[DutchPHP] Empathy as a Service: Supporting Mental Health in the Tech Workplace

[DutchPHP] Empathy as a Service: Supporting Mental Health in the Tech Workplace

B36609b33707f04623f84f7381d5e94e?s=128

Nara Kasbergen

July 01, 2017
Tweet

Transcript

  1. 1.

    Empathy as a Service: Supporting Mental Health in the Tech

    Workplace Nara Kasbergen (@xiehan) Dutch PHP Conference 2017 July 1, 2017 #dpc17
  2. 2.

    Topics covered 1. Numbers and nomenclature 2. Why I speak

    up about this 3. What can we do? ◦ pragmatic, common-sense, action-oriented; anyone can do these things! 4. What must we do together? ◦ difficult, aspirational; everyone has to do their part
  3. 8.

    Mental illness is one of the most prevalent chronic health

    conditions, but we don’t talk about it
  4. 9.

    An incomplete list of mental illnesses Depression Generalized anxiety disorder

    Bipolar disorder Substance use disorder (alcoholism) Eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia) ADHD PTSD Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Impulse control disorder Schizophrenia Antisocial personality disorder Dissociative identity disorder Autism spectrum disorders* Burnout**
  5. 11.

    Symptoms of major depression • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness,

    hopelessness • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities • Sleep disturbances (insomnia or sleeping too much) • Tiredness and lack of energy • Changes in appetite • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness Source: Mayo Clinic
  6. 12.

    “Telling someone not to be sad because others have it

    worse is like telling people they can’t be happy because others have it better.” - Unknown
  7. 16.

    1 in 3 Dutch individuals with mental illness do not

    seek professional help Source: Volksgezondheidenzorg.info
  8. 18.

    70% of suicides in The Netherlands are likely attributable to

    depression Source: Volksgezondheidenzorg.info
  9. 20.

    23% percentage of hospitalization expenditures that are spent on mental

    and behavioral healthcare in The Netherlands Source: CBS
  10. 23.

    €40,000/year estimated increase in revenue for each business with 100

    employees that reduces workplace absenteeism by 1% Source: Trimbos.nl
  11. 24.

    Why people do not speak up • Fear of dismissal

    • Fear of being taken out of promotion consideration • Fear of being taken off high-value projects • Fear of reduced hours (for hourly workers) • Fear of being asked to take unpaid medical leave • Fear of being treated differently
  12. 33.

    “I could do so many awesome things if only my

    own head didn’t get in the way.” - Ed Finkler (@funkatron)
  13. 35.

    Characteristics of tech workplaces and culture • The work is

    challenging and stressful • Our jobs are highly collaborative • Many of us have relocated for a job • Most of us work remotely at least part of the time • We're often expected to be available outside of regular work hours • Someone needs to fix things when they break (even if that happens overnight) • There is a heavy emphasis on drinking culture
  14. 37.

    Relocation Positive: • Much easier to feel a part of

    the team and helping toward the mission if you are on-site • Can bring you closer to a community of practitioners in your field than where you currently are
  15. 38.

    Relocation Positive: • Much easier to feel a part of

    the team and helping toward the mission if you are on-site • Can bring you closer to a community of practitioners in your field than where you currently are Negative: • Takes someone away from the existing support structures they have already built up • Generally stressful • Making new friends as an adult is surprisingly hard!
  16. 39.

    Relocation Solutions: • As a community, stop saying that the

    best way to succeed in tech is to relocate to Silicon Valley; become more accepting of alternative choices • If you are a manager, take another look at your hiring practices and see whether remote employment is an option • Create a "Welcome Wagon" for new colleagues who have had to relocate to join your company
  17. 40.

    Free idea: "The Welcome Wagon" • Take the new employee

    out for lunch or dinner with the team. Avoid alcohol at their first social event. • Team members take turns introducing the new employee to activities and events in the area, e.g. ◦ Invite them to join your book club meeting! ◦ Invite them to go rock climbing! ◦ Invite them to join your bocce league! ◦ Invite them to go volunteering with you!
  18. 42.

    Remote work Positive: • Flexible hours • Easier to attend

    daytime therapy appointments • Easier to stick to medication regimens • Easier to take breaks • (Usually) quiet & peaceful
  19. 43.

    Remote work Positive: • Flexible hours • Easier to attend

    daytime therapy appointments • Easier to stick to medication regimens • Easier to take breaks • (Usually) quiet & peaceful Negative: • Sense of isolation • Harder to build strong relationships with co-workers • Harder to tell if colleagues are doing OK (health-wise) • Can make it more challenging to maintain work-life balance
  20. 44.

    Remote work Solutions: • Make funds available for employees to

    join a co-working space (or encourage your colleagues to do so) • Fly in remote employees or hold company-wide off-sites together to make sure they feel part of the team • Look into the latest research on remote work culture, improvements you can make to integrate remote employees
  21. 46.

    Open plan offices Positive: • More conducive to collaboration, creative

    problem-solving between multiple employees • Easier to construct because of things like fire code • Can increase sense of team unity, camaraderie
  22. 47.

    Open plan offices Positive: • More conducive to collaboration, creative

    problem-solving between multiple employees • Easier to construct because of things like fire code • Can increase sense of team unity, camaraderie Negative: • Noise reduces productivity • Lack of privacy • Increased stress • Increased peer pressure • Highly conducive to the spread of disease (cold, flu, etc.)
  23. 48.

    Open plan offices Solutions: • Allow employees to work remotely

    (or increase the number of days per week or per month when they can do so) • Urge employees to work from home when sick • Set aside small meeting spaces for quiet work • Have the company provide noise-canceling headphones • Encourage employees to decorate their workspace
  24. 50.

    On-call rotations Positive: • A huge burden being shared among

    the team improves sense of team unity, camaraderie • Engineers have a way to prove their understanding of the technical systems and ability to manage a crisis
  25. 51.

    On-call rotations Positive: • A huge burden being shared among

    the team improves sense of team unity, camaraderie • Engineers have a way to prove their understanding of the technical systems and ability to manage a crisis Negative: • Expecting the unexpected can be very difficult for those with serious anxiety disorders • Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep is bad for mental health • High stress can lead to burnout
  26. 52.

    On-call rotations Solutions: • Fix tech issues to make being

    on-call less stressful • If someone is called in the middle of the night, give them adequate time to catch up on sleep • For employees with serious anxiety disorders, see if there's a way to take them out of the on-call rotation without making them feel like they're not contributing
  27. 54.

    Alcohol at tech events Positive: • One or two drinks

    can make it easier for some introverts and those with social anxiety to socialize with peers • It's become expected in tech culture; if you don't offer it, those who want to drink will go find a bar instead of staying to mingle with others at the event
  28. 55.

    Alcohol at tech events Positive: • One or two drinks

    can make it easier for some introverts and those with social anxiety to socialize with peers • It's become expected in tech culture; if you don't offer it, those who want to drink will go find a bar instead of staying to mingle with others at the event Negative: • Non-drinkers feel unwelcome • Recovering alcoholics feel threatened by the environment • Free alcohol and drinking culture are so pervasive that there are probably more functioning alcoholics in tech than we're aware of
  29. 56.

    Alcohol at tech events Solutions: • Offer nice alternatives (fancy

    sodas, mocktails) for non-drinkers to make them feel included • Put a limit on the number of free drinks (use tickets or tokens) • Have activities other than drinking (board games?) • In a recurring series (e.g. monthly meetup), try alternating dry/non-dry events • Add workplace wellness programs on substance abuse
  30. 57.

    Managers: Lead by example • Don't micro-manage • Leave the

    office on time • Take regular vacations • Don't send or answer e-mails at 2am if possible • Be receptive to feedback on your own performance • Be a good listener • Be open to talking about your own health and mental health
  31. 58.

    Other action items for managers • Make sure your employees

    understand their health rights (e.g. medical leave of absence), especially with regard to burnout & mental health • Revisit your hiring practices with an eye to mental illness and neurodiversity • Make sure your employees feel valued and are on projects that they find fulfilling and empowering • Get the OSMI handbooks (leanpub.com/u/osmi) • Consider offering Mental Health First Aid
  32. 59.

    Mental Health First Aid (mhfa.nl) • Learn first aid for

    someone experiencing a mental health crisis; how best to help • International training course • 4x3 hours spread over 4-5 weeks • Usually costs €275 per person including materials • Began in Australia; available in the U.S., The Netherlands, and most countries in the EU
  33. 62.

    Support marginalized people in tech • Chronic harassment, bullying, and

    microaggressions can lead to depression, exacerbate eating disorders, and cause or worsen other mental illnesses • Even in tech, women are still judged by their appearance • People from marginalized groups feel they have to over-perform (to counteract the "lowering the bar" myth), which leads to increased stress and a greater likelihood of burnout
  34. 63.

    Embrace neurodiversity • Mental illnesses like ADHD and autism are

    the result of natural variations of the human genome • "People with differences do not need to be cured; they need help and accommodation instead." • Some of our greatest inventions are attributed to people with atypical neurology • "Mental illness gives me superpowers." - Ed Finkler • hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive- advantage
  35. 64.

    Things we can only change as a culture • "All

    the best developers I know are always coding on the weekends and during holidays." • The need to always be available by phone/e-mail • The peer pressure caused by social media • The belief that you must be in Silicon Valley to truly succeed as a software engineer • The stigma against talking about our feelings • The idea that engineers don't have empathy
  36. 68.

    “I could do so many awesome things if only my

    own head didn’t get in the way.” - Ed Finkler (@funkatron)
  37. 69.

    Resources Want to help? • reach out. ask questions. listen.

    tell your friends you care. • osmihelp.org • mhprompt.org • if-me.org • mhfa.nl • iFightDepression.com Need help? • talk to someone: a friend, relative, counselor, etc. • forums.osmihelp.org • psyned.nl • 0900-0113 or 113.nl • 0900-0767 or 030-2943344 (sensoor.nl)