Any financial institution’s best asset will be its employees, whether they face outwards to the consumers or inwards towards keeping the organisation running. While not a given, mental wellbeing often faces challenges in the corporate setting with stress, anxiety, burnout, and struggles with achieving work-life balance being frequently observed. Additionally, as human beings, employees face, and bring with them to the workplace, difficulties in their personal daily lives too.
At Finance Incorporated Limited (FIL), the value that we provide our customers comes through our employees, and it is our duty as an institution to ensure they can work in an environment that both contributes to their wellbeing and provides them with the best tools with which to manage their mental health. For us, this meant investing in a corporate therapist, and it is one of the best investments we’ve made.
Here is a conversation with Audra Micallef, FIL’s Corporate Therapist.
What is the role of a corporate therapist, and how does this benefit mental health?
It is important to mention that mental health does not only mean the absence of difficulties. It also means that people are able to grow to their full potential at work, and in life in general, that they feel healthy, fully alive and present, and to have meaningful relationships.
Humans have a drive towards development and fulfilment. My role involves supporting them in their movement towards reaching their full potential, for example through leadership training, coaching and therapy, and to help address challenges as they arise in their lives and in the workplace.
One of the core values of FIL is care. Care starts at the workplace, within the team of employees. This means every person matters, not only as employees, but as a human and beyond their contribution or performance in the workplace. I work closely with senior managers who are also highly committed to creating and maintaining a culture that is welcoming, inclusive, and conducive to wellbeing and growth within the company.
My role includes leadership training and development, and the overall wellbeing of individuals, teams and the culture in general. In a way, I see it as an extension and support of the value of care that is especially strong in FIL.
My work involves bringing attention to the wellbeing of each employee. How they are feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally in the workplace, as well as in their personal life, is important. It is also important that everybody feels a sense of belonging in teams, organisational cultures, and in their communities beyond the workplace. A corporate therapist allows people the chance to focus on their own wellbeing, and get the support they need to address any difficulties and face challenges.
What are some of the direct benefits of focusing on mental health in the workplace and engaging a corporate therapist?
All employees are unique. We do not expect everybody to respond in the same way to the corporate world and performance needs. We help people get to know themselves better, to become more aware of their innate preferences, what drives them, what stresses them, their learning styles, how they relate to others, what their core values are, and so on. When we are able to factor in all of these ways in which we are unique, we can really tailor our training and support and maximise wellbeing, engagement at work, and productivity/performance outcomes. We identify strengths and areas that need more work and we design individualised programs to address these in a way best-suited to each individual. Management plays a crucial role in being part of this process of recognising individual differences.
Another strong benefit is helping employees navigate change. Life happens and, of course, it includes challenges and changes. In the workplace these can range from skills that need to be learnt, developed or improved to preventing, managing or reducing stress. We help people work through challenges in relationships with colleagues and managers, and we focus on developing communication skills and addressing issues as they arise. We also focus on helping managers and leaders to empower and coach employees and to create collaborative and inclusive cultures.
Additionally, employees also bring challenges from daily life, such as difficulties with family at home, or problems maintaining work-life balance, or lifelong issues with anxiety and depression. Employees know that they are really welcome to talk about these issues, and we provide support and resources, as well as guidance and referral to other services where they can get additional support.
What other benefits does a corporate therapist provide?
One crucial indirect benefit is that people feel genuinely cared for and that they are welcome as humans with all of their life experience, not just that which is positive, and which is directly related to their role at work.
One of the most painful aspects of the corporate world in general, and especially in Western society, is that employees and management at all levels tend to feel a pressure to be positive. This usually means that when people are genuinely unwell, unhappy, or anxious – all of which are normal, healthy aspects of human life – they tend to feel as though they need to hide this aspect of themselves, and this increases their sense of alienation and isolation, which makes them feel even worse.
Are there any company specific benefits that corporate therapists create?
Research shows that performance and productivity, engagement, motivation and loyalty to the company, increase when people feel cared for and that their wellbeing genuinely matters.
Employees also report that the skills they learn and develop in the workplace have a big impact in their personal life. When we work on learning to manage conflict or develop communication skills such as giving feedback in a constructive way, these are skills that help people in daily life, with their families, friends, and contacts.
The same applies to training in resilience, assertiveness, and empathy. We also all know that the way we are treated in the workplace, and the degree of our wellbeing at work, does have an impact on the rest of our lives. Not surprisingly, when people feel more welcome and at ease, and acknowledged for the challenges they face, they are better able to focus on the job, more engaged in general, more connected and generous with their colleagues and more loyal to the organisation. Thus, the organisation benefits.
A corporate therapist can seem a steep investment for a company to support, however our experience has shown us that it is the investment that has made the biggest difference to our employees’ mental well-being – though it does not exist in a vacuum. Creating an environment of support and inclusion is an FIL promise for our consumers, one that is directly inspired by our internal culture and carries throughout the company at every level.
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