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The negative mental health reverberations of 2020 will continue for years to come. 

Depression, anxiety, loneliness and burnout have become household names. Employers are struggling to keep their employees engaged and healthy. 

And now, it's time to start thinking about what's to come. Should we or shouldn't we go back to the way things were? The answer is complicated. 

You may be surprised to learn, that over 80% of CEOs are considering bringing back their employees to full-time, in-office work. Only 10% of employees want to come back full-time. This discrepancy might cause some friction in the coming months. According to a new study by Robert Half, one third of employees may quit if forced to return to the office full time and just under 50% would like a hybrid model of working. 

We discuss this conundrum and dive more in-depth about how mental health has changed and continues to be top of mind in the workplace in our recent Brews with Bruce discussion below. 

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Video Transcript

Iliana Pacheco:

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Brews with Bruce and IIiana. And I'm happy to report it's finally cold brew season, so I'm super excited. It's a beautiful Friday afternoon, so welcome. Today we have a special guest, Marcy Klipfel, and we're going to be talking about mental health. So with that, I'll pass it over to you, Bruce.

Bruce Gillis:

Thanks Iliana. So first, Marcy, thank you very much for joining us. It may be cold brew season. It's also Derby season here in Louisville where I am. So it's Derby eve today, so happy Derby eve, everyone.

Bruce Gillis:

So yeah. It doesn't feel quite like the Derby because it's still the pandemic season, but we're still hopeful. Well, today we're going to be talking about, the month of May is mental health awareness month, very important topic. We really want to talk about it on a couple of different angles, really to drive awareness of the importance of mental health, things that employers are doing, what some of the challenges that we've seen over the last 12 plus months and some of the opportunities that we've seen come out of the last few months and some of the developments there. Marcy, thank you so much for joining. I know this is a topic that Businessolver has been promoting and has been championing for a while, but I really appreciate you joining to talk about this.

Marcy Klipfel:

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It's clearly a topic that takes a wide array of strategies and honestly focus to bring it to the forefront and really continue to remove the stigma so that people have space and are provided grace to really check in with themselves and honestly know where they are from a mental health perspective.

Bruce Gillis:

And I think it's really important. One of the things that we talk about often at Businessolver, we talk about meeting people where they are. And I think that sentiment carries specifically over to this conversation really well because to your point, it's about giving people the space to kind of be where they are to take care of themselves, take away the stigma that has historically unfortunately been attached to mental health issues, which is actually though, there's a lot of positives because we're seeing a lot of effort and a lot of support being put into mental health issues where we haven't seen that in years, which is good. But with that, what are the trends that you're seeing from a mental health perspective?

Marcy Klipfel:

Yeah. So we actually go through our data as you know, for our benefits provider. We do that mid year. So both of these years have been really interesting because we've taken a really hard look at our claims and our data, last year being a couple right as the pandemic was hitting and everything was shutting down. And now a whole year later, in that data, it tells unfortunately things that we don't like to see with claims really around co-morbidities. And when you peel those back, a lot of those being stress-related substance abuse, things that have really impacted people in different ways, perhaps people who were on a great road to recovery and then the pandemic hits and they can't say on that clean road anymore, or the stress is just so much that people are starting to turn to substance abuse and maybe that wasn't something that they dealt with prior to the pandemic.

Marcy Klipfel:

So we are seeing higher claims and we are seeing trends that are specifically related to stress and anxiety in a bigger way than we did prior to the pandemic. On the flip side, as you said, some positives that have come through is because especially at a place like Businessolver where we have executives and leaders and employees and solvers who are willing to step forward with their stories, we have found that talking about it and bringing it to the forefront has actually helped increase in our utilization for telemedicine, doctors on demand and as well as EAP, which we can have a whole conversation about EAP and whether that really needs people where they need to be met from a mental health perspective. However, we do see for those that determine that they might have something that they need to address getting to EAP for those that will do it.

Marcy Klipfel:

It does help them and we are seeing them use those avenues more, which I think is good because candidly pre-pandemic, we still had things that people dealt with from a mental health perspective and they probably needed to seek out that help. And so we're hopeful that this helped bring light to it and Make It OK, which is a big push for NAMI this month of Make It OK. And so hopefully people are seeking help that needed it prior, but now they're comfortable doing so.

Bruce Gillis:

And it really kind of brings up, when I think about the last 12 months and specifically the mental health challenges that the pandemic and the social distancing, right? Which also leads to social isolation that has gone on over the last year, it hits generations differently. Just thinking about myself, my kids and my parents, right? My parents were more face-to-face social interaction versus my kids, wherever they are right now, they all have their phones in their hand, right? And so you kind of look at the last 12 months and you say, it's got to have a different impact. And while there are these different tools that are rolling out, which I think is great, and again, it helps meet people where they are, it's interesting when I think about the different challenges, because again, maybe the older generations may be less technically, and not always the case, but not maybe as technically dependent, maybe that's probably the best way to put it, as the younger generations.

Bruce Gillis:

And so I look at that and think, these tools have been really helpful. I also recognize there's still some challenges, right? There's still opportunities and I think that for me, it's been kind of a deliberate exercise in trying to stay in touch with certain people because the last 12 months have just been so very isolating and you have to think, without daily contact or interaction with people, it adds additional level of stress. As you were saying, you see it as an employer, you'll see it across the claims, you'll see just the additional stressors and people are really needing to go through it alone because of the mandates, the social distance. So it's definitely an interesting topic. I know internally, we've had a lot of conversations about how do we stay in touch with people? How do we keep that connectivity? And one of the ways that we do it, right? Is this face-to-face.

Bruce Gillis:

We always have our cameras on so that it's not an anonymous voice on the other end of the phone, but what we're seeing, we're smiling, we're laughing and we're talking with people, even though we're on Teams calls eight hours a day. And I think that's really cool how the technology is allowing us to bridge some of those gaps. But what are you seeing that's capturing your attention, that's really making a difference or allowing us to see differences being made in these challenging situations?

Marcy Klipfel:

Yeah. And not a surprise, of course, empathy is at the underpinning of all of this, right? So really exercising empathy. So when you said, at Businessolver, we always have our cameras up, and we do. And I have found for those that I lead on my team or that I work with on a regular basis, those who are more introverted, it's emotionally exhausting for them because in a office setting, if they needed to really sort of dig in and get some time to recharge their batteries and sort of get away from people, they could physically do that, where if people are on camera from morning until night, and especially if they don't crave that interaction because they've filled their batteries in a different way, I have found myself checking in with those folks and saying, "Hey, today for your one-on-one, would you rather just put your earphones in and we'll call on the cell phone, or do you want to walk and talk? You don't need to have your camera on."

Marcy Klipfel:

When's the last time you got up from your desk, because we're missing that too, right? We're missing the walk-bys and stumbling upon someone as you're walking to the bathroom. And so I've just really tried and I think our leaders continuing with that empathy approach, you have to just ask people, "How can I help you recharge your battery today? Do you need to turn your camera off?" And again, it's a best practice for us to have it on, but sometimes people need that break. And so it's okay to check in with people and say, "Today, it's not a client facing meeting, it's just you and me. Well, how can I help you just recharge?" Or we've had a big thing with business overweight this week, like slaying those meetings, making sure that you're not putting people in meetings to have meetings because, again, they wear on people. You need to give people time to step back, think, get out of their maybe typical workspace. That's where innovation happens, is stepping away.

Marcy Klipfel:

So I think some of the trends are, we've passed a year now, and while lots of this technology has connected us in ways that are different and maybe we didn't even think about, they also do provide a level of fatigue that we need to pay attention to as we look to now, we will be a workplace anywhere, company for example, and this will be how we do business. But how do we make sure that we don't fatigue people in this effort, right? So it's a balance. But again, empathy is at the underpinning of it. Asking people, what do you need? How can I help this work anywhere, workplace anywhere? How can I help when we're not working and be better for you? How can it improve? And sometimes it's just little things like they just need to be able to walk and talk or turn the camera off or think about their space differently.

Bruce Gillis:

Yeah. It's a really good call out because I know myself, I have a lot of conversations every day, but 100% of them are deliberate, right? Because you're not bumping into someone in the break room, right? There's no water cooler talk. You are either deliberately getting on a phone call, they're calling you or you're calling them, right? Or the conversations don't happen. And so there are no incidental conversations that go on, which means largely there's no... You may chit-chat with someone that you're on a meeting about cobra with, but you got on the call to talk about cobra. And to your point, making that extra effort to say, hey, I'm going to reach out to this person, not to ask them about compliance, but to check in. And I think it's a great call out because I think it's, again, just thinking to my daily routine, I come in and I look at my calendar and it dictates every conversation I'm going to have that day.

Bruce Gillis:

And so it definitely makes sense. And another challenge that I've seen in other conversations I've had with folks is talking about just other things about how you address mental health. I think we've kind of referred to it as like, how do you normalize treating mental health issues, taking care of yourself, right? Just in conversations, we've kind of compared and said, well, no one feels guilty about treating a hurt ankle, right? No one feels ashamed and no one has a challenge with that or feels they have to justify it. At the same time, if you're struggling with something that maybe doesn't have a physical symptom that you can point to, people struggle. They struggled to feel like they should take time to address it. And I think the other challenge too is if you're working from home, some of these things feel like, oh, well, I should just work. I'll just deal with this in my spare time because I don't have to leave.

Bruce Gillis:

And I think it kind of calls out the importance of making the time. I can remember, when I first became a dad, this is a weird tie in, but my father told me, he said, "You don't take the time for your kids, you make the time for your kids." And I think it's kind of the same thing, right? You don't look for an opportunity to take care of your mental health, you make the opportunity. And I think it's kind of an important distinction and I think that... I look at everything from a compliance angle because that's just kind of my way I'm made, I guess. But vacation days, your sick, right? People take sick days to take care of a hurt ankle or a sick stomach, but they don't think about it in terms of, what do I need to do to truly take care of me? And I think people need to take that broader perspective in thinking about their wellbeing.

Bruce Gillis:

And the NAMI initiative, Make It OK, I mean, there's so many important points to call out here. So when we talk about normalizing, I'm going to kind of ask you for your thoughts on what are people are doing or what can people do? Specifically, I know you gave the example before about leadership, but are there thoughts you have around what can be done around normalizing the importance of full care?

Marcy Klipfel:

So I think anytime leaders and really any of the people who are in roles or places of influence, any time those folks are willing to share and to be vulnerable, it immediately models the way and drives a culture where that's okay. And so, again, we're blessed because we have executives and team members who have been more than gracious in sharing their own struggles. Vision, coming up, we will have a whole panel and we had talked about, there will be a CEO, male CEO, I think he's in his thirties, sharing his mental health struggle, and I think about how powerful that is for his organization for him to step forward and do that. And so if you have that ability, especially in an HR profession, if you're able to influence people to step forward, I think that's wonderful. That's not for everyone, which completely understand.

Marcy Klipfel:

But if you are in that space where you have people willing to do that, that's just a wonderful way to just sort of open up the conversation. In some organizations, that might not be in their culture and they may not have that environment. And so then I would say, to the extent, really that's what a great engagement, a great human resources team is there to do is to help drive a conversation perhaps between a leader and an employee who maybe are struggling at getting to the root cause of something, and of course, in a very safe and privacy of course, confidential way, but maybe facilitate and help and model the way. Because I truly think most people care. They want to help, they just don't know how to. And the reality is there are experts and resources, every company has them, to help. That's not the job of the, in this situation, the leader that broaches the topic.

Marcy Klipfel:

Their job is to just make sure that the employee has access to those resources and knows that they're there. So I think that's where a lot of it is, really helping people find, again, space and grace to say, I want you to know you're safe here. If you need to share something or if you don't want to share it, I want to provide you these resources so that if you need them, you know where to go get them, they're at your fingertips. And that's all you have to say. I think a lot of times, again, they know something's there, but they don't know how to broach it without feeling like now they have to solve, and they don't have to solve it.

Bruce Gillis:

That's a great call out. And I like the fact that the leader is sending the message that needing to address a personal issue, a mental health issue is not a sign of weakness, right? Getting the help you need is a sign of strength. And kind of addressing that stigma and showing successful people that from the outside you look at and they are crushing it. At the same time, you look and you go, but anyone can have these challenges and can address them. And that you need to learn from their example and and maybe borrow some of their strength and find the help that's available. So one of the things we always talk about on Brews With Bruce, one of the way, we always try to get to, what are the key takeaways? What are the call to actions here? So I will ask you, because again, this is an important topic, what's your call to action for employers and for participants?

Marcy Klipfel:

I think for employers, again, I am very aware that not all cultures are already lending itself to have this be comfortable. So get uncomfortable would be my call to action, especially if you are in a position where you can make decisions and you are an influencer or you do sit within a human resources profession, drive some uncomfortable conversations because it's the only way you will start to build that culture to make it okay. So I would say for employers, that's important as well as making sure that all of the resources that are available, make them easy for people to access. I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to finally want to make that phone call or reach out or get help and you don't know where to go, and you're searching for it on your internal. So again, drive that staff to a place where, for people who need it, they can easily access it, or leaders have it ready to say, I'm just going to put this in our chat. I just want to make sure these things are available to you.

Marcy Klipfel:

So package it up and communicate it in a lot of different ways so people can grab it easily. And then I would say for employees, again, if you're finding yourself in that space and sharing is something that you're comfortable doing, reach out and ask if there's a forum or if there's a way that you can share your story, because I promise you, others will be inspired because of it. And maybe it won't even have them come forward and share, although that's what we often find happens is it's sort of this wonderful sharing the friendship bread effects. But even for those that aren't comfortable, you may make a difference. Honestly, you may make a difference between someone getting help or addressing something and honestly becoming the other, very, very despondent, sick and horribly in some cases, even going into suicidal.

Marcy Klipfel:

So you just never know. And so if you are in that place and you find yourself there, please find ways to share. And I think NAMI is such a great resource to bring in and help organizations with how do you find those stories to tell. And so I'd say anybody walking away today also that is sitting and saying, gosh, I want to help, but I don't know how, I would say, take a step back and in your interactions if you are feeling that someone may be struggling, again, reach out and just say, I just am sensing. I just want you to know I care and I want you to know this is a safe place if you need an ear and a listener. I can't solve, but what I can do is listen, and no judgment zone, and then I can help you find those resources available. So hopefully that's not overwhelming, too many actions. I think that they're pretty, again, rooted in empathy, but hopefully it can inspire somebody to make it okay for somebody else.

Bruce Gillis:

No, I think it's great. And I like how you began with and you commented earlier, get uncomfortable, right? This isn't necessarily a comfortable topic for many people, but getting uncomfortable is how we're going to change that. We need to kind of break down that barrier and break down that stigma, and it's so important. And unfortunately, unlike a sprained ankle, there's not the outward signs that, oh, maybe this person needs a little extra support. How can I help them? So I think it's a great, great call-out. I will ask Iliana if we can get the link to NAMI because I know we referenced it a couple of different times to include in the chat. So we'll get that included. I also want to put in a shameless plug, but we've got our Vision event coming up. And so Vision is an annual event and Businessolver.

Bruce Gillis:

We cover a variety of different topics related to the industry. Actually, because of our focus on mental health, we have a mental health panel this coming Thursday, I believe it is, May 6th, from 11:15 to 12:00. It's free. You can register, we'll have a link to the registration in the comment section. Really good panelists. Carol Harnett, great speaker. I've heard her speak a couple of times in the past. She's president for the Council for Disability Awareness. Rae Shanahan, our chief strategy officer at Businessolver. Jason Youngblood, the director of US Market's Behavioral Center of Excellence and Sales Operations for Cigna. Tanner Krause, the CEO of Kum & Go, and Dr. Jessica DiVento who is chief mental health advisor for YouTube. So a great panel. I'm going to be diving into these topics. Really, really good information, really relevant to this time, this particular challenges that we're facing as a country and really around the globe nowadays.

Bruce Gillis:

So really want to call that out and invite everyone. Again, that's Vision 2021, Businessolvers Vision event on May 6th. Marcy, thank you so much for joining today. I really appreciate you talking about. This as a great topic. It's one of those things where you never know who and how what a seemingly small action can sometimes have a big impact on people. And I appreciate you kind of embracing the awkward and tackling the topic.

Marcy Klipfel:

I appreciate you, Bruce. I think the work that you do to bring visibility and really to continue to highlight. Again, you never know who might be out there and watch this today and it inspires an action that affects somebody, and that's what we're after, right? We're after effecting positively somebody, one person at a time, but it's all great work. So thank you.

Bruce Gillis:

Great. Thank you. All right. Well, I hope everyone has a great week. And Iliana, I will turn it back over to you.

Iliana Pacheco:

Thanks, Bruce, and thank you so much, Marcy, for your time today. And thank you everyone who tuned in. I did put the NAMI resource link in the comment section. And then I'll also put a link to Vision for anyone who wants to sign up for our panel. And we have so many great resources at Vision. So please register today and you can attend next week. I hope everyone has an amazing weekend and we'll see you next time. Thank you so much.

If you'd like to support your employees this May, download our mental health toolkit with helpful activities and resources for you to share with your team members. 

Mental health toolkit

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