Fighting with your partner for the best place to work at home, whining children during meetings, or lonely days working in your studio: if you recognise yourself in one of these scenarios, you probably find working at home quite a challenge. Fortunately, employers are increasingly becoming aware of this problem. Spot met with Microsoft and Samsung to talk about mental health in times of corona.
Zarreen Moore and Stephanie Furum of Microsoft are passionate about mental health on the work floor. In addition to their regular jobs as Services Account Executive (Zarreen) and Customer Success Account Manager (Stephanie), they are both working hard to call attention to the importance of mental health at the workplace. They do this together with the other members of the Employee Resource Group (ERG)/Accessibility, a committee made up of Microsoft employees. They organised the first ‘mental health week’ in October 2020.
Employees came together on a daily basis during this week to voice their concerns in online sessions. “For example, they talked about family members who suffered from depression or burn-out,” says Stephanie. “Sharing such stories makes it easier for people to talk about their own mental health. They feel safer, dare to be vulnerable and are more likely to raise the alarm if things are not going well for them.”
No more stigmas
Last year, the ERG decided to organise the event again, and this time included Microsoft customers and partners. The second event was a great success, with up to 100 people attending some of the sessions. “We invited CEOs and HR managers from various companies to tell us how they take care of their employees’ health,” says Zarreen. “There were speakers from Transavia, Wortell and ING, among others. We also organised a mindful painting class online, an interview with author and organisational psychologist Melissa Doman and a hackathon for smart mental health solutions.”
The aim of all these activities was to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. “For example, character traits that can lead to burnout are often exactly the qualities that employers look for in employees: perfectionist, hard working and a great sense of responsibility,” continues Stephanie. “So it is important to understand that people suffering a burnout are not weak, but rather have been strong for too long.”
“Mental and physical health deserve equal support,” adds Zarreen. “Ask yourself if you would react differently to a colleague with depression than to someone with a broken leg. We believe that you can only solve mental issues by putting them out in the open.”
Support for hybrid working
Nene Marringa of Samsung has also noticed how mental health has become more important since the start of the pandemic. As a specialist in Learning & Development, her responsibilities include the physical and mental health of employees. “There has been a much stronger focus on mental well-being since everyone has had to work from home. That is why we have set up a special project team for this in our HR department.”
She talks of how Samsung cooperated on hybrid working with The Recharge Company, a business lifestyle coaching institute. “We followed a month-long programme to develop a smarter and more relaxed work culture. There were workshops on focussing and time management, and we practised yoga and meditation. This provided us with plenty of tools to be able to work comfortably and effectively from home.”
Staying connected to Samsung
Everyone who works from home faces different challenges, Nene has noticed. “One employee has five small children and has to juggle a lot of responsibilities, while the other lives in a small house with a partner who also works at home. If colleagues find that they can no longer work effectively from home, they can always find a safe workplace at the office. We think it is important that this option is always available.”
For Samsung, a pleasant working environment is the number one priority. “Even when they are at home, we want them to stay connected to the organisation,” says Nene. “We are a young and competitive company and we regularly come up with challenges to help our employees stay fit. We recently had a walking challenge, for example, where colleagues encouraged each other to walk as much as possible. This helps our colleagues to stay connected and also brings them together for other activities than work.”
Nene, Stephanie and Zarreen offer a final tip: go outside once in a while, take regular breaks and take time out for yourself. Whether you take a long walk, or dance around your living room, make room in your life for the things that make you happy.