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Employer Perspective: Approaching a Mental Health and Motivation Conversation With Your Employer

By: Jeff Zhou, CEO at Fig Loans

COVID-19 has changed the way organizations think about remote work and employee experience strategies. According to Gartner, 48% of employees will likely work remote part time after COVID-19. This unprecedented shift towards a hybrid onsite / remote work model has already created new challenges for employees from a social connectivity perspective. While we benefit from saved commuting time, we have traded the spontaneity and comradery of an office space for the more sedentary home experience. The Boston Consulting Group surveyed 12,000 employees and found that 29% of respondents have experienced worse overall mental health during COVID-19. This post will discuss how to approach a mental health and motivation conversation with your employer based on my experiences as both an employee and small business employer.

My Employee Perspective: 
As an employee, I was always concerned I might do something that unintentionally sent bad signals to my employer. My previous employer called them “CLMs” or career-limiting-moves, and unknowingly making one has always terrified me. Because I was scared of the potential downside consequences, I often did not speak up early enough about challenges and underestimated my value as an employee. When I became an employer, I realized the consequences of not having candid conversations about mental health vastly outweighed any potential CLM fears.

My Employer Perspective:
The key unlock I learned from becoming an employer was that the employee-employer relationship is not meant to be adversarial. Both parties share a common goal of helping employees overcome the challenges of work from home, and to do the best job they can, because that’s ultimately best for the business and your career. Employers gain tremendous value when employee productivity is high and incur heavy costs from employee turnover so it’s in everyone’s best interest to work things out. Using this as the foundation, I’d like to offer four tangible tips from my employer experience that can help you frame the conversation with your manager.

  1. Be honest and call it out early

    Even if you think it’s not a big deal today, I would love to know earlier because that means we can keep an eye on it together. Personally, I often started by trying to “tough it out,” which is not a good strategy because it inevitably leads to bigger problems in the long-term. It’s easier and cheaper to fix a leak before it’s had a chance to damage the foundation of the house.
  2. Bring ideas to the conversation

    Whether it’s ideas about causes or potential solutions, you are the expert on you! The more context an employee can share in our conversation, the better I can tailor our company’s resources to assist you. The best conversations are when employees have done some self-reflection and we’re working together to turn hypotheses into tangible next steps.
  3. Taking the initiative is a good thing

    You started the conversation because you want to do well at work. As the employer, I recognize the courage and thoughtfulness you’re bringing to the table by being proactive. The business does best when we take the initiative to solve problems early, and you’re demonstrating that with this conversation.
  4. Managers are people as well

    The world is under a lot of stress from COVID and many businesses are feeling the pinch as well. A little reciprocated empathy goes a long way. When my employees proactively bring up business implications and how we can mitigate them, I feel like we’re working together to get the best long-term outcome for everyone.

An employee-initiated conversation about how you’re not doing as well will never be an easy dialogue to start. However, if you can talk about it early, often, and candidly, you are helping yourself. Your goals are intrinsically aligned with your employer’s, and you’re in charge of the narrative. I hope these tips are helpful to start the difficult conversation and ultimately build a stronger relationship with your employer.

Author Bio
Jeff Zhou is the CEO of Fig. Fig is a finance technology company that builds risk models and lending software for non-profit organizations. Fig started as a collaboration with the United Way to create responsible installment loan and credit builder loan programs for Americans to more easily build credit. Prior to Fig, Jeff received his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania and undergraduate from MIT.