Today’s post comes to us from one of our newest board members: author, journalist, and speaker, Ivonne Vargas Hernández, and it’s part one in a two-part series. Check out part one here.

Early this week, I discussed the state of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace (particularly in México), and the importance of companies caring for their employees — especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, I’d like to highlight a few companies in México that have implemented successful programs to help improve employee wellbeing.

Volkswagen’s Emotional Wellness Plan for Faculty Workers

In 2018, the México HR team at German automotive company Volkswagen surprised corporate with the proposal to develop a wellness toolbox. The mission was, and still is, for each department to design (at least) two positive actions that can be implemented yearly.

To date, more than 70 ideas companywide have been compiled through this strategy. Examples include putting up messages to recognize an employee; designing an event where the employees have 12 minutes to share with co-workers something that offers wellness to their lives; and even organizing virtual funeral services to offer support for those employees who lost a loved one during the pandemic.

The idea is to break with the stigma that personal and working life are disassociated, as well as to increase the level of wellness, commitment, and intent of the employees.

In the case of Volkswagen, focusing on wellness opened the door to being noticed by headquarters by presenting a model that integrates actions oriented on having happier, more committed teams. México became a role model for the entire company with this dynamic.

Natura: POV from Latin America

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brazilian cosmetics group Natura has promoted workplace flexibility among its employees with hybrid working schemes and has invested in health to drive talent retention.

Breaking with the paradigm that flexibility means only not going to the office, it is one of the practices that HR promoted through limits in work schedules and campaigns with an inclusive point of view. For example, there were designated forums for parents focused on issues such as joint responsibility while raising children, time management, and family tasks, among other topics.

Natura also cut down the training connection time, with the idea to focus the learning according to each employee’s profile. People used to dedicate seven and a half days to training. However, the average is now five and half days, with a higher level of commitment to finish the training and gain specific knowledge.

Banregio Bank’s Wellness Program

The pandemic has decreased productivity among employees by between 10% and 15%, according to the Global Wellness Institute. Even though, according to information gathered by Instituto de Ciencias del Bienestar (Wellness and Happiness Science Institute in México), something as normal as requesting an employee to “jump” from one task to another, without clarity about expectations and adequate training, can cause mental blocks that damage productivity by up to 40%.

Keeping in mind these metrics and the development environments, Mexican bank Banregio decided to offer a more holistic focus to the wellness program, designing activities to take care of physical and emotional health through emotional health/life experience talks, family days, and developing a “Human Library” concept. The idea was to invite all employees — including executives — to share a difficult, challenging situation they have experienced, so employees could learn about how that person moved forward in the experience.

One of the biggest challenges in the company was to show that vulnerability is a part of everyone — including managers. Banregio developed a special session where every leader chose an experience and talked about fear and vulnerability. This helped changed employees’ perceptions about their leaders and, ultimately, their behaviors.

While these examples describe specific initiatives in México, companies across the world have made progress on the mental health front, with many new programs initiated as a result of the pandemic. However, there’s still a long way to go. We all stand to learn from these successful concepts and programs and to develop more innovative ways to help improve employee wellness at our own organizations — today and in the future.

Today's post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Here in the United States, May is Mental Health Month. Since 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) and affiliates across the country have used Mental Health Month to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans' lives, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. As part of this month-long observance, MHA reaches out to millions of people through the media, local events, screenings and via their annual toolkit.

I don't personally ever remember a time when there was more of a focus on mental health than there is right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages, causing increased anxiety, stress, substance abuse, and isolation. It has been an incredibly difficult time. Because of this, it's more important than ever to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.

Employers bear some responsibility here. A good employer knows that it can't function optimally without its people being healthy and happy. That is why the focus on mental and physical wellness programs has grown over the years. It's a topic we've been paying attention to at The Workforce Institute for some time now, and in recognition of Mental Health Month, we're sharing five of our favorite articles on the topic.

Why Companies Must Embrace Technology to Support Workplace Mental Health

This October 2020 post from board member Dan Schawbel points out that three out of every four workers have struggled with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and 80 percent would consider quitting their current job for one that focused more on employee mental health. Dan's article goes on to cite research showing that most people are more comfortable using technology to assist with mental health because it provides a judgment-free zone (34%), is an unbiased outlet to share their problems (30%), and provides quick answers to their health-related questions (29%).

Gen Z Mental Health During Quarantine

In April of 2020, board member Dennis Miller was already perceiving the mental health challenges emerging. This article focuses on the need for managers and organizations to pay special attention to the emotional and mental health impact the COVID-19 crisis has had at all levels of the organization, particularly among young millennials and Gen Zers who may not have experienced a national or world crisis before.

Our 2020 Global Workforce Predictions

Just before the pandemic struck, we issued our 2020 workplace predictions and top of the list was ”œWholistic employee wellness takes center stage as total rewards strategies drive recruitment and retention in a tight economy.” We noted that competition to attract and retain top talent ”“ both for office and frontline workers ”“ would further compel employers to expand and innovate total rewards packages that support employees in and outside the workplace. ”œEver-increasing natural disasters and crises will challenge employers to prepare and respond with efficiency and compassion” ”“ wish that last part hadn't turned out to be quite so prescient.

5 Ways to Improve Your Physical and Emotional Wellbeing While Working from Home

This post from board member Natalie Bickford focuses on five actionable steps anyone can take to improve their physical and mental health while working from home during the pandemic ”“ as so many of us were and still are. At the close, Natalie notes, ”œMy final thought on this topic is don't feel the need to try to be a superhero! This is a really challenging moment in our history, and we should cut ourselves some slack (and maybe an extra slice of chocolate cake), while also trying to find our own personal way of getting through it.” Good advice then and now!

Compassionate and Inclusive Management in 2021

I wrote this piece at the start of the year focusing on the idea that the organizations that will excel in 2021 will be led by compassionate and inclusive management that emphasizes empathy, wellness, and belonging. In it, I quote from a great piece by Nika White in Entrepreneur magazine that revealed that 53% of adults are experiencing higher levels of stress and worry because of current events; Issues of stress and anxiety in the workplace are nothing new – especially among women, people of color and other marginalized groups; and the more your staff feels supported, acknowledged and understood, the more they can positively contribute to your business.

I hope you find these articles helpful to your work and your life. I think if anything, Mental Health Awareness Month is a great opportunity for all of us to spend some time thinking about how we can be better to ourselves and those around us. If the last year has taught us anything, it's that we're all in this together, and the better we take care of ourselves and each other, the more successful we will be as individuals and organizations.

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