Advocating mental health at MVP Factory

In honour of mental health awareness month, we took the opportunity to sit and chat with our wonderful HR Manager and mental health advocate Swenja.

At MVP Factory, we are constantly exploring how embracing openness, fostering communication, and prioritizing well-being can transform the workplace and unlock the full potential of every individual. Here are Swenja’s main takes on this topic:

How does today's work environment impact the stigma associated with addressing mental health concerns in the workplace?

Personally, I think it is quite tricky to give an objective answer to this question. If the last three years have shown us one thing, it's that mental health struggles are not a singular occurrence and actually affect the majority of people. Meaning it is a topic that every employer should familiarize themselves with as it has a massive impact on the workforce. I see a slow change happening from the trend of people "bragging" about their workload, working late hours and running themselves thin for their employers to advertising working remotely, taking time off for their family/mental health etc. and the embracing of the 4-Day-Work-Week. However, it will take a long time to really change the mindset of employers, as they have to "undo" years of bad work habits.

What would be some of the best practices you’d recommend in identifying and addressing mental health at work?

Creating a culture that celebrates differences, is open in their communication and is open-minded, is the base for creating an environment that embraces struggles such as depression etc. and doesn't primarily identify them as problems. Additionally, advertising the importance of everyone's (mental) health from day one has been impactful in the way the team communicates their struggles. At MVP Factory we also have a mental health first aider within our company, which is a huge step forward in the right direction and helps us in identifying any potential "problems" much sooner.

Best practices for someone dealing with mental health at work whilst trying to stay on top of their career game?

Honesty and clear communication. Starting at MVP Factory, I had just months before been diagnosed with mildly severe depression. In the beginning, I was scared as to how this will impact my work and my performance. I wanted to keep it to myself at first, due to the huge stigma that comes with mental health. However, I quickly realized that trying to hide my struggles affected my work more negatively than the depression itself. What has worked best for me so far is just being very open and honest in my communication, and setting realistic expectations and boundaries as well. Depression is not linear and your performance isn't either - you need to remind yourself that giving your best and showing up for the company and yourself, holding yourself accountable is already half the job done.

Looking forward, how can employers best build relationships with their key stakeholders to address and fight the stigma that comes with mental health illnesses?

In this case, I'd define key stakeholders as everyone that you interact with at your workplace. I'd start by trying to prevent old habits and trends from repeating themselves. Nurturing a culture that is open, trusting and accepting. And as much as it might scare people, also be open to having uncomfortable conversations. I have been very vocal and open about my mental health struggles with my colleagues and have received feedback that it made them feel safer and more accepted at work. Our director of talent & organization and I have regular check-ins scheduled with the whole company, as well as well-being surveys that help us have an overview of the baseline and stay in touch with the team.

Sounds intriguing? We've some open roles - apply now and become the next exciting addition to the MVP Factory team!

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