Article | May 06, 2020

On Extending Compassion: Making Mental Health a Priority

Gary Shapiro

May is Mental Health Awareness Month — an opportunity for companies to step back and consider what they’re doing to encourage mental well-being in these trying times. The uncertainty of COVID-19 has taken a toll on us all, and companies that want to maximize their impact will put people first.

When talking about well-being and health, we can’t separate or devalue mental health from physical health. As we navigate the new challenges the virus has added to our personal and professional lives, it’s important to practice compassion toward colleagues and employees — and toward ourselves.

Technology offers many tools to those who find themselves struggling to stay positive and resilient. Thanks to advances in video conferencing technology, we can now connect with counselors and therapists — even when we need to stay at home. Apps including Calm and Headspace enable us to practice mindfulness from our living room or backyard. These innovations are helping countless people find a greater sense of peace and well-being. And they’re particularly useful in high-stress situations like what we now face.

I’m proud to say the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® community is helping our employees and the tech community as a whole stay mentally strong. Many of our member companies are making their mental health services more widely known and available during the pandemic. Doctor on Demand is offering remote mental health assessments and appointments. Ginger is providing behavioral health coaching via its app to front-line health care workers.

As an organization, taking care of our employees is a priority, and we’ve worked to make available resources designed to keep our staff connected and positive during these difficult times. Employee assistance programs offer helpful tools, including mental health support through Teladoc, and helpful tips for working parents on how to manage having children at home, care for elderly relatives or better adapt to living at home alone under social distancing.

CTA also created community-building activities that help employees stay connected even as they telework. One person coordinated a Slack thread for staff gardeners, who swap tips as they get outside and tend to their plants. Research shows that getting outside and exercising are key to maintaining good mental health, and they’re particularly important habits to build during quarantine. So, we started a fitness challenge, offering rewards to the employees who clock the most steps. Another channel encourages employees to share pictures of their pets. These various Slack channels connect staff around interests they already have — and encourage staff to try something new.

The tech industry thrives when people — who may think differently or come from different backgrounds — convene to innovate together. That means cultivating a company culture where employees can bring their full selves to work, including the vulnerable parts of themselves that are struggling during these challenging times.

By supporting each other and being mindful of one another’s mental health needs, we as an industry — and as employers — can get through this pandemic and emerge even stronger and more resilient on the other side.