This is the third of a series from Uprise Health leaders about creating workplaces that value mental health. Over the coming weeks, we will explore the building blocks of culture and innovation, including shaping organizations that promote the mental health and wellbeing of their teams and clients.

Melissa Dexter joined Uprise Health as Chief People Officer in May of 2021 after serving as the Chief Human Resources Officer at MedeAnalytics. Melissa’s career in Human Resources spans more than 25 years expertise in payer and provider healthcare including Tenet Healthcare, Ameripath (Quest Diagnostics) and MedFusion (McKesson sold to Quest Diagnostics). She also brings extensive Private Equity experience with Thomas Bravo, Arclight, Welsh Carson and Stowe and JLL. She served as a Human Capital Consultant at RGP, a global consulting firm, specializing in Fortune 50 companies. Over her career, she has mastered all facets of Human Resources including HR infrastructure, Talent Acquisition, Employment Law, cultural transformation, and DE&I initiatives.

Melissa’s heart has always been in healthcare. She has witnessed and experienced mental health issues firsthand, from her own experience and within her family. Melissa characterized Uprise Health, a company where she could use and share her passion to contribute to something truly meaningful in healthcare. Melissa believes that a strong mental health technology company integrates and implements the programs and services they proudly offer. “Our people are our most important asset,” said Melissa. “We believe at Uprise Health, prioritizing wellbeing and culture is necessary and that we should be the blueprint to authentically support our employees and clients.

Most Uprise Health employees live and work in America. There can be a “living to work” tendency in the U.S. workplace. This culture drives many Americans to work hard, take pride and seek identity from their work accomplishments. This mentality can create limitations to an employees’ ability to have a healthy work-life balance. Reports on full-time American workers find that, on average, they work the highest number of hours in the world per week, and 38% cite a lack of time for their personal lives. Additionally, workers typically only take about 54% of their allotted annual paid vacation, with a nationwide average of just two weeks. Finally, the U.S. is the only industrialized country without national paid parental leave.

However, the pandemic is becoming a crucial inflection point for Americans’ attitudes toward work with the rise of the Great Resignation. With the removal of the physical office space, some suggest the pandemic may have downgraded work as the centerpiece of American identity. The Great Resignation saw a record 20 million workers quitting their jobs in almost every industry between April and August.  More people are quitting their jobs to find something better, and this ‘better job’ revolution provides a real opportunity for employers to meet and exceed worker expectations or risk losing talent.

Over the past year, Uprise Health has acquired companies and talent from across the world. This global employee base has provided insight into the variability of work cultures across different countries. With all our employees now under the one name, Uprise Health, there is an exciting opportunity to change the way we work and balance personal and professional pursuits in a mentally healthy manner.

In our third Mental Health Matters blog, we had the opportunity to speak with the Chief People Officer at Uprise Health, Melissa Dexter. Melissa shares her insights as a leader in mental health human resources and digital solutions as a leader navigating the current environment and building the blueprint for the wellbeing strategy at Uprise Health. These steps follow our path to offer employees a place where we value the incredibly meaningful work our employees provide as well as acknowledging that their mental wellness is priority.

Ask difficult questions and treasure honest answers.

The most important step in understanding worker expectations is assessing the work environment. Building the framework for a mentally healthy culture requires collecting detailed feedback around engagement, expectations, stressors, and the kinds of benefits that will make people want to work at the company. Identification of areas in need improvement is rooted in constructive feedback.

“I’m not scared to find out that something isn’t working, because that is the best opportunity for me to make a really meaningful impact for our teams,” said Melissa, “It’s not just about what isn’t working, but also looking at what makes employees feel alive and valuable.”

Learn more about the employee base that you are serving, then you can begin to share best practices, ideas and experiences that are meaningful to your teams. Your employees know best when it comes to what they need or expect from you as an employer. There is no one size fits all and finding your best fit will take time, persistence, and a great attitude. Collecting this information takes the guesswork out of forming a strategy and increases your likelihood of success and positive employee feedback.

Build trust by demonstrating mentally healthy behavior.

Another key determinant of worker satisfaction and engagement is the perception of leadership as authentic.  Employee’s engagement grows and sustains when they have trust in leadership’s intentions. For example, if leaders are encouraging employees to take vacation, they need to utilize their personal and vacation days.  Stigma is reduced and team members will follow their example. It will steadily become a part of culture.

“A huge impact on my wellness has been not taking time away from work. Like so many leaders and employees in the US, we often feel that we can’t take PTO because it may be looked down on or we feel there is nobody to fill in and pass work to, “said Melissa, “When I eventually did take some time away from work, it changed my entire perspective. I was reminded of who I am and what’s important to me at work and at home. I’m my best self when I get the chance to recharge.”

“Despite the growing prevalence of mental health issues, stigma is an unfortunate reality in so many workplaces. We need to be persistent in our efforts to role model and encourage our employees to take care of themselves and feel safe to participate in wellbeing and mental health initiatives. The kind of communication that works best in reducing stigma is being vulnerable. When leaders begin talking about their vulnerabilities and real experiences with mental health, it can help to normalize these conversations.” said Melissa.

Give your initiatives boundaries and structure.

The importance of setting boundaries around what employees are encouraged to do was highlighted working remotely during the pandemic. The lines between work and home blurred. Providing guidance on how people’s work will be covered can help to encourage a healthy and psychologically safe culture among teams.

“I have told my team that taking time off work not only recharges you, but it also allows the rest of the team to step up and support you,” said Melissa, “With the right guidance, it can be very empowering for your team to genuinely experience the trust you have in them to manage your workload.”

Taking time off builds camaraderie among the team; it also allows employees to see a glimpse into the responsibilities of a leadership role. “As a mentor, I believe this visibility into what I do empowers them, lifts them up and educates them on what’s next in their career,” said Melissa.

Think of the total person.

When we talk about wellness and engagement, it’s no longer just about physical health. There are so many elements that make an employee feel well, engaged, and valued by the company. When forming a wellbeing strategy for retention and engagement, there is not one size fits all.

“A big part of forming a wellbeing strategy is being aware that we are all so different. We come from completely different backgrounds and our understanding of mental health and what is acceptable differs,” said Melissa. “Ultimately, work should be meaningful and give every one of our employees a sense of value in a way that is meaningful to them. Everyday people should come to work and feel that their contribution is valued and that they made a difference in one person’s life.”

By considering what cultural backgrounds exist within your team, as well as the physical relationship with mental health, there are many opportunities to get creative with your wellbeing initiatives and strategy. Wellbeing strategy should have elements that strengthen each individual and team’s ability to connect with others, stay active, keep learning, be aware and help others.

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