August 19, 2022
Over two years of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and a looming climate catastrophe have all been taking a toll on the mental health of employees worldwide. According to the research conducted by ADP Research Institute, 67% of workers in the Asia Pacific region, Europe, Latin America, and North America experienced stress at work at least once a week (compared with 62% pre-pandemic) - with 30% stating that their mental health has worsened since March 2020. Supporting employees’ emotional and mental well-being is more crucial than it’s ever been.
That’s also what modern workers expect from their employers - 81% of them say they will be looking for workplaces that offer mental health support if they seek new job opportunities in the future, as American Psychological Association's 2022 survey results have shown.
We’ve been and are aware of these issues at Monterail, and that’s why 19 months ago - in November 2020 - we took additional steps towards supporting our team members’ mental health. In this article, I’ll explain how the rollout of the HearMe app played out in our organization, and why we think psychological aid and backing are so important.
At Monterail, we know how important mental health is and we want to actively support our team members as they navigate their professional and personal challenges. We want to help them stay passionate about what they do - building innovative products is something that we deeply care about after all. Monterail is a remote-first company, so our set of challenges we face as a team is different from what more traditional workplaces may struggle with. In our case, it is important that Monterailians have the flexibility to create an environment that would help them stay creative, no matter what it may look like.
The fact that the team members at Monterail have flexible working hours, use the dedicated time for self-development, benefit from Hi5 sabbatical once they’ve worked at the company for 5 years, all counts, and get involved in our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, all counts but that’s not all. We believe that taking care of one’s mental health is a very significant element of this setup. To stay inventive and break new ground, you need to learn how to step away from your work at times and allow yourself to see the things that you’ve built with fresh eyes.
Our goal with all benefits that we introduce is to help the team members at Monterail achieve work-life fit rather than a work-life balance. Integrating your work and personal activities instead of trying to pair them off in a 50/50% ratio and keep them separate at all times is a go-to approach for a truly modern workplace.
The HearMe app I discuss in the next section is just one element of the mental support system at Monterail, but it’s a truly crucial one.
HearMe is a mental health platform offering psychological support and counseling services for employees at medium and large companies. With its three co-founders, Kasia Gryzło (Chief Executive Officer), Paweł Pierścionek (Chief Technology Officer), and Michał Pośnik (Chief Operating Officer), the application is aimed at improving employee well-being, both at work and at home, and can help organizations build more resilient teams. When building an initial version of HearMe, they conducted in-depth research interviews to find out what elements are crucial for such a mental health support product to be successful.
After this stage, they knew for sure that two factors will weigh in: anonymity and security. The HearMe app is then encrypted end-to-end, so the users can feel 100% safe about what they share with the therapists and coaches. Average adaptation for HearMe is currently at 20%, with 49% of the users using mental health support for the first time and 43% - identifying as men.
HearMe introduced a pyramid model of mental health support to cover a whole range of needs: from on-demand support and psychological first aid to psychoeducation and workshops which help teams get stronger, more resilient, and simply - happier.
Individual consultations between team members and psychologists and therapists are at its foundation. These meetings are held on a one-on-one basis as a way to help patients who regularly experience stress and anxiety which interfere with their daily activities.
Another level of this pyramid is online and offline employee training. The topics include: why feedback is important for teamwork and how to support your team members in critical situations. The HearMe team wants to help leaders, employers and HR professionals spot mental health challenges, serving as the first point of contact in organizations.
At the top of the pyramid are webinars where HearMe professionals share their expertise and best practices when it comes to mental health. They also send regular newsletters, and prepare infographics and presentations that can be useful when supporting someone in need or taking care of your own wellbeing. The specialists who are available via the applications have a holistic approach to mental health and they’re also trained as business coaches supporting employees not only on a personal, but also on a professional level.
Although at first the HearMe platform had been developed and available exclusively in Poland, the service has since been expanded to the UK and Netherlands, where HearMe operates as Emplomind.
Our plans for this and next year include creating even more educational content on employee wellbeing and revamping the design of our application. We also want to give the HR professionals who use the app an admin dashboard and an ability to set team member growth paths that would help them thrive on a professional and personal level.Kasia Gryzło Chief Executive Officer
at HearMe and Emplomind
The application can be accessed by anyone from Monterail in the browser, with no app downloads necessary. Once you’ve filled out a short questionnaire about your challenges and preferences, you’re matched with a suitable therapist and then you can schedule your first visit. The sessions are fully anonymous, so you don’t have to worry about your employer knowing the details of your visit.
Your therapy/coaching session can be conducted online via a video chat and on the phone, with 50 minutes booked for you in both of these situations. If you prefer to write rather than talk to a mental health professional, you can also book a 25-minute chat session where you’ll just message them and they will respond to you in real-time.
When Poland was about to come out of its third Covid-19 lockdown, we wanted to introduce a tool that would help the Monterailians deal with the pandemic- and non-pandemic-related health issues. With the co-CEOs, Szymon Boniecki and Bartosz Rega as driving forces behind the initiative, we began testing HearMe in November 2020 as a part of a larger overhaul of our benefits, and we haven’t looked back since.
We ran a short trial with HearMe at the end of 2020 and then asked our teams for feedback. It was collected via a short survey with the following questions:
The trial results were stunning: in this initial, anonymous questionnaire, 85% of people who used it declared that they would keep using it. So, we’ve decided to turn our trial into a fully-fledged subscription, with all Monterailians able to contact therapists and coaches via the HearMe app.
In the very beginning, we worked closely with the HearMe app team - they were just starting out back then - to support them in expanding the list of their services and the number of available specialists. This collaboration resulted in UX improvements in the application, enlisting therapists who have worked with tech professionals before, an English version of all onboarding resources, and videos about taking care of your mental health during the pandemic and finding work-life balance.
We also made sure that all team members knew that the services are fully anonymous and secure, with anyone being able to use them for any - pandemic or not - related mental health support and coaching. All therapists you can contact through the HearMe app are certified or are currently undergoing the certification process. They’re also under official supervision from their respective psychotherapy associations.
Fast forward to July 2022, and we now have 20+ people at Monterail using the application regularly or on an on-demand basis every month. Our team members can not only speak to experienced therapists and psychologists, but can also contact professional coaches that will help them go through any career-related challenges, avoid burnout, and define what motivates them at work.
After 1.5 years of consistent use of the HearMe app, we’ve found that it helped the team members at Monterail reduce the stigma around mental health and talk about the issues they face at work and at home more openly. After all, even if you’re afraid to say out loud that you need to take a 1-hour break to have a therapy session, it’s much easier to say that you’ve booked a HearMe app slot. The Monterailians also exchange their thoughts about the services and the specialists to help others find the help they need, whatever their challenges may be.
Mental health care is also an important benefit for us from the recruitment point of view. So far, our candidates’ reactions have been very positive when they hear from our People team members that we offer such support. We hope that it will also encourage them to ask about it when talking to other employers and that more companies will start introducing mental health programs that support employees as they blend professional and life activities.
With the rising level of anxiety and burnout among modern employees, we want to make sure that Monterail is a supportive and inclusive workplace where you can openly talk about your mental health struggles and get help from your colleagues and professional therapists. We strongly believe this approach will help us on our way to longevity and retaining team members in the long run and as their workplace expectations change.