What does the future of mental health in the workplace look like?
This may be a challenging question to answer, considering that many organizations are still trying to understand just what the future of the workplace looks like in general. The pandemic has created a unique opportunity for organizations to reimagine their workplaces and the culture they want to build for their people.
Likewise, there is an opportunity to change how mental health services are delivered to employees and the organization. Even before the onset of the pandemic, the demand for workplace mental health services has been steadily rising. This mental health awakening has fueled the Great Resignation, driving many employers to seek more robust mental health resources for their employees as part of their recruiting and retention strategies.
Mental health services such as high-touch employee assistance programs are excellent resources that demonstrate an organization’s commitment to connecting its employees to the care they need. However, organizations that are committed to implementing exceptional mental health strategies are increasingly investing in embedded resources within the workplace to deliver tailored leadership consultation expertise and direct employee support.
What is Thrive Consulting?
Thrive Consulting, a component of Guide+Thrive by BHS, matches organizations to world-class clinical liaisons called Thrive Consultants, who deliver unparalleled access to support for employees, teams and the organization, improving culture and impacting performance. The idea of Thrive Consulting is similar to the Showtime series “Billions” character, Dr. Wendy Rhoades (excluding the drama and scandals), who is an in-house psychiatrist and performance coach at a hedge fund.
Thrive Consultants are dynamic behavioral clinicians, therapists, and coaches who have distinctive skillsets to engage individuals and groups to encourage and promote well-being. Because Thrive Consultants are immersed within the organization, they are uniquely positioned to help busy professionals stay focused, motivated and at their best by providing confidential, personalized, timely support.
How Can Thrive Consulting Impact Mental Health in the Workplace?
“You get the benefit of someone who can observe the culture and understand the organization’s overall goals,” explains Thrive Consultant Andrew Blatter, a licensed clinical social worker.
“I can be much more effective working with someone when I understand their environment.”
Dr. Jay Gorman, a licensed psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, adds, “It’s a convenient, low barrier way for employees to interact with mental health professionals. The service is provided while employees are at work, and scheduling a consultation is easy.” Employees can book an appointment using an online scheduler for a time that is convenient for them.
One thing that makes Thrive Consulting so unique is that many Thrive Consultants held occupations in professional services before pivoting their careers to helping others.
“Thrive Consultants come with a commercial awareness that you wouldn’t get if you see a counselor,” explains Caroline Plumer, a British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy accredited therapist who formerly worked in a stressful corporate role. “They specialize in specific businesses because they are passionate and interested in their work.”
Andrew is a former attorney. Throughout his legal career, he was heavily involved in attorney mentoring. Thrive Consulting provided him with an opportunity to fulfill a passion he had ever since he left the legal profession in 2000.
“I wanted to do one-on-one work with people to help them thrive in their careers,” Andrew stated. “I chose a Master of Social Work program with the idea of coming back and working with young lawyers, mentoring them as they grew in the profession, and helping them learn how to manage the stress and the various issues that come up.”
Employees can engage with Thrive Consultants for various reasons, including one-on-one counseling and coaching sessions, problem-solving, goal-setting and skill-building.
“Thrive Consulting is about leveraging strengths to effectuate change,” says Dr. Gorman. We work together with individuals to access the solutions they have within them. It’s about attending to their needs, understanding them and working with them to take steps to help discover solutions.”
“Sometimes it’s about strategizing about a particular problem,” explains Andrew. “Often, someone comes in with a specifically identified problem. Our role is to understand more about what someone is going through and develop a plan to address it. The impact is immediate.”
Andrew adds, “When someone comes in and talks about the stress they feel about their job and getting things done, there are several avenues we explore. Are they taking on too much because demands are too high? Are there certain dynamics within them that makes it harder to say ‘no?’”
A common challenge in high-performing professions is imposter syndrome, where there is a demand for perfection. “People talk negatively to themselves about the quality of their work,” explains Caroline. “It might have to do with how they manage their workload or stress at work. We work with them to find out what’s going on and equip them with the skills to help themselves out.”
Group work is another crucial aspect of Thrive Consulting. Group work may involve teams, departments, employee resource or affinity groups and specific employee populations.
“The beauty of Thrive Consultants is that they tend to be quite flexible and adaptable in their approach depending on the needs of the business,” explains Caroline. “Group work could include conducting workshops or training on managing stress or anxiety at work, relationship building or even conflict resolution.”
Andrew, for example, has worked with junior lawyers to help them understand the types of dynamics and stresses that new lawyers experience. “During these group sessions, I helped normalize some of their feelings, particularly during the pandemic, when people could not develop informal connections that are critical for a sense of belonging,” stated Andrew. “Instead of pretending these issues do not exist, I help them confront them head-on to normalize them and let others know that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings.”
Caroline adds, “It might be talking about the issues within teams and how they can be resolved or talking to specific groups impacted by current events that cause stress and anxiety that show up in the workplace.” Events such as racialized violence, discrimination and mass shootings can impact people based on location, race, identity, or role. Thrive Consultants offer those affected a forum to talk and discuss their experiences.
Smaller group sessions also encourage participants to schedule one-on-one consultations with the Thrive Consultant for additional support. “I held a smaller group session of about 25 people at lunch,” Andrew recalls. “After that lunch session, six of them scheduled individual consultations with me.”
In addition to providing services for individuals and groups, Thrive Consultants advise organizational leaders on well-being trends impacting the workplace and collaborate on special initiatives. These initiatives can include strategies for decreasing the stigma around behavioral health and building a culture that embraces the importance of emotional well-being.
“Creating a strategy starts with framing the conversation and goals for what the organization wants to accomplish,” says Dr. Gorman. “There are multiple avenues to accomplish their goals that can be tested and refined as outcomes are evaluated. We help identify the problems and offer solutions on how to go about solving them.”
Caroline adds, “The most important thing we do when working with leaders is ensuring that they have visibility into the program and the capabilities we bring so they encourage employees to utilize our services. We also work with them to create a long-term mental health strategy as opposed to just having reactionary interventions.”
Thrive Consulting delivers incredible value for organizations. “If we’re going to be really business-minded about it, there is no denying the impacts of Thrive Consulting,” states Caroline. “These mental health interventions have on return on investment.” According to a 2017 Deloitte report, mental health programs averaged over a 4:1 ROI.
Dr. Gorman acknowledges, “Expectations around how organizations care for their employees have changed and for the better. It’s no longer acceptable to just provide lip service and say, ‘we promote self-care.’ Taking action and offering the precious commodity of time and a resource like a Thrive Consultant to help with self-care is a big part of demonstrating that they value their employees.”
“Thrive Consulting is where the future of mental health in the workplace is going,” concludes Dr. Gorman.
Want to dig deeper?
Watch this on-demand webinar on Shifting Culture and Attitudes Toward Mental Health Through Awareness and Engagement.