CX Insight Magazine

July 2022

Keeping Your Workforce Mentally Healthy

Working to create a healthier, happier workforce

Denise Bjurholm is the Executive Director of the Pinellas County Chapter of NAMI and a tireless champion of NAMI’s mission.

Mental Health Today

Mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and affects how we think, feel, and act in all facets of our lives. Many factors contribute to our mental health wellness. For example, changes in global health, society, and geopolitics during the past two years have upended lives and changed the way we live and work, exacerbating stress and increasing pressure on our mental health. This unpredictable and unprecedented change has negatively impacted the mental health of our employees — particularly customer-facing workers — and requires our attention.

Execs In The Know recognizes the importance of this topic in our society and industry. To help us learn more, we sat down with our friend, Denise Bjurholm, Executive Director of the Pinellas County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She shared some important information about the organization, trends, and actions companies can take to improve mental health wellness.

We’ve thought a lot about our conversation with Denise, and many of her insights have served as a springboard for this article and further exploration of the topic.

Our hope is to bring awareness to the broad spectrum of mental health conditions and help end the stigma so often associated with this weighty topic. We are committed to taking a closer look at the impact of recent disruptions on the Customer Experience (CX) workforce and identifying ways to improve mental health wellness.

Important Workplace Trends

By their nature, customer-facing jobs are stressful. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) interact with customers that have timely problems to solve, important issues to be resolved, and burning questions to be answered. Customers rarely reach out to share positive sentiments or good news about a product or service they purchased from a brand. Instead, CSRs are bombarded with customers who need help in interactions that happen over and over, day after day. This line of work can be stress-inducing and difficult. Add this reality to the life-changing challenges of the past couple of years to see that customer-facing employees are really being put to the test.

After months of working remotely, businesses are pivoting, and requiring employees to return to the office, or at least partake in a hybrid model that requires workers to be in the office on a regular schedule. This return to the office is creating a new set of stressors, including uncertainty about changes in the day-to-day activities of the role, insecurity about job retention, and pressure to keep up with family duties and outside responsibilities while in the workplace. While the work pressure of interacting with customers and dealing with their problems can increase stress and exacerbate mental health issues, these new stressors further impact the entire employee experience. This trend is taking a toll on employee engagement, behavior, attitudes, and productivity, particularly in dynamic work environments where employees are measured regularly and frequently on performance standards.

Positive Responses to Current Trends

Corporate Actions

Many believe that companies have the opportunity and responsibility to add or increase focus on the mental health of their workers, particularly given recent disruptions. But knowing where to start to shore up this support can be a challenge.

A great first step is to examine the support programs your organization offers to assess the existing resources. Partner with your Human Resources (HR) team to understand the programs your organization has in place to help employees with their mental health well-being. Does the program include proactive educational opportunities? Is there enough internal communication and marketing of these available resources? Are employees using these programs? In addition, include a good look at the Employee Assistance Program to ensure you understand what it offers and how it can help you and your team.

Once you have a good idea of what’s offered in your workplace, there may be opportunity for your company to expand its support of mental health wellness. Some ideas to consider:

  • Be a champion for the cause and continue to educate yourself on the issue.
  • Create a mandate to focus on mental health wellness and have conversations with your team about the importance of it. Ensure everyone knows how to talk about mental health wellness and understands the available resources.
  • Consider partnering with outside experts, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), to stay abreast of the latest trends and resources.
  • Work with HR to ensure that the company is actively prioritizing mental health wellness. Investigate additional educational opportunities, schedule flexibility and mental health days as part of the paid-time-off benefit. Propose ways to fill in the gaps in the existing resource offerings, if needed.

Individual Actions

In addition to the programs your company offers, it is important to know what you can do as an individual. The number-one thing you can do is start the conversation about mental health wellness with your teams. Having regular check-in conversations that focus on how the employee is feeling and doing is a great way to begin. This conversation can start by simply asking, “How are you doing?” and letting it develop from there. You should consider a having a discussion focused on the employee (and not the work) from time to time; this could be a scheduled monthly conversation or impromptu if you see changes or struggles from an employee.

And don’t stop there! Here are some ideas to consider that will make a longer-term impact on your own mental health wellness:

  • Be open to conversations about how you are doing and be honest in sharing the way you feel.
  • Take advantage of the programs your company offers and participate to increase your knowledge and strengthen your own mental health.
  • Ask for help when you feel you need it; the programs you have access to are there for a reason, and that reason is to help you if and when the need arises.
  • Help others. Offer an ear to listen and suggest resources that your colleagues can connect with for information and help. In the process of working with others, we frequently are helping ourselves, too.
  • Expand your focus beyond the workplace and apply what you are learning and doing in other areas of your life. Mental health wellness reaches all aspects of our lives.

Execs In The Know Supports the National Alliance for Mental Illness

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. We support the StigmaFree campaign, which is NAMI’s effort to end stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness. A supportive company can take on the responsibility for employee mental health well-being through education, acceptance, and advocacy. Learn more on NAMI’s website.

The Benefits of Mental Health Wellness

We believe that a healthier workforce is a happier workforce, but the benefits of improving mental health well-being go far beyond that. Supportive, stigma-free companies that make mental health a priority and invest in programs to strengthen employee well-being benefit in several other ways.

One outstanding advantage is that healthier employees deliver better results. They likely bring a more positive attitude and set of behaviors to the workplace. This mindset, in turn, makes them stronger individual contributors and team members. Their attendance and productivity are likely higher and their performance better. Additionally, companies enjoy higher employee satisfaction and retention as well as an improved ability to attract new employees that regard mental health wellness as a priority. With healthier and higher-performing teams, organizations can get closer to fulfilling the CX mission: increased customer happiness, loyalty, and spend.

Individuals who prioritize their own mental health wellness also see rewards in the presence of positive life attributes. In addition to having a healthier work life where they have access to supportive programs and generally perform better, their attitudes and behaviors outside of work are improved. More important is that they feel better about themselves and their ability to adjust to changing life events. Having the tools to stay mentally healthy can help people cope with change, be more resilient to stressors and setbacks, and have more meaningful relationships in all facets of life. Mentally healthy people know when to seek help and recognize that as a sign of strength, not weakness.

Start Making a Difference Today

Mental health wellness is an important and prevailing issue in society. Understanding and acting on this for your organization and you are key to improving mental health wellbeing, particularly for stressful customer-facing roles in our dynamic industry. Working together to educate, accept, support, and act will reap benefits for ourselves, our employees, our business, and our customers. Want an easy way to get started? Begin the conversation with your team and invest the time to understand the support your organization offers.

We are grateful for NAMI’s work and encourage you to get involved in this essential issue. We hope you will find your local chapter or affiliate and start learning more today! You can also learn more about Execs In The Know’s commitment to this important topic and how to get more involved yourself by visiting our Leading with Impact webpage.


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