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Prioritizing Mental Health

Accenture Hires Chief Medical Officer Expands Employee Support 

By Trevor W. Coleman

With the second anniversary of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic fast approaching, businesses find themselves grappling with numerous workplace issues as the worldwide pandemic evolves into an endemic.

Yet, a major thread connects the disparate challenges employers face: concern about their employees’ mental health and wellness and prioritizing how to address it.

SURVEY: EMPLOYEES EXPECT MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Research conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence found that 2020 was the most stressful year people have experienced in their working lives.

Seventy-eight percent of the workers surveyed said that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, 76% indicated that companies should be doing more to protect workers’ mental health, and 85% said that newfound work-related stress affects their home lives.

With these challenges in mind, businesses are turning to experts better to manage the workplace in the age of COVID-19.

BUILDING RESILIENCE: ‘IT’S OK, NOT TO BE OK’

Accenture, a global professional services company with leading digital, cloud, and security capabilities, hired its first chief medical officer, Dr. Tam Brownlee. Her primary focus is to create strategies to improve the health and well-being of the company’s more than 600,000 employees, so they can bring their fullest and best selves to work.

“We recognize that supporting mental health and wellness accelerates equality for all,” she said in a statement to Detroiter magazine. “This is why we encourage our people to prioritize their mental and physical well-being. By breaking down the stigma and letting our people know it is OK not to be OK, we create belonging and help our people build resilience.”

The issue of mental resilience has become a significant business imperative of Accenture as its human resources leadership has encouraged its C-suite executives to think of mental wellness and mental health issues not merely as personal but as business issues.

HELPING PEOPLE BE THEIR BEST AT WORK, AND HOME

During a discussion last year with Arianna Huffington, CEO and Founder of Thrive Global, Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer for Accenture, said the stress everyone experienced from living under a pandemic illuminated the need for businesses to become more innovative and assertive about building mental resilience in the workforce.

“(This has) required us to think about the tools and the training that people need to really take action around their mental health,” she said. “And with mental resiliency, I see how people can be their best every single day, both inside of work and outside of work.”

Shook explained that when thinking about how the pandemic and economic and societal crises are impacting people, employers need to take innovative, creative actions and react with agility to meet their needs.

“And when you’re stressed or worse, burnt out, those are the very things that go first. So, if any organization doesn’t understand how mental wellness and mental health can be a business issue today, they need to think about the business metrics.”

CONNECTING IN A ‘TRULY HUMAN WAY’

As Senior Managing Director, Dan Garrison leads Accenture’s Detroit office.

He said the company offers employees comprehensive mental health benefits from training, an assistance program offering 24-hour support for employees and their loved ones, and a network of more than 5,000 mental health allies connecting individuals to professional help as needed.

“Here in Detroit specifically, we help provide support in a number of ways, including providing team-building activities like our ‘Season of Service’ for giving back to the community,” Garrison said. “We also have some fun, with employee resource group ‘field trips,’ including a visit to the Detroit Historical Museum, a drive-in movie night, and neighborhood “meet ups” at cider mills and other local destinations.

“As a personal mission, I host open door sessions for our people to talk about anything that is on their minds,” he said. “It helps us connect in a truly human way, where we get to know each other as people outside of our day-to-day jobs.”

Trevor W. Coleman is a former editorial writer and columnist for the Detroit Free Press.