October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and as a health-focused company, we’re passionate about ensuring the mental health of our employees. Almost 20% of adults suffer from mental health issues each year, and more than 70% experience at least one symptom of stress. Worldwide acknowledgment of these concerns has increased in the past few decades, but there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues that discourages people from seeking help.
Mental health issues can affect every part of a person's life, both in the workplace and outside it. It can also impact everyone and everything they interact with, from family and friends to colleagues and clients, and even the companies they work for. When employers fail to acknowledge mental health in the workplace, not only do employees suffer, productivity suffers as well. According to the WHO's estimates, mental health issues in the workplace are responsible for $1 trillion in productivity loss annually worldwide.
The current pandemic has only exacerbated mental health issues, both at home and in the workplace. For some, working from home has blurred the lines between their personal and professional lives—it's harder to leave work in the workplace at the end of the day when your home and workplace are the same. On the other hand, physically going into work raises concerns about catching a potentially deadly virus, which is also detrimental to mental health. Many are experiencing increased isolation and loneliness due to restrictions on social gatherings. Others are dealing with somewhat the opposite—not finding time for themselves because significant others, kids, or roommates are always nearby.
What BenchSci is doing to help
At BenchSci, health is our business. We extend our health-focused approach beyond our products to our daily operations and culture. Part of that is ensuring our team is healthy mentally as well as physically. We're committed to creating an inclusive environment that is understanding and supportive of mental health. For proof of this commitment, you need look no further than our CEO, Liran Belenzon. Liran credits counseling with changing his life and his outlook as a startup founder and CEO. His leadership and passion for this issue guide us in creating the best working environment for everyone.
To help alleviate stresses and provide employees with the support they need, we ensure everyone has access to:
- A transparent and open culture: We encourage an environment where people can be comfortable enough to talk about mental health issues, admit their vulnerabilities, and seek support without the fear of being stigmatized.
- Why: Because being open and talking about these issues helps to normalize them and shows others in similar situations that they are not alone.
- One-on-one coaching: Kari Sulenes, our Independent Director of Leadership, provides confidential one-on-one coaching for employees who want to discuss and work through the challenges they face, both in and outside the workplace.
- Why: Because talking through your personal issues with a trained professional can help you understand yourself in new ways and see your challenges from a different perspective.
- Group mindfulness sessions: Kari also leads virtual mindfulness sessions once per week, coaching our team on how to be present in the moment and reduce daily stress.
- Why: Because practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has been shown to be a valuable coping strategy for everyday life.
- Headspace: Employees can access additional mindfulness tools on-demand with a free account to Headspace's mindfulness app.
- Why: Because schedules don’t always agree, so if you can’t make it to the virtual sessions you can still practice mindfulness regularly on your own.
- LifeWorks: Employees have access to a network of clinical counselors and certified coaches via phone, chat, video, or in-person through LifeWorks to support them through their work and personal challenges 24/7, 365 days a year.
- Why: Because life’s challenges don’t wait until it’s convenient, and if a crisis strikes at 3 a.m. on New Year’s Eve you still deserve access to the support you need.
- Flexible schedules: We want to reduce team members' stress wherever possible, so we've instituted a flexible work policy that allows them to work from home most days if they wish (when we return to the office that is, as we are currently working fully remote to ensure we don’t unnecessarily endanger anyone’s health).
- Why: Because everyone’s situation is different, and if reduced commute time or the ability to be home with your kids instead of paying for childcare makes your life easier, that option should be available to you.
- Personal days: We know life doesn't always go as planned. We've made personal days available to all our employees so that, should an emergency arise, they can take the time they need without using their vacation days.
- Why: Because the purpose of vacation days is to give you a chance to relax and recharge, and you shouldn’t be penalized for something that’s out of your control.
- Extended vacation time: We start all team members with three weeks of vacation to schedule as they wish, plus a week off for the winter holidays, a company-wide day off between Canada Day and Independence Day, and a day off for their birthdays too.
- Why: Because people are happier when they are relaxed and refreshed, and happy people are more productive and enjoyable to work with.
- Mental health programs: We’ve launched a new Learning and Development program, with courses on topics such as "Showing Vulnerability" “and “Come From a Place of Curiosity and Trust Instead of Judgment” to improve leadership and emotional intelligence.
- Why: Because acknowledging and understanding the personal problems of others doesn’t come intuitively for everyone, but everyone can learn to be better at it.
- Company social events: Our People and Culture team works hard to organize social events in whatever form possible while still being safe and responsible, whether that be an online meeting or a socially distanced outdoor gathering.
- Why: Because social interaction is a crucial part of the human experience, and current restrictions on social gatherings make it harder than ever.
- P&C Huddles: Our People and Culture team also schedules regular one-on-one check-ins with all employees to see how they are doing and give them an opportunity to provide feedback on how we can improve their work experience or ideas for social events.
- Why: Because we want to ensure all our employees are heard, and they often have great suggestions for how we can be even better as a company and employer.
With these measures, we help our team develop valuable coping skills, build resilience to adversity, and show compassion and empathy for the people around them. We know we’re going in the right direction thanks to our high engagement scores and recent recognition as a Great Place to Work®. But this is only the beginning. In the coming months, we will be doing even more to leverage our business as a platform for meaningful change. Our goals are to do even more for our employees, help the broader community, and inspire other organizations to do the same. To stay up-to-date with our efforts to progress mental health and other important social causes, subscribe to our blog.