This year has been full of challenges, and we’ve all had to adapt to a new way of working, balancing conference calls with schooling our children, and trying to find time to take a much needed and well-deserved break. Fortunately, Schneider Electric has been there for me. I’m very thankful for the way my company has approached mental health during the pandemic, and the options they have provided all our employees during these unprecedented times.
While I was already used to working a hybrid schedule, I was not used to being home 100% of the time. I discovered my working space at home wasn’t quite cutting it. With a furniture benefit package provided by the company, I was able to create a more comfortable and ergonomically suitable workstation which has helped me be more productive. I also used our Virgin Pulse app to stay focused on daily healthy habits during a time that I desperately needed all the help I could get to stay positive. And the most inspirational was a series of mental health virtual town halls and webinars that offered a forum to share our challenges, feelings and encouragement with one another while we learned strategies to cope and even thrive during difficult times.
Flexible Work Arrangements
I’ve been lucky that my kids have been able to be back in daycare since last summer and that I’m able to do my work remotely, but we’ve still had several occasions of quarantining due to COVID exposures at school, awaiting our own COVID tests or just not wanting to risk exposure. Let’s be honest, juggling young kids and trying to work can be pretty comical.
I remember one occasion where I was hosting a webinar where close to 3,000 employees joined remotely, and I had the role of introducing our speakers. My 12-month old at the time decided to wake up from her nap right before my time to speak, and she was not happy. I somehow strategically managed to calm her screams just in time to give a quick 2-minute introduction while walking around bouncing her on one side and holding my laptop in the other arm. So stressful! (Thankfully I didn’t have to be on camera for that one.)
While I laughed off that stressful moment as soon as it was over, it’s no laughing matter that stress and burnout have risen to dangerous levels during this pandemic. Mental illness was already rising at an alarming rate; now we’ve reached crisis status.
Caring Policies: Paid Family Leave, Part Time Options, and More
The National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) reported in 2019 that one in five US adults experience mental illness in a given year, and one in 20 experience serious mental illness. Factor in the pandemic, and now anxiety and depression have quadrupled since 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser also reports that certain groups, including women, young adults, people of color and essential workers, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic when it comes to mental health challenges. Many others are simply “languishing;” experiencing low well-being and performance due to heightened stress or exhaustion in work and personal life.
This is a scary picture, but it is not a hopeless one. The good companies are seeing this as a wake-up call and taking the responsibility to care for employees in ways they may not have considered before. I’m thankful that Schneider Electric is one of the good ones. I’ve taken advantage of our supportive policies for several years – like Flexible Work Arrangements so I can split time between working from home and office to better balance work and family, and Paid Family Leave that gave me 12 weeks of paid time off when my daughter was born.
When the pandemic hit, Schneider Electric doubled-down on these types of benefits. From implementing temporary part-time options to providing support for child, elder and pet care, the ability to purchase additional PTO and providing additional free counseling sessions, the company responded quickly to care for critical needs of employees and their families. Even as we look ahead to this still-uncertain future, I know that whenever I do return to the office, I’ll continue to have the flexibility to manage my work and personal priorities with a hybrid schedule.
New Recharge Break Offering
And we haven’t stopped there. Now, just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month, Schneider employees have a new opportunity: to save up for a 6-12 week Recharge Break, where the company will contribute paid days in addition to the days pre-purchased by the employee. Our dreams of extended travel, long-term volunteer projects or simply a much-needed mental health break can now be attainable.
I am proud to work at Schneider Electric, where we prioritize employee well-being and have the support and space to care for ourselves and those we love. Please, take some time today to do something for your own mental health!
About the Author
Kelly Bierman is the U.S. Well-being Manager for Schneider Electric, where she drives a culture of well-being to help colleagues elevate their physical, social and mental health. Based in Franklin, TN, she enjoys staying active by running, hiking, and exploring local Music City sites with her husband and two young children.
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