Why Leaders Should Model Better Mental Health at Work

Our workplaces directly impact our mental health, and this leader is getting ahead of the conversation.

Written by Conlan Carter
Published on Jan. 29, 2024
Why Leaders Should Model Better Mental Health at Work
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It can be easy to forget that “work-life balance” isn’t a stark divide — or a light switch to flip as one enters and exits the office. Unlike the characters in the AppleTV show Severance, everyone is the same person both in and outside of the office; therefore, work finds a way into everyone’s personal lives, and vice versa.

Work has a direct impact on the mental health of employees in any role, from entry-level to executive suite, and circularly, mental health directly affects the way people engage with the workplace. Productivity, job satisfaction, office camaraderie, career advancement, hiring and retention are all impacted by employees’ mental health. According to a 2023 survey from the American Psychological Association, 92 percent of Americans working today said working for an organization that values their psychological well-being and provides mental health support is important to them.

The onus falls on the organization to consider mental health as an integral part of its company culture. One easy way to foster a better mental health culture in the workplace — aside from stellar HR teams providing mental health resources — is for leadership to model what conscious mental health looks like in daily work life.

For Maya Rittmanic, a sales manager at The Predictive Index, this means sharing mental health as part of everyone’s story and normalizing the regular practice of staying on top of one’s mental health.

“I have a public block on my calendar that shows I’m in weekly therapy sessions — something I’m very open about and encourage others to pursue, as well,” said Rittmanic. “Mental health is as important as physical health.”

Built In sat down with Rittmanic to hear more advice about how to model mental health as a leader.

 

The Predictive Index

Maya Rittmanic
Sales Manager • The Predictive Index

The Predictive Index is a talent optimization leader that empowers companies to align their talent strategies with their business strategies for optimal results.

 

When do you talk about mental health at The Predictive Index? What motivates you to share your own story with the team?

When someone is new to my team, I like to take an hour and ask them about their life story. This sounds daunting, but it is actually really simple, and you learn a ton. It’s a great way to understand where someone grew up, what’s important to them, their relationship with their family and their motivations — as well as other factors that brought them to this job at this point in time. 

Often, after we have that conversation, the other person asks the same of me, and that’s when I’ll bring up my lifelong struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. My mental illness has unfortunately been a huge part of my life, so there’s no way to explain who I am or where I come from without including OCD in the story. 
 

“My mental illness has unfortunately been a huge part of my life, so there’s no way to explain who I am or where I come from without including OCD in the story.”

 

As a leader, there is a fine line between showing your humanity and oversharing. How did you decide what details of your mental health story to include?

I think being honest about how mental health can affect one’s work life is an easy way to draw that line. I remember, when I was starting in sales, how anxious I used to get and how OCD used to hurt the job that I needed to do. This was also before I had gotten into therapy and achieved a better understanding of what would trigger my OCD and what to do about it.

 

Why does talking about mental health at work matter?

It matters because talking about something openly and without shame normalizes it. We should talk about going to therapy the same way we talk about going to the gym — both are needed for a healthy life. 
 

“We should talk about going to therapy the same way we talk about going to the gym — both are needed for a healthy life.” 

 

I wish I had someone to talk to about this when I was first starting in the workplace. It would have made me feel much less alone and helped me realize there were resources available to help when I was struggling. That’s a big reason why I like The Predictive Index so much — our leadership team takes mental health very seriously. The whole person is taken into consideration when they come to work. 

I’ve also found people are more open to discussing their mental health struggles and finding ways to work on them when you’re open about your own. This makes for a healthier and more effective work environment all around.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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