Mental well-being may not be the first thing you think of when discussing cyber threats or innovation in financial services. However, I had the privilege of sitting in on a fascinating and very important panel discussion earlier this week at a cyber security conference which highlighted the importance of mental health. As noted by the session’s chair, Geoff McDonald, Co -founder of Minds@Work, good mental health should be supported in the same way that we cheer on physical health. We pat someone on the back when they start a new gym regime yet the state of one’s mental wellbeing is not something that is often discussed or proactively supported in the workplace.
What made the discussion so impressive and impactful (attendees looked up from their phones for most of the session) was the personal nature of the stories shared by the panellists. It will, of course, come as no surprise that life brings with it death, anxiety, addiction, relationship breakdown, ailing family members and an endless list and permutation of challenges. What was refreshing was the honesty of the stories shared and how they conveyed the ways in which those challenges battered mental well-being.
Their stories were told with purpose; to highlight how important it is for senior leaders to support their workforce (and themselves) both in maintaining good mental health and in providing support when needed. The factors that accompany poor mental health, stress, anxiety, depression, have a deleterious affect on physical health, which can compound the tangible impact for corporates in the form of poor productivity and increased levels of absence from work altogether.
In other words, mental well-being is good for the bottom line.
Moving from understanding to action is important. Those in leadership roles need to help drive a healthy and supportive workplace culture in which positive action can occur, even if that isn’t the case company wide. Examples include creating Mental Health First Aiders, which was certainly a concept that was new to me. The idea is to have individuals trained (as you would with a medical first aider) to spot the signs of mental health issues, be an initial point of contact for someone seeking help and to be able to steer them towards resources and professional support. There were a number of examples of creating avenues and tools for employees to seek support but crucial to their success was creating an enabling environment.
Back again to that elusive beast called culture. It’s hard to define but easy to identify when it’s poor. Getting it right delivers demonstrable benefits – a healthier, happier, more productive and adaptable workforce for starters. Outcomes all of which support each other and help further drive the type of culture that draws in and retains talent.
Identifying stress in an employee, all so prevalent in an always on, 24/7 digital world is crucial. For example, while an employee that is working all the time and is always switched-on may be much valued, they likely need to re-focus on things other than work. Valuing hours put in over well-being is the type of culture that many a millennial will run from and a progressive manager will realize, in the long run, is self-defeating. Throw in the constant threat environment that those in cyber security operate and the stress levels may well become unsustainable in an unhealthy workplace.
At FinTECHTalents and the upcoming CyberTECHTalents, we spend a good amount of time talking about Cultural Change. We often discuss these in the context of creating enabling environments for innovation but mental wellbeing is clearly an important part of that journey and deserves more recognition and air-time.