By Sarah Wilen - 14th February, 2019
As self-proclaimed geeks of all things people-centric, we were excited to attend CultureAmp’s NYC People Geekup. CultureAmp, which produces tools to help people give feedback in the workplace, assembled a panel of ‘People Geeks’ to speak about emotional and mental wellbeing at work.
The session was facilitated by Belma McCaffrey, founder of Work Bigger. It featured Dr. Ken Matos, CultureAmp’s Lead People Scientist, and Katie Caviello, head of People Operations at Away Travel. Matos lent his point of view as an advisor to organizational leaders, while Caviello spoke from her experience guiding her company through rapid growth and working on an individual level with employees.
Caviello highlighted the importance of developing a workplace that prioritizes wellbeing and mental health, recognizing that work and life can not always be separated. People get sick. People have bad days. People have families who need their attention unexpectedly. Caviello emphasized that each person handles these situations differently, and some flexibility can help them to know that the company has their back. As PLASTARC wrote for CoreNet, giving employees more control can also lead to improved performance. When employers contemplate this flexibility, they sometimes worry about what might go wrong or how people might try to take advantage of the system. "We build so many systems for the 1% of people that abuse them", added Matos. He also noted that there is a tendency to valorize pain and sacrifice, which is contrary to the creation of a healthy integration between work and life. Caviello added that working hard doesn’t mean working long.
Wellbeing is strongly related to and dependent upon psychological safety in the workplace, and leaders and managers play a crucial role. Employers can do more to encourage people to bring their whole selves to work. But as Matos pointed out, sometimes this idea doesn’t take root in a company’s culture. Leaders need to model that behavior. When people in leadership positions leave work early, call into meetings from their drive home, and are generally open about their lives outside of work, employees will begin to feel comfortable doing the same. Caviello described a powerful example of this—when Erin Grau, Away’s VP of People, Process, and Culture, announced her cancer diagnosis, employees began to open up about their own personal situations. Some spoke to their colleagues about anxiety issues and family illness, or shared their LGBTQ identities, all citing Grau’s bravery as a catalyst. Creating a new norm in which employees can feel comfortable and accepted as their full selves can affect an entire organization. Employees will feel more connected with one another and collaborate with more ease, leading to happier employees who also perform better.