Mental Health Awareness Month has come to an end, but if there’s one thing the last few years has taught us, it’s that corporate efforts to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the people who make up the organization should not be limited to a specific time frame. Rather, these efforts must continue throughout the year.
For many companies, this means a re-examination of the benefits offerings to ensure that more tools, educational opportunities and flexibility is available to employees to do what they need to do to manage their mental health. PwC has been examining this very issue in recent times and has seen mental health and wellness as a core tenet of its new My+ strategy, a reimagined people experience providing the power to build personalized careers.
It’s a part of PwC’s “New Equation,” a strategic framework said to be human centered and powered by technology. For the My+ portion, the company got feedback it received from people within the company. The $2.4 billion investment over the next three years put choice and flexibility high on its list of goals, but to get there the top focus of the program has been building trust.
“Building trust is at the core of our entire strategy as a firm and it’s embedded within every relationship, be it with clients, each other or the community that we operate in,” DeAnne Aussem, a Leadership Strategist and Wellbeing Leader at PwC said. “Building that is a two-way street so it requires a lot of open dialogue and intentional action. It’s a continuous process and because our people are the heartbeat of the firm, we knew we needed to root My+ in their priorities and ambitions.”
PwC’s decision to take a phased approach was about keeping the effort intentional and sustainable over the three-year period in which it unfolds. In the end, My+ is an effort to remain competitive on employee experience and provide the type of benefits that can move the needle on mental health and wellness.
“Our people thrive when their daily experience matches what they value and what makes them happy,” Aussem said. “We do talk a lot about purpose and values at the organizational level but also the individual level. Things like meaningful relationships, balanced workloads, opportunity, support for flexibility and a deep sense of belonging. We’re fundamentally rethinking the career experience.”
The program is built on four pillars. They are:
- Wellbeing – choice takes center stage in a customer like treatment of employees. People can choose where they work, when they work and how much they work. The company has expanded protected time to unplug and recharge with two weeklong company wide shutdowns.
When it comes to flexibility, PwC has upheld work from home options that were popularized during the pandemic. It also offered the ability to opt-in to in person or hybrid roles, to work wherever they want, including internationally, and expanded use of reduced schedules or paid use of absences.
- Total Rewards – the company is launching a new benefits platform that can be personalized to help employees access and choose benefits that are personal to them. This will help them find healthcare providers and manage costs. PwC has also expanded parental leave from 8 to 12 weeks and increased the number of free visits with a mental health professional from 6 visits to 12 annually and increasing reimbursement of out of network mental health visits from 70% to 90%.
- Development – the company has doubled down on providing leadership and coaching skills in year one. It is launching a new learning platform that is hyper focused on skills that are needed. It’s tech enabled, personalized and simpler than previous tools. Further, the company has created a self-paced inclusive mindset program that will help leaders across all levels through live coaching, the ability to practice having conversations with colleagues that help each other understand their differing life experiences.
- Always a PwCer – the final piece of the My+ is maintaining the constant connection that people have to the company, even after they leave.
The Focus on Mental Health
In that Total Rewards piece, the changes to mental health support policies are significant. They are a reaction to the changing conversation around mental health and how companies can better support employees who are dealing with mental health challenges.
“We’ve focused on the mental dimension of wellbeing a lot through our ‘Be Well, Work Well’ framework,” Aussem said. “We realize you have to take a holistic view. Mental health is just one aspect of health. But we have to continue to talk about it to remove barriers and we have to increase access to care. Those are the two areas where we felt like we could make a difference. We know that the line between work and home is increasingly blurry and we know from listening to their feedback that prioritizing wellbeing is one of the best ways we can improve their lives both at work and elsewhere.”
For all the talk about employees bringing their whole or best selves to work, many companies haven’t done much to help that become the reality. Obviously, people don’t turn on and off who they are when they arrive at work, but for many years, employees in the corporate world have become accustomed to putting their idea of self on the back burner while on the clock.
PwC has sought to change this by focusing on mental health but realizing that mental health isn’t the only factor at play here and that it often impacts other areas of health.
“Wellbeing is the golden thread that runs through our people experience,” Aussem said. “It might look different person to person and be different for each of us next month from where it is this month. We wanted to look at how we fuel our people across physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social and certainly mental dimensions.”
She was keen to add that it’s not just an individual effort that facilitates the idea of bringing the best version of yourself to work, but a team effort.
“While wellbeing is personal, it’s vital that the company have the support structures in place from their teams and organizational commitment from the highest levels that enables people to put themselves first,” she said.