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Designing programs for employee mental health

By Andy Valenzuela, CHRO at HireVue

As we emerge from the pandemic and hiring teams reassign their time back to recruiting new hires, it’s important that HR leaders do not lose sight of how the stresses from the past 18 months will have affected their employees. The temptation is to ramp up activity and return to normal, but it’s important that they put the mental health considerations of their current staff into focus. 

Following Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought it would be beneficial to share some of what has worked for us as we continue trying to meet the varied needs of our team members and their families. HireVue has employees all around the world, from the UK to US to India, which means we’ve had to be flexible in our responses to employee needs. We also have hourly and salaried employees, so some of our benefits and programs have asterisks and alternatives for those distinct work groups. 
Here are some of the changes that HireVue made to support mental health that may inspire initiatives at your company:

  1. Lead with empathy, acknowledge the situation: First and foremost, we made it explicit that productivity, office hours, and overall participation might look different during the pandemic. We asked everyone to approach each other with empathy. And it wasn’t just lip service, we meant it. Kids pop into Zoom backgrounds, team members move meetings when they need to, and goals were adjusted with the world’s circumstances in mind.
  1. Audit and augment benefits, then make access easy: Our teams already had access to great benefits, but in many cases, there were untapped mental health services available. To ensure that the programs we already offered were used, our people leaders consolidated all existing programs with plan options and contact info in one place. From there we added optional workshops on mental health and updated our health insurance plans to ensure that no one would ever have to pay for coronavirus-related diagnostics or treatment. Once this information was solidified, we communicated through every available channel to our teams – our goal was that no one ever had to wonder what to do if they needed help.  
  1. Half day Fridays and added holidays: In May, before I joined the organisation, our CEO, Kevin Parker sent an email to the team implementing paid half day Fridays every other week. The original email called it a, “temporary work schedule change,” but half day Fridays are permanent now because employee feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Employees talked about the time off with family, resting after a week of pandemic-despair, and the overall relief of having extra time off when they knew no one was expecting a response. We’ve also added an extra paid holiday for Martin Luther King Day and an extra four day weekend in the summer.
  1. Company-wide vacation in summer 2021: Seeing the positive impact of Half Day Fridays made it clear just how powerful it is to have everyone sign off at the same time, so we decided to add a one week summer shutdown to the company schedule this August. Taking time off to recharge, be with family, and do the things you love makes all of us better when we show up to work. That being said, most of us relate to the anxiety of thinking work is piling up while you’re out – this company-wide holiday eliminates that tension.
  1. Increased monthly allowance for remote work accommodations: When we sent everyone home in March, we thought it would be for a few months (if we only knew), and many of our employees left behind efficiencies like second monitors and foot rests. But as time dragged on, we knew we had to get employees a better setup at home. So, in addition to having our IT team box up cables and monitors for shipping (all while following safety protocols), we added a monthly work from home allowance to employee pay cheques so they can make their space, whatever it may be, just a bit more comfortable for them. 
  1. A reimagined future for the office: We surveyed employees who used to work in HQ and found that a small number wanted to return in-person as soon as possible. And while most prefer to keep up the WFH life a majority of the time, it has become clear that as it becomes safe, teams want to meet up once in a while for camaraderie and collaboration. With that in mind, we’ve sublet a large portion of the space that we don’t need, and we’re revamping the space we do have with our new reality in mind. 

I wouldn’t be giving the full picture if I didn’t mention that making changes work for hourly workers and international teams can have its hurdles. For instance, time off for employees on our 24/7 customer support team takes some extra wrangling, and we had to make sure we picked a week in the summer that didn’t clash with public holidays in all our employees’ countries of residence – but we’ve worked these details out on a department-by-department basis.

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Source: http://hrnews.co.uk/designing-programs-for-employee-mental-health/

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