By | Susanna Kim | Senior Editor, Group SJR
Since the onset of the pandemic, doctors, educators, and policy makers have been sounding the alarm about a global mental health crisis. Reported levels of depression remain three times those in the pre-COVID era, according to a U.S. survey conducted by Northeastern University and other partners in 2021.
For years, organizations have tried to support the well-being of employees by offering everything from meditation and yoga to in-office psychiatrists, in an effort to reduce turnover and boost employee engagement and productivity. Today, companies are innovating with a new tactic — relying on the help of their own workforce — to address the mental health issues of employees and reinforce a supportive workforce culture.
Alice Scott, chief operations and inclusion officer at Austin Fraser, says the international staffing agency evaluated various strategies to meet the needs of employees by asking, “How could we do that in a way that is us and that feels genuine in the way that it was intended?”
So, Austin Fraser launched its We Care Champions initiative by sharing video profiles of “employees who want to give an ear to anyone who needs it.” These volunteers came from all across the company and are first-line responders to colleagues who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any number of other mental health challenges.
“They really care,” Alice says. “And they can tell you about times where they’ve really needed to lean on others, and they want to be here for you.”