people who want to join companies and organizations that really do have a work culture that promotes mental health and wellness? I don’t know if that answers the question. I know we’re up against the time.

Christina Mallon 58:18
I think we have one more minute. If if you want to add more?

Amy Banko 58:22
Was was the question just to clarify, Christina, how do we retain or obtain high end talent?

Christina Mallon 58:32
Yes, how you how you get more high end talent without having, you know, outside of just giving accommodations like work from home, or, you know, remote remote work or, you know, flexible hours. What are other accommodations, you can get great talent without having lots of resources to put into it.

Amy Banko 58:55
So, you know, it’s interesting. I as the NJ President, I’m in charge of like doing the the conference, the annual conference. And we brought in a presenter, who has a federally funded grant on staff retention. And they found right this is a federally funded study where they’re looking at this specific field of rehab counselors, but the the salary is not comparable, right to other counseling positions. The salary is just meager compared to what people can receive in terms of doing their private practice. And so they’re trying to figure out like, how do we retain talent if you don’t have resources? And or like these monetary, competitive monetary offerings, and they found that just that like, what this attendee is saying, you know, having a work culture that is positive that emphasizes wellness that emphasizes work life balance, people Were willing to take a pay cut to work a four day work week, they were willing to get less money if they had a little bit more flexibility in their scheduling. So I think we’re selling short right, what you’re offering, right? Those are things that you really want to emphasize. Right, that positive work culture, having the initiatives that you noted, oh, I’m sorry, we’re way over time. But I think you know, folks can in their offering of flexible work scheduling, remote scheduling, this is what people are looking for. And this is what they’re prioritizing.

Christina Mallon 1:00:34
Love that. Well, thank you so much. Tiffany from Inclusively provided our LinkedIn URLs. So feel free to reach out with any questions that didn’t get answered today or additional questions you have or advice that you need. Um, so thank you so much, everybody for attending and big thanks to our ASL interpreters. And Annie, Joni and Tiffany from Inclusively for setting this up.

Joni Dolce 1:01:00
Great. Thank you so much.

Amy Banko 1:01:02
Thank you for having us.

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