Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 4 days ago

Get Serious about Your Employees’ Wellness


Teresa Hopke, CEO of Talking Talent Inc., doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that companies need to get serious about their employees’ wellness and mental health. 

“Quite honestly,” Teresa says, “a lot of CEOs have their head in the sand when it comes to this issue. We need to start there and acknowledge and own the fact that organizations are playing a role in creating some of these stress-induced mental health issues.”


In her work with clients, she has seen people whose workplace stress has led them to develop alopecia and panic attacks. Teresa doesn’t countenance the hypocrisy of companies that place unreasonable demands on employees and then wonder why they burn out or leave. Corporations need to prioritize this now, she says, destigmatizing mental health, focusing on prevention and changing the way work gets done. 

In this episode, Teresa also shares a personal story of tragedy that led her to pursue her own wellness. At the time of the event, she was in a role she didn’t love. The crisis led her to conclude: Life is too short to be anything but happy. She joined Talking Talent shortly after. 


Teresa’s story runs parallel to the way the global crisis of 2020/2021 has led millions of people to similarly take stock of their own happiness at work, leading many to leave. For companies seeking to retain their workforce by keeping people well, this episode offers both inspiration and tactics to apply today.    

Episode Highlights:

  • The need for individualized approaches vs programmatic fixes 
  • How to talk to workers about their wellness
  • Breaking down stigma about mental health
  • The need to talk about prevention
  • Setting realistic employee expectations
  • Corporate and individual responsibility to mental health

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Welcome to technically people acommunity conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you bythe tech recruitment platform built in the podcast features, insights fromleaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard of building human centeredworkplaces of the future along the way you'll hear concepts thatwill stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself.What's the most future forward way to approach my people leadership, we allknow the future of work isn't waiting around. So, let's get on with the show hello and welcome to technically people.I am your co host. Tiffany Myers- and I am here with our Guest Teresa HokeyTeresa- is the CEO of talking talent ink, which is a global coaching firm.So it focuses on improving the world of work, great energy, because that iswhat this show is about, the specifically through wellness, sotalking talent offers coaching programs designed to help companies, support,employee, well being- and I should say well being at all levels so wellnessfor the organization while being for teams and definitely and you'll, hearTeresa talk about this well being at the individual and individual lizedlevel. So Teresa Hello, welcome so happy to have you here today, thankstiffany great to be here, so I thought for this conversation we might do wellto start with the most enormous theme of all, which is that which is twothousand and twenty and Ovid has been an real incubator for mental health andwellness challenges. It's been a year of grief, it's been a year of crisisand in the workplace, of course, it has been a year of burnout, so the KaiserFamily Foundation in two thousand and twenty found that four and ten adultsreported anxiety or depression. So two thousand and twenty look backwards totwo thousand and nineteen. When only one and ten did so and it's important to know too, thereare racial disparities. Almost half of black and Latin X adults are morelikely to report anxiety or depression than white adults. So I think those areall astounding numbers on their own, but we can also bring life to numbersthrough story and I'd like to start there because Teresa. I know yourpersonal experience with an unsatisfying job, coupled with a crisisthat made you rethink. What really mattered led you to join talking talent.So I wondered if you would would share that story. Yeah absolutely. I thinkthose stats are really staggering and a little bit depressing when we thinkabout the fact that two thousand and twenty one hasn't really gotten anybetter for those stats that you showed. But you know I think the last monthshave caused people to really reassess their own lives. It's been a crisis inand of itself the pandemic, and I didn't have a pandemic to create acrisis for me, but in two thousand and eleven about twenty years ago, and whenI was in the midst of my corporate job and I had two small children at thetime I was in a place where work wasn't reallyfulfilling. It wasn't showing up as my best self and it really wasn't all thathappy and my husband ended up having a traumatic brain injury through a skiaccident in February of two thousand and eleven, and they actually didn'tknow if he would survive the ninety minute ambulance ride to the clinic,and so in that moment it was a real wake. Up Call for me to realize thatlife is short and if I don't wake up every day being happy, then I betterreexamine what I'm doing, and I think that the pandemic has been a similarwakeup call for many people to reassess their own lives to say you know Ididn't have a tragedy like that happened. But what am I doing every dayand am I happy and there are different ways to live? I think this is reallyshowing a light on that. My story ends. Well, my husband had a miraculousrecovery and you know I left my corporate job to join talking talent todo work that I love, and so I think...

...other people are looking for theirstory to end well as well and there'll be a lot of decisions made in the nextyear yeah. So so. First of all, I just want to say that is unimaginable andI'm so sorry that you went through that, and I'm really also grateful that youshared that with us, and you know you hear people talk in history about flashbald moments. It was probably a flash bold moment for you changing the pultryof your life of your work and I hope and think for the better and, as yousaid, it is as that the entire globe is going through similar sorts ofreckoning, realizing that burnout and mental health issues just maybe are notworth it when a lot of leaders are tying about this aware of this,anticipating the great resignation based on this, so I was actually sortof surprised by this research. I found it a two thousand and twenty oneresearch by Ginger at the MIT media lab in two thousand and twenty one ceos andemployees both say. But yes, companies need mental health support, but that iswhere they stop agreeing, because almost all CEOS say that they're doingenough and only sixty nine percent of employees say the same. I guess kind offrom that huge gap in perception. Can you make the business case for thoseninety six percent of CEOS that believe they are doing enough? Well, I think,quite honestly, a lot of CEOS have their head in the sand when it comes tothis issue, so I think we need to start there and really acknowledge and ownthe fact that organizations are playing a role in creating some of those stressinduced mental health issues that people are facing. It's not to say thatorganizations own everything and there are definitely some mental healthissues that are biological and that organizations can't play a role in. Butthere are so many that are stress induced and I think that if we can'town those as an organization we're not going to be able to fix the problem,because I talk to organizations all the time who think that they're doing theright thing. They want to check a box and put something in place because theyknow that mental health issues are a problem. So they have an EAP or theyimplement a head space apt to help people meditate, and then they thinkthey've done. The right thing. They've helped people with their mental healthissues, but it's so much deeper than that. That is like just scratching thesurface and in reality, when you have, we have to look at the ability forpeople to show up and have sustainable performance over time and not burn out.And so we have the mental health and stress issues that they're experiencinghave to be taken care of at the root level. And that's the tough work andthat's why CEOS want to just check the box, because I don't want to have to dothat. Really tough stuff, and so most of them will say. Yes, we did somethingwe put money towards. It were good, but I don't think that they need to be soldon the business case. The numbers tell the story: The health insurance claimsrelated to mental health are so high and the amount of money thatorganizations are paying to that. I think CEOS know they have to dosomething. So it's not making the business case. It's making the businesscase for doing the right thing, the tough thing yeah. So, with regard tothat, you have said it's going to require changing the way work is doneand that, as definitely sounds like the really tough work for a company to do,but it's also pretty broad. So what does that look like? How can we changethe way work has done for wellness yeah? Well, it is broad and it is tough, butI think that it starts with asking ourselves if we have realisticexpectations for the employees in our organization. I just let a workshoplast week and one of the key things that people said is causing them stressand their inability to thrive is trying to meet the expectations of theirmanagers and their organizations and feeling like they're, constantlyfailing and so we're always expecting people to do more with less and when welook at some of the start up firm, some of the tech firms. If we expect peopleto work around the clock and then we're asking well why our employees burnedout, there's a disconnect and hypocrisy...

...there that doesn't make sense, there'sactually a book called Dying for a pay check, and it's a really great readabout some of these hypocrisy. Some of these things that organizations dowhere we ask people to pull all nighters, and then we wonder whythey're addicted to drugs and alcohol or people gain weight because theydon't have any time to take care of themselves and work out, and then wedon't want to have to pay for all of the medical claims that come along withthat. So it's really illogical. If you think about the fact that we are, youknow, expecting people to work this way, but then expecting them to not burn out.So we have to restructure our expectations. That's the first thing.The second thing is that we can put things in place to restructure work, sosome organizations that we're working with right now are doing no meetingFridays or they're doing no camera Wednesdays, and so just these littlethings that help people have a little bit of reprieve. There's something elsethat you can do around. It's called the e twenty project, where you haveemployees, identify twenty percent of what they're doing right now thatwouldn't need to be done or that isn't adding value to the organization andcut that out, so that then you reduce the work load to what is absolutelycritical and essential. So people can focus on that, rather than feeling sooverwhelmed by all of the things that are on their plate. Yes- and I wouldjust ad to that- something that built in has done, which is if we do give awellness day- it's for say an entire team and I even think we've had extradays added to a holiday for the entire company and then what that means. IsYou don't come into the office the next day with a trillion emails, becauseyour colleagues are off as well, and so you can all pick up at the same timeand let go at the same time. So I yeah it's a great example Tiffany, the morethat you put this on a team or an organization to fix it rather thanhaving it be on the individual. If you had to just take your well being dayand then you had to manage your email, it's a lot t different than saying thatthe organization is doing it and I think all of those little examples likethat, where we can, as an organization or a team, agree to the ways of workingthat are going to allow us to have sustainable performance. Theorganization is going to benefit and the individuals are going to benefit.Yeah- and I think that sustainable aspect is super important because thereare so many companies that have had to make incredibly aggressive businessgoals, so there might be the sense of how can I unburden employees with the volume ofwork, that's necessary to meet these goals if they are what they are, butthe idea of being able to sustain over time without attrition without a massexodus is really looking at the long game, making those businessexpectations actually possible in a long game sort of way. So that is the organizational levelchanging the way we work tell me a little bit about leaders and theleadership level. I think that we really have to teach people at themanagement and executive levels to lead differently, and I know that doesn'tsound easy either. That's a pretty large feet, but we have to help themget better at looking at people as unique individuals and really learninghow to support one another and their own circumstances. So leaders need tobe asking. How can I help you as an individual? What do you need? That'sdifferent from the person next to you on the team? How can I help support you,and so I know that sounds simple and what every manager should do, but it'snot what leaders do leaders are so busy going about their day that I rarelyhear of good leaders who are asking their teams, those questions and thenactually following through on it. We can't just expect programs to fix it,and we can't expect that what's going to fix burn out for you, Tiffany isgoing to fix it for me, and so we really have to get to know people asindividuals and a lot of leaders will tell me what I don't have time for that.I'm busy, but really there's nothing...

...more important. A leader should bedoing with their time than finding out what their employees need to be able tothrive yeah. So it's about individualizing what sorts of thingsyou can do to mitigate so by the way mitigation. I know that in terms ofleadership, your proponent of their being involved in prevention, which Idon't know that we talk about enough, it's sort of always after the fact theburnout has already happened. Tell me about some of the issues that you thinkare preventable and what kind of approach we would need to take. Well,you said it. We really need to be talking more about prevention. I meanprevention is attainable. For some reason we don't seem to think it isevery organization I talked to is talking about how to fix mental health.What I want to do is shift that conversation to say how can we preventit? How can we help people get ahead of some of the stress induced mentalhealth issues? There are so many examples. I can tell you of people whohave stress and duced to alopecia, where their hair has literally fallenout because of the stress of their job or who are having panic attacks on aregular basis because of the expectations at work. There was a guythat that one of our clients, who literally turned yellow because hiskidneys were backing up because he couldn't take the time to go to thedoctor because he had too much on his plate and he ended up dying at theorganization, and so these things are preventable. These things don't have tohappen, but you have to again have good leaders who are empathetic and curiousand compassionate and finding out what is going on with you. If I start to seethat you're not taking care of yourself now, is there something that I can doto help you with that and then modeling. So if as a leader, if I'm never takingany time to myself, if I'm not transparent about the fact that I havemy birthday coming up, I'm getting a massage and I put massage on mycalendar, I walk and I put walk on my calendar during the day. So people onmy team know I prioritize that and then I'm modeling that behavior and so themore that I'm willing to say that I need a well being day because I'mfeeling really burnt out the more my team is going to think it's okay forthem to do the same so giving people permission to talk about that burn outand helping each other look for signs that we may need to be preventing. Someof it is important yeah. So this is that's, I think, relevant to my nextquestion, in which case I want to dive into a little bit more of yourexpertise, specifically around creating cultures for women and working familiesthat foster well being because we know that Ovid's affected women and workingfamilies disproportionately. So there are projections that as many as twomillion women could believe Corporate America and the women who are thinkingabout leaving according to research, they are citing burnout. That's thereason why, but a mass exodus of women is going to have implications that willlast way way way away into the future companies in the economy they're goingto suffer, but also we're going to lose gains that we've made with regard togender equity, whatever gains we all can agree or disagree on that we havemade. So if there is an answer there, what is it? What can companies do toprepare yeah? Well, I think the first thing is to take it seriously. I meanthis is real and I said before that leaders are putting their peds in thesand about some things. This is an area where they're putting their head in thesand. The stats that you just gave are real and leaders have heard them, but Ikeep hearing them say. I know those are the stats, but I don't see womenleaving. I don't see them exiting my organization. I don't think it's goingto happen to us, but just because they're not leaving doesn't mean thatthey're, not thinking of leaving doesn't mean that they won't leave.Many of them are thinking about changing careers. Many of them arehaving some of the same life. Epiphany that I shared in my story in realizinglife is short and fragile, and if I'm not happy, then I should find somethingdifferent to do and so they're. Looking for what that something is and so toput a wellness program in place or give...

...them gym membership or think thatsomehow putting an APP in place for them to meditate is going to help it'snot going to retain them. What we have to do is get below the surface, becausewhen I talk to women and working parents in general, what I hear fromthem is that perfectionism is the number one reason that they'reoverwhelmed that they're trying to do everything perfectly, because they havea fear of what will happen if they aren't perfect in the workplace and athome there's a lack of confidence. That is a huge issue guilt. That is such ahuge thing that people are dealing with right now, and so how do I go of someof that guilt that I feel not being present at home not being present atwork, trying to be good and good at everything and not having an energy forany of it? And then you know really figuring out. Where can I setboundaries? How do I set boundaries? What boundaries do I need? Those arethe things that are causing the overwhelm, and so that's where coaching-and I'm not just saying this, because we do this, but coaching is just sovaluable at helping people overcome that there's a coaching participant wewere working with recently and she was able to get her anxiety under controlfrom three coaching sessions. Her family started to trust her morebecause she was home for them and present and when she was there, she wasreally present and her work team was more effective because she starteddelegating more and started to trust them to do the work, and so it's justso powerful when you start to look at the individual level what's causing theoverwhelm and how to fix it. Yeah some incredibly interesting stories thereit's about looking internally as well as companies providing this base forpeople to look internally, and I don't know that a lot of people are thinkingabout this internal stuff. That goes on in combination with you know, as yousaid, changing the way that we work so many women or actually people ingeneral right. I think I'm the only one suffering, I'm the only one strugglingto me that is pure and simple. That is stigma. We know only thirty percent.Thirty percent of employees are comfortable talking to their managersabout mental health, again very clear that is stigma. So it's always seemedto me that giving a stigmatized issue some fresh air and some sunlight can doa lot. But at least from where I said it just seems like we're going to meeta lot of sunlight and a lot of fresh air. So what can companies do withregard to stigma? Well, there's probably not enough fresh air andsunlight that we can shine on this, but I think you're absolutely right. Thereare a lot of people who are afraid to talk to their managers about it, andrightfully so I mean, if your manager hasn't taken the time to get to knowyou as an in individual and why would you feel comfortable having aconversation about something as sensitive as your mental health? Wehave this desire to have an inclusive culture, and you hear organizationstalking about people wanting to bring their whole selves to work. That'sreally about authenticity, about your ability to really be who you are and toshow up in an authentic way. But if you haven't cultivated a culture wheremanagers are curious and empathetic and supportive, then you can't expectpeople to bring their whole selves to work. They're, just not going to wantto especially around a sensitive topic like this, because they feel as thoughthey're going to get judged. And so my performance may be impacted by the factthat you, as my leader, know that I have some mental health struggles. Andso we have to move away from the idea that we don't talk about this at work,to the idea that even leaders struggle with some of these mental health issuesand if I'm vulnerable as a leader and share that with the team. If I start toget to know the team on an individual level and ask how people are doing andhow we can support one another, then that is going to make a difference inhow people are able to show up or not show up. We also need to normalize theconversation around mental health and that's when the stigma starts to loosena little bit if mental health isn't this big scary thing, but it's justsomething that comes along with many of our lives that, and we acknowledge thatstress, causes s a lot of mental health...

...issues. Then it starts to normalizethat conversation yeah so fully. One hundred percent agree that this is theapproach that leaders and leadership needs to take. That normalizing is thekey, but on the other hand, so many leaders have been you know trained,really, not to pry and also so many leaders. They really want to beempathic. They really want to be human centered, but when it comes to mentalhealth and particular their cap between a rock and a hard place, becausethey've been brought up with this set of corporate rules and the idea is justlike no matter what never overstep. So what do you think about that? I thinkwe have to move into modern leadership in two thousand and twenty one andrealized that the way we were taught isn't the way that it's going to workmoving forward. So many of us did grow up learning that we shouldn't ask aboutthat, and I hear it from leaders all the time they say well. I was taughtnot to ask about personal things and now you're telling me to ask thatdoesn't seem to make sense, but I want to be really clear: I'm not telling youto ask about people's mental health state. What I'm telling you to askabout is who they are as an individual and how you can support them, that isgoing to as a by product be able to help impact the mental health state.But you don't go in asking of somebody's dealing with mental healthissues. It goes to this idea that we're getting to know people as humans, we'reshowing our own humanity that we're letting the team realize that we're notperfect, and it's about leaders getting curious, not nosy, but really curiousabout how you're doing so. I might say to you if any you're such an energeticperson, but it seems like you've been a bit tired lately is everything. Okay.Do you want to talk about anything it's up to you then, to decide? If you wantto disclose to me, if we have a good relationship, chances are you're,probably going to share some things with me. If I haven't done anything tocultivate my relationship with you, then you're probably not going to sharewith me and I'm not going to be able to support you in a way that is going tobe helpful. So if you can extend yourself as a leader- and you can do soin a benign way that doesn't put people off and that doesn't make it seem likeyou're in their business, then it can open a conversation for what's reallygoing on and for how you can support them. Excellent advice for people whoare maybe straddling the line between, as you said, modern leadership and andthe previous way to lead. So I want to further explore burn outbecause boy is it real, and you mentioned before an EAP program isgreat, so Meditation Nap is Great Gym Membership Grace, but burnout is waymore pervasive. Can you delve into your thinking your philosophies aroundburnout? I know this might sound like I'm. Trying to over complicate it butburn out, isn't typically about the things we think it's not about peopleworking too many hours. It's not about people not taking care of themselvesphysically and eating. Well, Bernous, really about the complex set ofbehaviors that drive our decisions. That then, lead to us not being ourbest selves, and so when you look at the people who are the most burnt out,it's the ones who continue to take on work, so somebody may already worksixty hours a week and you ask them to take on a project and they say yeah.But when you dig below the surface, if you were to dig below and find out, whydid they say that when they're already overextended and why don't they say nomost of the time? It's because they don't want to disappoint people, theydon't have the confidence to say no. They think that their job is at risk ifthey say no, and so we have all these unhealthy behaviors, not because peoplewant to be working that way. It's because they don't know how to say. No,they don't know how to set boundaries, they don't have the confidence, and sothose aren't things that you as a leader can fix. I mean those areindividuals, issues that they have to fix on their own, but you have to givethem the space and the resources to do that. So, like I talked about earlierwith coaching, it's unbelievable how...

...quickly those things can be fixed ifsomeone has a professional that helps dig below the surface with them andfigure out. Why are those patterns repeating themselves? We often tell thepeople that we coach, who are thinking about, leaving to go somewhere else,because the pasture must be greener there. But if you haven't fixed yourown issues here, you're going to bring them with you to the next organization.Those are habits you have to solve on your own. The organization isn'tcausing them. So it's this complex, dynamic between the organization, themanager and the individual all having a piece of this that they have to own andthat they have to help fix in order to really address this issue. Yes, at thisidea of greener pastures that they are often a mirage because you're going tocarry your baggage around, it actually reminds me of this book that I've thatI love and adore from a mindfulness teacher John Cabin Zin, who wrote thebook called wherever you go there you are. I you definitely don't have toeven be at all interested in mindfulness to understand what thatmeans. You are going to take yourself and your baggage wherever you go so now,as we close up the episode or two minute take away, I have so many takeaways that that are top of mind for me after this discussion, one of them isjust your sort of take no prisoners approach to this you've just been so socompletely honest about how important this is, and I'm also really interestedin taking a look at the book. You mentioned dying for a pay check, whichis, I think, title with as much intensity as the issue itself carries.So those are the things that that I'm left with after talking with you tellme what key points do you want to leave our audience with? I think the first isjust that we do all have a role to play in this and that this isn't easy. Thisisn't something that a program or an APP can address that we have to getserious if we want to actually make a difference at this and do the hard workin our society. We tend to just want to get things done quickly, and this isn'ta quick fix so get committed to doing the work here and really figure out howyou can help both at an organizational level and individual level solve this.The second thing is to normalize wellness and DIS, designat ize mentalhealth. By talking about it, the more you get people talking about it, thebetter off we're going to be- and I think an important piece of that is totalk about prevention. How can you help people get ahead of this so that theydon't get to burn out? What's it going to look like what are you as anemployee need from us to prevent burn out? And finally, I think just lookingat this as a diversity and inclusion issue, how canwe help people bring their whole self to work so that, if mental healthissues anxiety is part of who? I am that I feel like I can be my authenticself and talk about it with you and that as a leader I'm looking at, howcan I support you as a whole person not just trying to get more out of you,while you're here at work, but knowing that your life and your work intersexand that there's a spill over effect for each so that inclusion, peace? Ithink so many people are talking about. How do we help people bring? You knowtheir whole selves to work. How can you be a whole human at work, but maybeit's too infrequently coupled you know with the idea of wellness and mentalhealth, I mean it's a new perspective in way to think about wellness, sotares that I can't thank you enough for all of your insights for your candor,about what leaders really need to do and this idea that some might havetheir head in the sand. I think that we're going to be talking about all ofthis way into the future. So I know our listeners will probably feel the same,so they want to find out more about what you're doing at talking talent.What's the best way. Well, I'm on Linkedin, and so astalking talents, you can definitely find us there or you can visit ourwebsite, which is talking Dash, Talento...

...and find out about us there as wellfantastic yeah, and I would encourage everyone who cares about wellness to togo to that website. So, thank you. Thank you Teresa. So much and listeners.Thank you as well. I hope you enjoy this conversation. A I'll remind you tosubscribe at technically people. So, in any case, look forward to seeing youtalking with you next week built in is a tech recruitment platform.That's in constant dialogue with leaders about the future of tech,Bilton's podcast. Technically people expands those conversations to helpfellow futurist create and lead exceptional workplaces, environmentsthat inspire in Demand Tech professionals to join your company andthrive to learn how building can help your company attract besting classprofessionals, visit employers top built Incom you've been listening to technicallypeople a community conversation about the future of work. If you want to hearmore cutting edge ideas about creating human center work, places subscribe onyour favorite, podcast player and you'll never miss an episode and if you're over the moon about whatyou've heard we'd be honored. If you took the time to give us a five starreview so signing off until we meet again in the future, I.

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