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Work Should Be Good for Our Mental Health

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By Sarah Mears, Chief Human Resources Officer

Early in my career, I remember hearing managers and co-workers say: “Work is work, home is home, and one has nothing to do with the other.”

Of course, that wasn’t true then and it’s not true now. We’ve seen how our experiences at work and home have a significant impact on every aspect of our lives, particularly around mental wellness. And I’ve thought about those early experiences a great deal recently and how far we’ve come in creating a warm and open community where colleagues feel they belong, are respected and can be their best selves in a psychologically safe space.

In the aftermath of the global pandemic, mental health is an increasingly important topic in many industries as reports of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and stress skyrocket. But it’s not enough for companies to talk about helping colleagues, we must “walk the walk” to connect with and support each other.

As a global firm, MUFG Investor Services is passionately committed to raising awareness about mental health and providing tools to support and nurture our colleagues. Beginning in 2019, we identified mental health and wellness as one of three pillars for our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion platform, along with Gender Equality and LGBTQ+ initiatives. Since then, we’ve used the lessons learned to tailor our mental health initiatives to our colleagues’ needs. We did this by listening to what employees were saying and taking action to foster the best possible environment for them to grow and thrive.

We’ve gone to great lengths to create safe interactive spaces through virtual and in-person forums, internal communications, and one-on-one meetings, for colleagues to have frank, open conversations about the challenges they’re facing. These topics have included menopause, fertility, neurodiversity, coming out as LGBTQ+, mental health challenges, managing elder care and many others. Topics that traditionally have been taboo in a working environment.

By sharing their stories and receiving real feedback from real lived experiences, our colleagues know they’re not alone and that helps to build a stronger, more connected community. Through our hybrid working model, we also enable employees to design their own work environments to do our part in championing their work / life balance, which ultimately creates a thriving workforce.

At the same time, we provide access to a wellness app that helps employees proactively identify signs of stress and depression and offers thoughtful guidance to help tackle these feelings. We also host workshops that teach how to build mental resilience and develop coping mechanisms to manage stress, while also providing tips for improving sleep and using nutrition, exercise, and relaxation techniques.

And we’ve embraced the concept of colleagues helping each other directly. Our global Mental Health First Aiders program features a team of employees who we fully train to assist their co-workers during a crisis and offer guidance on receiving additional help. We’re so grateful for these volunteers and the enormous impact they’ve had on individuals.

All these efforts have made it easier for our colleagues to say, “I’m not OK,” without worrying that asking for help may affect an assignment or promotion, and we continue to work on eliminating that fear entirely.

These mental wellness programs also help employees to regularly assess their own mental health. Each person’s approach differs, so it’s important to offer a range of support mechanisms, through both formal learning and learning through each other’s experiences.

I believe the last few years have shown us that professional or financial success means little without the mental wellness to lead a happy, satisfying life. And it’s clear that we can’t serve clients as well as we’d like, or work together as effectively as we need to, unless we first take care of ourselves.

As I look back and reflect on my early career, I remember a very wise senior HR director tell a very young and green me, that if I wanted to change the world for the better, then change the workplace. I’m so proud of our evolving culture and I pledge to do all I can to ensure our colleagues feel they belong, are respected, are supported, and can bring their authentic selves to work every day.