With the new year in full swing, HR leaders have a renewed responsibility to address mental wellbeing in the workplace as employees continue to deal with unique challenges from changes in their professional and personal lives. This is a good thing.
Mental wellness programs will likely become a major factor for post-pandemic job seekers, said Jess Elmquist, CLO & EVP of Human Resources for Life Time, a premier provider of health clubs across the US and Canada, in his keynote address during our virtual event, IAMHR. But what's the best way to get started?
Get highlights from Elmquist's session below, and learn about the strategies they successfully pioneered at Life Time to instill “a culture of care” that prioritizes mental fitness.
Overcoming the Stigma Around Mental Health
Opening up the conversation about emotional and mental health isn't easy — especially in the workplace. After all, it’s no secret that society has traditionally attached a deep stigma to mental illness. As Elmquist pointed out, seeking help with physical training, for example, doesn’t trigger the same type of negative reaction.
When it comes to the mind, however, we’re supposed to figure it out on our own — which simply isn't feasible. How can organizations overcome this challenge in order to truly support employees?
“If you can destigmatize the idea of talking about mental health, we now have an entry point into it,” Elmquist said. But no one can do it alone, he reinforced, sharing that he has personally benefited from various life coaches who are mental health professionals. According to Elmquist, these coaches provide the support he needs to optimize his mindset and response to career challenges associated with the high-pressure nature of HR and recent massive societal upheaval.
The question that Elmquist and the executive team at Life Time began asking: How can we build an enterprise-wide program to offer this type of support en masse?
The need was clear. Too many employees were experiencing depression and anxiety that led to increased sick days, lost productivity, and a general lack of happiness. Meanwhile, too few employees were taking advantage of the company’s existing mental health offerings. The key, Elmquist decided, was to start normalizing the conversation on mental health.
Creating An Actionable Culture of Care
“One of the visions we have with our community around HR is that we want to be a culture of care," Elmquist said. But creating that authentically requires more than just lip service; he noted: Employees needed to see this commitment in action.
With this realization, Life Time Mind took shape — a holistic performance coaching program designed to improve wellbeing and empower breakthroughs in professional and personal growth.
Coaching sessions train employees to shift their mindset to better respond to challenges, and they receive ongoing support to continue on a positive path after completion.
Program Results: Less Stress, More Motivation
So how has the program been working in the past two years since its inception?
"Over 90 percent of the people that start the program actually finish all six sessions, which is remarkable," Elmquist revealed. With a 96% satisfaction rating, perhaps it's not that surprising. "We were looking for five percent penetration of our benefited team members and we're almost at 20 percent penetration," he said. "Not only anecdotally, but in the numbers we're seeing that it's making a profound impact in team members’ lives."
Life Time team members report that the program helps combat high pressure, work stress, and feelings of being overwhelmed, unmotivated, and too busy. They also say the program equips them to:
Have more appreciation for the company
Be more optimistic about their careers
Maintain better relationships with coworkers
Focus better on work
Commenting on the program’s success, one Life Time club manager had this to say: “We have a common language for mental health and performance issues in our club. And my team? They're just more happy.”
Positioning an Employee Mental Health Program for Success
The program’s efficacy and high participation rate hinges on some key factors:
Coaches are licensed mental health professionals who are familiar with Life Time’s corporate culture.
Leaders talk openly about their own participation and share personal success stories.
General managers and department managers are involved and invite team members to participate.
Employees are allotted time during the workday to complete the program.
Takeaways for a New Outlook on Employee Mental Health
As we move through lingering post-pandemic stressors and social disruption, addressing mental health will be a critical aspect of the employer value proposition, Elmquist noted.
He provided five key takeaways:
Empathetic organizations will win. HR must address the lingering stress of 2020 with programs that demonstrate empathy and commitment to mental health.
Tactics on a lesser scale are effective, too. Meditation, virtual wellness resources, and other smaller scale strategies can be a great jumping off point to boost mental fitness and demonstrate a commitment to employee well-being.
Encourage individuals to take small steps. Life Time team members are routinely encouraged to commit to a personal or professional self-care action. In a different vein, “give permission” to employees to support each other by reaching out if they notice another team member struggling.
Educate leaders to normalize the conversation on mental health. Leaders can help destigmatize mental health by verbalizing support and sharing personal success stories.
Make mental health a priority for employees. Encourage team members to participate in mental wellness programs, and allow them to do so during the workday.
How Phenom Is Part of the Solution
Operating over 150 healthy living destinations, programs, and services across North America, Life Time uses Phenom's Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform to simplify and streamline its talent acquisition and management needs.
Knowing that all talent needs are taken care of in one solution gives his team peace of mind, Elmquist said. It fits well with Life Time’s mission to provide employees with tools that ease stress — and, in turn, create more happiness.