Lisa Moore is head of global business partnering, talent and people operations at Yahoo. Views are the author's own.
The global workforce will emerge from this pandemic forever changed. With employees facing mounting stress and mental health challenges, we're collectively more attuned to mental wellness and neurodiversity. It's a watershed moment for workplace mental health.
Business leaders have an important opportunity, and obligation, to prioritize mental health within their companies. While this may seem daunting, through collaboration and with a few key actions, we can work toward destigmatizing mental health in the workplace to make improved mental health practices the norm among business leaders, rather than the exception.
The first step in improving mental health in the workplace is recognizing the stigmas that already exist. Stigmas are often subtle or used casually in conversation at work, which makes them difficult to perceive. For instance, most employees have, at one point or another, heard a co-worker refer to a mental health condition negatively or in the wrong context. In fact, even the term "mental health" all too often has a negative connotation. This stigmatization creates a work environment in which mental health is not openly discussed, for fear of judgment. But when business leaders take deliberate steps to reframe mental health as a positive force, it can have a ripple effect throughout a company.
But simply recognizing the most apparent stigmas will not suffice. The catalyst for change begins with leadership training. According to our recent global managers' survey, less than one-third of managers feel equipped to handle the mental health needs of their team. Moreover, 80% of managers worry about using the wrong language when addressing issues like mental health. When examining these findings, it's unsurprising that less than one-third of the workforce feels comfortable talking about their mental health with their manager. Addressing the gap between recognition of mental health as a workplace issue and the ability to create a company culture that effectively addresses the issue is essential.
Last year at Yahoo we introduced a global mental health learning program for all employees, Made Academy. It's a reimagined documentary-style training created by nonprofit Made of Millions, and the feedback was overwhelming. Over 90% of Yahoo employees reported having a greater appreciation for the importance of discussing mental health at work and 86% reported feeling better equipped to recognize mental health red flags.
Utilizing the right tools, we can help equip our business leaders to better recognize and react to their own mental health needs as well as those of their teams. With this in mind, we also partnered with the nonprofit on a study that led to their creation of The Mental Health Matrix, a new model for identifying sources of mental strain and empowering managers to address them. Rather than simply diagnosing mental health challenges, the system provides a 360-degree view of how to evaluate and take action to address workplace mental health challenges.
Employees dealing with different challenges require different types of support and the matrix helps business leaders identify that. For instance, an employee working through a diagnosed mental health condition may have different needs than an employee dealing with a personal situation. An employee confronting a trigger unique to the workplace requires a different type of support than an employee navigating intersectional challenges stemming from their perception around others' prejudices. The reality is that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution when it comes to mental health. A purposeful and combined approach to management solutions can create significant change within a company.
As a record number of employees resign from their jobs for mental health reasons, it is clear that mental health is more than important — it is a business imperative. It's time for companies to not simply have honest conversations around mental health, but to take action to understand the barriers to progress, take deliberate steps to dismantle stigmas in order to effectively address the mental health challenges employees face. In doing so, we can work to create the safe, honest and stigma-free working environments our employees need and deserve. That's why we also launched a mental health coalition, Mind Together, a new framework that puts corporate commitment behind destigmatizing and normalizing mental health in the workplace.
By shifting the perception of mental health at work, and by making tackling it a clear business imperative, we can support the well-being of our employees and create a healthy culture where every person feels seen, safe and supported. The pandemic has made us all acutely aware of the burdens faced in the past two years; now, let's turn that awareness into action.