CEO Les Hiscoe was featured in Crain’s New York Business as a diversity, equity, and inclusion thought leader on mental health in the workplace. In his piece, Les highlights how to operationalize a mental health program in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of supporting employees’ mental health as it correlates with a strong business. Read the full Crain’s article here and below.

A New Era of Support for Employee and Business Well-being

We are in a new, much-needed era for mental health at work. Businesses only perform as well as their employees, and nearly one-fifth of U.S. workers rate their mental health as fair or poor. Construction specifically has the second highest suicide rate among major industries. Leaders need to be in lockstep with this paradigm shift to create an effective, supportive mental health program so everyone succeeds.

Establish the Business Imperative

Construction is complex, grueling work set in demanding environments. Years ago, I declared both safety and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) business imperatives. We introduced Shawmut and our network to the concept of safety of the entire person—expanding the notion of safety beyond physical to incorporate psychological and mental health. To create accountability and drive progress, our executive leadership team has safety and DEI efforts as goals and KPIs.

Lead by Example

New programs are only as strong and successful as the support behind them. Leaders need to address mental health stigmas head-on, lead by example, and model self-care and work-life balance. Being cognizant of energy drains and managing teams’ energy levels to help them thrive is a responsibility and goal for our leaders—they’ve undergone training focused on how to avoid or manage burnout.

Transparency is also key—as an employee-owned company, we share DEI and safety initiative progress, celebrating successes while highlighting areas of work. This creates a sense of ownership and shared responsibility, opening channels for grassroots initiatives.

Operationalize the Work

Core to creating an inclusive workplace is providing an environment where people feel safe opening up about their struggles—without blame, stigma, or judgment. It needs to be integrated into the fabric of a company. We now have mental health included in all meetings and during our new hire orientation; we launched an Inclusion Learning and Awareness Plan with trainings on how to understand and interrupt unconscious biases.

Provide Accessible Mental Health Benefits

At Shawmut, we have an intentional benefits strategy designed to support mental health and nurture wellness. This starts with our strong healthcare package, ample vacation and holidays, flexible work arrangements, and summer Fridays. Our mental health support includes well-being webinars, services for emotional and mental health support, and a confidential and free Employee Assistance Program available 24/7 that offers short-term counseling and referrals.