Between stress from the pandemic and the economy, rude customers, and changing technology, many customer-facing employees are burnt out. Mental health is crucial to everyone’s well-being, especially frontline workers and contact center agents who face challenges and difficult conversations every day.
Amy Smith, Chief Impact Officer at TOMS, says we need to talk about our mental health like we would talk about a broken arm, cold, or sprained ankle.
But too often, employees feel they can’t discuss mental health at work. Many struggle with mental health issues silently, with nearly one in five adults in the U.S. living with a mental illness. And those mental health challenges have ripple effects beyond individuals to families, companies, and communities.
When companies support their employees’ mental health, they help them live a happier, more fulfilling life. And when employees have the mental health resources they need, they can be more engaged at work and provide a better customer experience.
Smith says one of the most important things companies and leaders can do to support their employees is to simply check in with them regularly. Ask how they are doing and create space for the conversation. Leaders often move quickly through the agenda and are so focused on their schedules that they don’t have time for meaningful conversations with employees. But creating space to ask how employees are doing invites people to share and express their feelings.
Employees may be hesitant to open up about their mental health. That’s where vulnerability comes in. When employees see leaders often face similar challenges, they will be more likely to join the conversation. Leaders can set an example by sharing their own mental health wins or challenges and inviting others to do the same.
Aside from individual relationships, TOMS supports mental health on an organization-wide level. The company champions mental health resources for its employees. Smith and her team regularly evaluate the benefits to see if people are using them and if they meet the needs of employees.
Even simple benefits, like inviting dogs into the office, allowing for half-day Fridays, or providing free subscriptions to meditation and mindfulness apps, help continue the conversation about mental health and encourage employees to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally.
Supporting mental health also means empowering employees with the tools to do their jobs well and set boundaries. This is especially important for contact center agents who often deal with frustrated customers. TOMS trains its customer service agents on how to manage escalations. Smith says when employees feel empowered to protect themselves, they can set boundaries and defuse heated conversations.
Smith says this: “These are important changes in evolution for companies to take on and take very seriously about how we build healthy employees. You’ll get the most out of them if we invest in our employees that way.”
Mental health has been ignored in the workplace for too long. But as companies like TOMS set the tone to support their employees individually and through company-wide programs, employees can feel supported and valued at work.
This episode is sponsored by Thinkific.