Madalyn Parker & Supportive Culture in The Workplace

By now, you may have heard the latest viral story of a Michigan employee, Madalyn Parker, who openly shared to Twitter her email correspondence from her CEO regarding taking time off work for mental health reasons. To her surprise, her CEO positively responded and applauded her for sending an open email. The CEO even went on to say, “I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.” To read more about this viral story, check out the full article here.

Comments have flooded social media, thanking and applauding Parker for being so vulnerable and open. Others have commented that they would be fired if they brought up their mental health at work.  Employees should not have to fear to be honest with their employer; however, the reality is that open and supportive organizational culture does not exist in every workplace, especially with the stigma still associated with mental health.

How to Know When to Take a Mental Health Day

Individuals suffering from mental health issues may find it difficult to put in words what they are going through when trying to explain it to another person. It can be incredibly scary to experience an episode or an attack. Dark, negative thoughts flood your mind, you don’t feel like yourself without understanding why, or your heart races. Going through an episode, having an attack, or experiencing some symptoms can not only negatively affect your personal life but also your productivity at work. So, how do you know when to take a day for your mental health?

When You Have Not Been Taking Care of Yourself
Whether you have had lack of sleep, haven’t been eating, or you are not maintaining personal hygiene, it’s time to take a day for yourself to get caught up in these daily routines. Self-care is important in reducing stressors and maintaining a healthy balance.

When You’re Distracted
You can experience being fixated on a particular task or idea when you’re having an attack. Whatever it may be, take the time to complete this task to minimize stress and anxiety. Being distracted at work will only lessen productivity, increase mistakes, and can worsen the symptoms you are experiencing.

When You’re Going to Appointments
Sometimes it’s best to take the entire day off to reset your mind. If you’re going to see a counselor or therapist, or even re-filling a prescription, it can be very emotionally and physically draining. Take the time to address your needs to get yourself on the mend.

When You’re Experiencing an Attack or Episode
When you experience an attack or episode, you may not feel safe being around others, especially in a work setting. You may feel judged, or crowded by others trying to help you when you just need to be alone. Sometimes you need time by yourself to recharge. Practice some deep breathing, have a bubble bath or hot shower and rest.

How to Create a Supportive Workplace Culture

Each year, employers lose billions of dollars due to absenteeism, sick days, and presenteeism (at work, but not overly productive). Though employees do not have to disclose their diagnosis to their employer, they may choose to share that they are enduring health challenges. With this in mind, below are some ways employers can create a supportive workplace culture to help reduce stressors and promote healthy minds and happy workers.

Employees are Human Too
Though employees are hired to perform and fulfill daily tasks, to meet and exceed goals, and to be innovative and productive, caring for workers extends beyond an employee’s job performance. It includes caring for the employee as a whole. Support their work-life balance, instill trust and respect, be understanding and thoughtful – employees are more than work resources.

Build Trust
Trust is the foundation for any relationship and one of the most important things employers, supervisors, and employees can instill to creative a positive work environment. Exemplifying that you are honest, responsible, and accountable demonstrates trustworthiness and reliability, which will encourage workers to be open and honest in return.

Open Communication
Having an open-door policy assists in creating a positive work environment as it encourages interaction where employees can share their concerns and opinions. However, with open communication, you have to remember to be receptive and positive when employees come to you, otherwise, the trust will be diminished and two-way communication will dissolve.

Give Employees Autonomy
When there are mutual trust and open communication in a relationship, giving employees more independence is be easier. When employees have autonomy, they feel empowered and less micromanaged, thus encouraging productivity and creativity, which results in a more positive self-perception and increased job satisfaction.

Recognize Accomplishments
Some companies may have incentives for their employees for achieving a goal, for closing a deal, or for completing a task in a timely manner. They may be rewarded with a free lunch, time off, gift cards, or a team outing. Don’t just give them their reward, ensure that you acknowledge and recognize their achievements. Receiving praise makes employees strive harder to achieve more goals. Acknowledging accomplishments and rewarding target goals shows appreciation. Employees feel more satisfied and are more motivated when they feel appreciated.

Establish Wellness Programs
Investing in a well-established wellness program has a plethora of benefits for your employees: lowered expenses in return, lower absenteeism, productive and efficient workers, and job retention and satisfaction. When employees have these types of programs in place, they feel supported and will experience positive health benefits.

Changing your workplace culture doesn’t happen overnight and no one can expect everyone to be on board and embrace change right away. If you do implement any of the above support methods or others, note it will take commitment to make these adjustments to your organization, time, trust, and leading by example, especially from the top-down.

Written by Jenna Kressler | Curriculum Developer


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