OfficeTogether CEO Amy Yin had a candid conversation with Ariana Alejandra Gibson, creator of the STIGMA App, about the intersection of mental health and the hybrid work model.
Some highlights of their conversation include…
Mental Health Benefits of the Hybrid Office
The hybrid office represents a healthy mix of in-office work and remote work. Mental health-wise, it can be the best of both worlds. Employees can get in-person collaboration, which can lift their spirits, make them feel part of a community, and improve employee engagement. At the same time, the ability to personalize their work schedule allows employees to better coordinate their work responsibilities with personal obligations. This leads to better work-life balance and decreased stress and anxiety.
Amy recently went through the process of retrieving and freezing her eggs. You can read about her experience here. She says that the hybrid office was perfect during this challenging month. She was able to work from home on days she wasn't feeling well physically, and she could come into the office on days she wanted human interaction and emotional support from work friends.
The data supports Amy's story. 59 percent of knowledge workers say hybrid work arrangements would improve their psychological wellbeing. 54 percent of knowledge workers say hybrid work arrangements would improve their physical wellbeing (Salesforce survey).
According to Ariana, in a fully remote office, employees experiencing depression might have trouble getting out of a gloomy headspace. However, getting out of the house and seeing people in real life can lead to personal conversations and help alleviate depression.
An Employer's Responsibility
Ariana believes anytime we are bringing people together in a space, we should have accountability to make sure it's a safe space. Workers have more choices than ever on where they want to work and they will choose companies that prioritize creating psychologically safe spaces.
In fact, 91 percent of respondents believe a company's culture should support mental health (Harvard Business Review).
So what does prioritizing mental health at the office look like? Employers can encourage workers to take time off and seek mental health support as needed. Some companies are paying employees' therapy bills, but it's super expensive. Support from a company can simply be pointing employees in the right direction and sharing resources. Many people don't know where to even begin in seeking mental health support.
It's on the leaders creating work environments to try new things. Leaders can also lead by example, sharing their own vulnerabilities and experiences.
Goals of the STIGMA App
Everyone experiences mental health, no matter who you are. Yet people are still less comfortable talking about mental health versus physical health. It's easier to tell your boss you're going to a dental appointment, versus a therapy appointment.
The STIGMA App was created to break down the stigma of mental health through community storytelling. It exposes people to stories that educate and help build compassion. It's not therapy, but rather a community offering peer-to-peer support and an opportunity for users to share their own story via asynchronous messaging.
Watch STIGMA Stories to see proof you are not alone. It's "crowdsourcing" hope and a way to give each other words of encouragement on emotionally difficult days. The STIGMA app is a combination of content and community and a way to feel less alone.
Mental Health Pop-Ups
Ariana pitched the idea of the STIGMA App to investors and investors didn't think people were willing to share their mental health stories in a public way. This gave Ariana the idea of doing mental health pop-ups, along the lines of retail pop-ups that take over a space.
Ariana called retail spaces in Chicago that had been empty for months because of covid, but they weren't interested when they learned the pop-up was about people sharing mental health stories. Ariana then posted on her neighborhood Facebook page looking for a space and got 50 responses within 24 hours.
The STIGMA App has now done 12 mental health pop-ups. The pop-ups create a safe space for people to come tell their life stories and share what it's like to be them.
For more information about the STIGMA App, check out their website.
Thanks Ariana and Amy for an honest and timely discussion. The intersection of mental health and the hybrid office is a new conversation and one that will be ongoing. One thing is clear, the hybrid work model improves workers' mental health. OfficeTogether provides the hybrid office software to make everyone's work experience less stressful.