We have all heard about the Founder Blues. A lot of tech people are working in companies that require long hours and are often less than stable. Books such as Unstoppable by Grasshopper founder David Hauser provide a structure for being successful while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, many entrepreneurs and managers remain unaware of how their company will impact their physical and mental health.
One in five American adults experiences mental illness in any given year. While one in 25 American’s illness will be sufficiently serious to interfere with their everyday lives. Twenty percent is already high, but Open Sourcing Mental Illness, a non-profit agency, estimates that the figure among the tech-industry population is even higher.
With so many people affected by poor mental health, you might think that a ground-breaking solution would address the issue. Even with progressive HR policies and the open-mindedness of start-up culture, the issue remains stigmatized across many organizations. Even today, it is a discussion that belongs in your home and not at work.
We need to address the issues at its root. First and foremost, we need to change the way we talk and perceive mental health.
Why don’t we talk about mental health?
Mental health is more apparent than ever. Why are discussions about mental health still so difficult to have? Unfortunately, society still perceives poor mental health as a personal weakness. It is not something we are talking about at work. This is because we are not interested in sharing our weaknesses with our colleagues and bosses. The stigma surrounding mental health, however, goes beyond looking or feeling weak.
Most conditions of mental health are not traditional illnesses (i.e., autism, restrictive personality disorder, etc.). Instead, they include extreme but less apparent disorders, such as common anxiety or major depression. Even your closest friends cannot tell you that you are battling with major depression. So, their responses can range from unbelief to bullying if they find out. The tone of this conversation must change.
Talking About Mental Health
Mental health needs top-down leadership to initiate meaningful conversations about it. Data shows that the mental health of your corporate suite or your daily employees is not distinguishable. It should be remembered that even the most unlikely suspects can be affected, including founding members.
To progress on the agenda for mental health, it is essential to respect work-life balance and limitations, starting with the top. A typical example is that a response to an email should not be anticipated at 2 a.m. If your team members are on leave, ask your team members to disable Slack before they leave.
It sounds easy, but it’s difficult for many companies to let go of their staff even when they are on vacation!
As leaders in the industry, it is up to us to eliminate toxic working cultures and ancient approaches. To build top-down cultures that resolve this problem and avoid its impact. We can only begin the conversation by initiating it at the top, and together we can ensure that our companies work safely and in the best interests of our long-term business objectives.