Five ways to create safe corporate spaces… Leave a comment

Many employees now have high levels of stress, anxiety, and in some cases, depression. Twenty-nine percent of employees described themselves as depressed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Gartner HR Study. Due to this concerning evidence, some proactive companies have taken on innovative approaches to improving safety in disclosing psychological needs. The 2021 PwC Health and Well-being Touchstone Survey found 44% of employers added or improved wellness support and programs within their organizations due to the pandemic.

These kinds of changes aren’t just “perks” for employees. Below are five actionable tips for evolving your workplace into one that holds mental health high in priority.


A simple step you can implement right now is being intentional with the language used within your organization. This starts from the top at leadership and managerial levels and is reinforced with hard language throughout company materials such as mission, vision, brand values, and company policy documents.

Make sure your leaders know that even seemingly light-hearted jokes can be interpreted differently by every individual employee. Calling a colleague who is difficult to work with a “psycho” is not the punchline someone may think it is, or casually complaining about how “depressed” you are this week might make someone who is actually battling depression feel like their ongoing diagnosis won’t be taken seriously by others.


It is very difficult to gauge employees’ mental health by just sending out surveys. In fact, McKinsey & Company has reported that burnt-out employees are actually less likely to respond to surveys at all. In order to get ahead of this, make sure to invest in inclusive leadership training.

Good leaders matter, and the really good ones have teams that feel comfortable asking for a little extra support without having to disclose any personal information. The best advice to managers is to create opportunities for rest during stressful times, show consistency in following through on intentions, and trust and believe your employees. No one should have to prove they need a break—if they say they do, they do!


Several companies have begun implementing rest days on a consistent basis. Work-life balance is at the top of 72% of incoming employees’ priorities list, according to Statista. The last several years have created completely new challenges and responsibilities that require time and energy. The companies that have flexibility in the DNA of their schedule policies are the ones workers are flocking to. Approach these decisions with sensitivity and kindness. When employees feel that they can handle their personal lives, a level of trust can be built that naturally creates a safe environment for mental health conversations.


Creating an environment that is realistic to everyday expectations and struggles is paramount. Some things in life outside of work are stressful and you may have been led to believe that bringing them up in a work environment is unprofessional. That belief is evolving, and there should now be an emphasis on letting employees show up to work as themselves, without having to edit or mold who they are to fit in.

Employee resource groups are great for creating a safe place to facilitate conversations about stress and mental health, as well as making sure leaders and managers are checking in one-on-one. Also, make sure employees who are making an exit feel respected, and if you enjoyed working with them, continue to support them in their next career moves. For whatever reason they needed to move on, it was the right choice for them, and making sure to keep that transition positive can help employees reset.


The above steps are amazing and necessary, but it’s also important to understand that creating a safe space for mental health to thrive doesn’t actually solve mental health challenges. Making sure that there are accessible professionals for any needs that come up is a true benefit for employees.

First, review your medical insurance offerings and make sure mental health claims are well covered at every insurance level. Second, bring in a counselor or facilitator from those insurance companies or third-party programs to support employees in finding care. The medical system is confusing and intimidating, especially for someone questioning their mental health, which is still taboo. McKinsey & Company reported 67% of employees with mental illness have trouble accessing care. Having someone to help, walk through the necessary steps, and find a resource can really go the extra mile. Lastly, partner with third-party mental health-focused organizations that can provide an additional resource for those who are attracted to virtual and/or app-based care.

The time to prioritize mental health in the workplace is now. Urgency in making changes and taking action to ensure this happens in a timely manner can help lead to more interest in talent acquisition, higher retention, and most importantly, a safe space for your employees to thrive.

Dr. Ebbie Parsons, III is the Managing Partner of Yardstick Management, America’s leading Black-owned Management Consulting firm.


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