Whose job is it anyway?

Work culture can hurt your mental health. But hiring for these roles can help.

4 new roles that make a difference to well-being at work
Work culture can hurt your mental health. But hiring for these roles can help.

What if the next pandemic isn’t a crisis of physical health, but of mental health? Between record rates of burnout, stress, and more, it may have already arrived. But after a year of calls for action from executives and world leaders alike, I don’t believe we’ve made enough progress on the issue. Some of our workplaces are harming more than helping our mental health.

Overcommitted organizations, poor leadership, underutilization of skills, long hours, lack of ownership, and cultures that enable poor behavior can negatively impact mental health, according to the World Health Organization.

As a former head of people and now an editor obsessed with the world of work, I’ve seen the culprit: a lack of ownership. Companies approach mental health as an individual issue rather than adequately addressing systemic behaviors that could be exacerbating the issue.

Instead of addressing individuals, we need to rework the system. But where should companies focus? One way to change the system is to hire roles that directly impact your employees’ mental health and well-being.

Whose job is it anyway?

There’s an increasing burden on managers to be all things for their employees: a kind motivator, a strategic visionary, a gentle encourager, a detailed project planner, and more. But companies are beginning to realize the shortcomings of this ask—and lifting burdens with new roles that can help address employee mental health. There are a host of roles that companies should consider investing in. See just a few here, as told by the people filling them right now.

🧑🏽‍🏫 The chief training officer

Chief training officers can be key partners in introducing employees not just to job duties and organizational policies, but also to company culture, values, and commitments. That’s what Joey Hubbard does at Thrive Global, an employee technology company. Outside of his focus on client training, he focuses internally as well. Joey leads leadership trainings to empower managers to deliver compassionate feedback, and he’s a crucial support for teammates in need: he’s brought in for performance coaching and non-HR support for any Thriver struggling, from dealing with imposter syndrome to acclimating to a new role.

How does your role directly impact employee mental health and well-being?

I serve as a coach within Thrive to help people live our cultural values and stay true to their well-being journeys. I help our team members identify mindset shifts and micro-steps they can practice to improve their well-being and mental health immediately. This could help them get better sleep, navigate a challenge with a family member, or better prioritize their workload to ensure the most important things get done first.

What behaviors should a company focus on to get the impact of a role like yours?

Communicating with compassionate directness is a game-changer. Compassionate directness means we continuously seek and share feedback in real-time, always with compassion. That’s how we grow, evolve, and overcome challenges together. We can’t get better without sharing feedback in the moment, and for a truly thriving culture, that needs to be done with empathy and understanding—we don’t believe in rewarding brilliant jerks!

🤝 The people business partner

HR business partners can provide strategic support on people-related initiatives, from resourcing employees to advising on policies that can offer teams better emotional support. That’s how Tami Pit fits in at Baird, a financial services firm. She’s responsible for working with executives to build better leaders through coaching, consulting on their talent engagement and retention of talent, and talking to workers directly about what they need.

How does your role directly impact employee mental health and well-being? 

I work directly with employees when they are having mental health challenges or need coaching or resources, often acting as a liaison for leaves of absence. I also coach leaders on how to support an employee who is having mental health issues.

What behaviors should a company focus on to get the impact of a role like yours?

Patience—withhold the need for immediate action. Actively support when others are casting judgment without information. Sit in their discomfort instead of always needing to problem solve.

👂 The external leadership coach

External leadership consultants and coaches can be brought in to strengthen leaders’ skills in targeted areas, including their mental and emotional well-being—which helps them better support their teams. Katie Rasoul is an executive leadership coach and the founder of Team Awesome. Her coaching aims to help leaders explore possibility and potential for themselves, others, and their organizations.

How does your role directly impact employee mental health and well-being? 

I impact executive leaders’ thoughts, feelings, and actions, which in turn creates real impact for their teams. In advisory roles, I challenge leaders to consider how they directly create psychological safety, a sense of belonging, and space for whole selves on their team. Coaches serve as a neutral and judgment-free party to help leaders understand how their practices impact their employees’ experiences.

What behaviors should a company focus on to get the impact of a role like yours?

Ask open-ended, empowering questions instead of telling. These questions are often short, begin with who, where, when, or how, and are [intended] to prompt reflection and awareness from the other person. Great coaching questions lead to clarity and confidence from your team on their next steps.

🔭 The chief purpose officer

The pandemic has prompted increasing calls for companies to be responsible for both their employees and communities. So it’s no wonder that chief purpose officers—or the leaders tasked with directing an organization’s initiatives for good—are on the rise. Kwasi Mitchell leads these programs at Deloitte, where he’s responsible for embedding purpose into everything the organization does and drives commitments across sustainability, diversity and equity, and trust. His purview also includes the internal work of Deloitte to engage their people to feel connected to their own purpose.

How does your role directly impact employee mental health and well-being? 

My collaboration with our chief well-being officer, Jen Fisher, is key as we help our people discover their purpose—critical to their well-being and central to our efforts as an organization. Our goal is to embed a focus on mental health into all aspects of our people’s talent experience within Deloitte. My role also focuses on contributing to the greater well-being of the communities we work in.

What behaviors should a company focus on to get the impact of a role like yours? 

First, connect your team’s daily activities to the overall corporate purpose of the organization. That starts by listening to your people to understand what they find meaningful in their work and providing pathways of opportunity for them to engage in ways that align with their personal purpose and that of the organization.

🆘 Call-in relief for leaders

Leaders are responsible for too many heads and hearts to leave them untethered and overburdened. They make or break company, team, and individual performance every day. It’s time to assess our systems and antiquated practices to consider the many ways we can relieve, equip, and enable leaders to succeed in their highest use. By bringing in roles dedicated to well-being, we can improve the outcomes for everyone at work.

More resources for well-being at work

🌊 Coaching cultures can create a ripple of change at work. Sometimes, even small, positive shifts from a few people can help everyone prioritize helping others grow.

💗 Want to scale empathy? What a chief medical officer thinks you need.

🏃🏿‍♀️ You can train your brain for success by thinking like an athlete. Consider mindset moments and more.

🦶 Can walking and talking improve your company culture?

🧠 Managing a diagnosis of mental illness can be its own leadership skill. Here’s how a leader with bipolar 2 focused on wellness in their work.

You got The Memo

Send any news, comments, or ideas for roles that make a difference in mental health at work to aoakes@qz.com. This edition of The Memo was brought to you by:

✨ Quartz at Work’s editor, Anna Oakes, who wants to give everyone their very own chief everything awesome officer (CEAO). You in?

🏢 Our deputy editor, Gabriela Riccardi, who’s ready to see well-being in the corner office.