The author: Jagoda Ciepła- Mental Health Program Lead
Covid-19 pandemic has surely impacted people’s mental health – sudden change, fear, isolation, constant stress caused by uncertainty, long (-er than ever) hours spent in front of screens, all carry their burdens. But what Covid-19 has also done is it abruptly destigmatized talking about it. The mental health conversations stigma lifting even by just a bit is a great step forward. Making the mental health situation better starts with creating a safe space to talk about it. And where better to talk about mental health than a place where we spend most of our time, a place that has an immense impact on our mental state? Where better to talk about mental health than at work?
Particularly in times when our work and private lives are blurred, where home problems become work problems and vice versa, our mental capacity is at its edge. Our worlds have been suddenly confined to small spaces and we can’t separate our affairs like we used to when we could leave the office building and all the work thoughts behind. As much as work and private lives mix in our physical space, they also mix and create clutter in our minds. It is important to recognize it and to understand that we need to put an effort into keeping our minds healthy.
At Accenture, we haven’t just started talking about mental health in 2020, though the importance of this conversation and the focus on support have surely increased in the last year. Mental health support initiatives are more visible across the organization as more people are stepping up to lead and help others. Just a few years back we had Mental Health Programs in a handful of countries, today every single country where Accenture operates has support options available to all employees.
Accenture offers a variety of reactive support options, providing its employees with ways to handle a difficult mental health situation they might have found themselves in. From Employee Assistance Program, offering 24/7 counselors’ support to everyone at the company, through different external support, access to applications like Wysa, to local Mental Health Allies Programs that aim at gathering volunteers across our organization and equipping them with knowledge to lead mental health related conversations, so that everyone can have a colleague who is ready to listen and discuss mental health issues.
But Accenture does more than reactive care. Through leaders on all levels of the organization we normalize mental health conversations, raise awareness on mental health topics, and create an open environment for everyone to feel that they can talk about their health at work. We also offer training programs that raise awareness on topics like resilience and stress, with Thriving Mind Training on the science behind stress being a prominent example. Proactive care like this is important to help people build the right habits and allow them to thrive in the work environment, to help spot symptoms of overstress, exhaustion, burnout early on and prevent rather than react when things are already going in the wrong direction.
Covid-19 has helped put the mental health crisis we have been in for a while in the spotlight. Without talking about it, we would not be able to get through it. And I hope that spotlight is here to stay – it will be needed for a long time after we recover from the repercussions of the pandemic, and so will the mental health and wellbeing support in organizations.