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It’s time for a complete reframe on mental health

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Across my news feed this weekend, I read many stories of everyday people around the world in the thick of coping and struggling with what we are all confronting in today's turbulent world. In every story, article and post, there was a call to action – to find a better solution for the millions across the globe suffering from anxiety, stress, loneliness and depression. 

At BetterUp, we believe that it’s time for a complete reframe on mental health that begins with a shift towards a growth-oriented solution that can help every person reach a state of thriving. We built BetterUp to create preventative solutions that reimagine mental health as an abundance of vitality, flourishing, and performance instead of merely the absence of mental illness. 

People are hurting more than ever

My conversations with customers and members about the state of their workplace is very sobering. We now live in a world where over 40% of Americans are teleworking. Employees are dealing with childcare and eldercare, assisting with distance learning, all while still operating as business leaders. Companies are transforming their businesses in real time as they are forced to become more digital, with faster timelines than they have ever achieved before. All of this combined is taking a massive toll on human wellbeing and we have seen cases of depression triple in the United States alone. 

The impacts were apparent just a few months into the pandemic. A Qualtrics survey released in April 2020, shows that workers have been suffering since the beginning of COVID-19. People are more emotionally exhausted. They are experiencing increased sadness and irritability. We’ve heard from our customers that outbursts of anger and frustration are becoming more and more common and that their HR departments are seeing a rise in employee relations incidents. Our own studies suggest that people are likely covering the depths of their struggles.

“What can my organization do to help people through change?”

It’s becoming clear to business leaders very fast that adapting to the current environment is not just a sprint. The new world order is constant change and it's starting to feel like an endurance sport. What we have all learned from past crises is that the companies who continue to invest in people and continue to innovate will emerge stronger. The top question I hear from every business executive I meet with is, “What can my organization do to help people through change?”.

My answer to them is to proactively invest in wellbeing as a fountainhead of enduring performance. To view high performance as mental strength in motion. There is mounting evidence that wellbeing is the biggest lever we have as business leaders and as designers of our company cultures. But, this requires us to embrace a bolder definition of “wellbeing,” one that goes beyond emotions to focus on the cultivation of human capabilities and behavioral skills that foster vital psychological resources like resilience, social thriving, and creativity. 

Change is a catalyst for growth

Change creates the opportunity for growth and when we embrace that opportunity, we can achieve amazing possibilities. When individuals experiencing change engage in BetterUp coaching, they grow in stress management on average by 117%, almost three times more than someone else not experiencing change. During these moments of change, people lean into wellbeing, in fact, two times more than time management or productivity. We also know that resilience and wellbeing grow together and are likely to be accompanied by fewer sleep issues, higher participation in physical activity, and greater meaning and purpose. 

As it becomes clear that the only certainty we can expect for the foreseeable future is uncertainty, leaders can take back control by empowering their people with resilience — perhaps the most critical personal and professional capability of our time.

Support that employees need and want

The opportunity to elevate both your inner life and wellbeing and your productivity and performance at work is exactly what people want. Employees are increasingly looking to their employer for the tools to thrive during change and transformation. In our recent resilience research, coaching was perceived as the highest valued company benefit provided during the pandemic, ranking higher than flexible work arrangements, more time off, and mental health resources. This makes total sense when you consider that most people are experiencing heightened symptoms of anxiety, stress, or sadness that are not necessarily clinical in nature.

What they need is more like a gym for mental fitness with a personal trainer helping them build stronger and stronger muscles to cope, adapt and problem solve when faced with change and uncertainty. We built BetterUp to be this gym.

A new vision for a thriving and high-performing workforce

As one of the early pioneers of mobile behavioral health solutions, we’ve been privileged as a company to focus on the intersection of human performance, professional development, and wellbeing. What decades of advances in the behavioral sciences and seven years of our own data illuminate is that human performance and mental health are not two separate pursuits, but two parts of the same equation: the pursuit of human flourishing.  

BetterUp exists to bring the benefits of cutting-edge technology, education, and design into the lives of ordinary human beings with the goal of helping them live their lives with more purpose, passion, and happiness. We are so proud to be working with the most progressive companies in the world like Mars Inc., Hilton, Genentech, NetApp, and Chevron, who are already benefiting from this approach of fostering wellbeing as the underpinning to performance.

The growth and high performance of our Members demonstrates what I call mental strength in motion. Members who start low on resilience grow on average by 125%. Stress is amongst the first outcomes we see, typically dropping by 71% within the first three months. Leadership behaviors like coaching grow by another 110% and this creates a ripple effect across our customers’ organizations. The team members of highly resilient leaders report 52% less burnout than those reporting to less resilience leaders, demonstrating the magnitude of value in investing in your middle managers.

Life-changing growth experiences

Above all, we know we are making a difference in people’s lives when our courageous Members, like Catherine, write with vulnerability about how much BetterUp has contributed to their wellbeing: “I’m currently in a good place in life and I credit my emotional well-being to weekly coaching through BetterUp”.

When Members leave us heartfelt feedback about how their growth has transcended both work and life like in this example, “It is life changing. I have changed behaviours, the way of working, prioritising and thriving which makes me more efficient, successful at work and happier in life! THANK YOU!!!”.

And when leaders, like Kristin, realize the powerful connection between wellbeing and performance: “Ultimately, life and work experiences impact one another so if I can improve my health, sleep, and ability to navigate uncertainty, it's going to create positive impacts in my job”. These stories motivate and drive us to work harder to achieve our mission.

Help your people thrive through change

In pre-pandemic times, wellbeing was part of HR’s remit and while seen as important, it was not strongly tied to performance or organizational outcomes. Today, mental health and wellbeing must be a top business priority because a thriving worker is an engaged, adaptive, and high-performing worker.  It’s very encouraging to hear that so many CHROs I meet with are having courageous conversations with their CEOs and boards about making mental health a top priority.

This Forbes article written by Denise Brodey about coaching as an untapped wellbeing solution, stood out this weekend as a hopeful signal that the business community is awakening to this massive opportunity every company has to improve their people’s work and life through personalized growth. If you want a solution to do this at scale and with a proven track record of outcomes, let’s talk.

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