The definition of a high-performance culture has changed quickly over the past three years. On top of longer-term generational and demographic changes in the workplace, the pandemic has compounded stressors across every aspect of our lives. For that reason, the topic of mental health is in transition in the workplace – it’s a difficult subject, often regarded as a well-being issue, and not generally connected to business performance.

“With all the people challenges that we’ve had, one of the biggest parts is really opening up that discussion on mental health,” says Tracie Sponenberg, Chief People Officer of The Granite Group, a 60-location distributor of PHCP and energy products in New England. “Not talking about it can have a severe negative impact on our high-performance cultures. But talking about it can open the door to potentially transformative performance, it can unlock some creativity, it can really create an environment where people feel psychologically safe, and it can really go a long way toward inclusivity.

In this MDM Podcast, Sponenberg talks with Melissa Doman, M.A., organizational psychologist, former clinical mental health therapist and author of  Yes, You Can Talk About Mental Health at Work (Here’s Why And How To Do It Really Well). Their conversation touches on several aspects of why today mental health is an important issue to address as a leadership team, ways to destigmatize mental health and mental illness discussions, and some practical ways distributors can elevate mental health as a priority for optimal long-term organizational growth.

“A lot of businesses tend to look at talking about mental health in the workplace as it’s just fluffy feeling, Kumbaya, at work,” Doman says. “And it is so far from that, in terms of what it actually is and what the function and purpose is of talking about mental health in the workplace. The way I tend to look at it is that the brain is an organ that you need to use at work to help you do your job. So when mental health is being impacted, whether it’s outside of work, whether it’s inside of work, it can – not always – impact your performance.

“So I see it as a critical business conversation, not just a well-being conversation, which is how it’s often positioned in businesses, and why a lot of people see it as something as an optional checkbox, or a nice-to-have, as opposed to something that is critical to not only employee health and well-being, but also performance and functioning at work,” she said. “It’s how they collaborate with each other and how they do their job.

Listen to the entire conversation using the player above.

Note: Doman will host a “Why Mental Health at Work Is a Critical Business Conversation” fireside chat on Sept. 19 and lead a panel discussion later that day at MDM’s SHIFT conference, Sept. 18-20, in Denver. Sponenberg will speak as part of the opening tactical workshop on Sept. 18, as well as lead culture panel discussions on Sept. 19 and 20. Find more info here.

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