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

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

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Nara Kasbergen

May 12, 2018
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  1. 1.

    EMPATHY AS A SERVICE SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH IN THE TECH

    WORKPLACE Nara Kasbergen (@xiehan) phpDay Italy #phpday May 12, 2018
  2. 2.

    TOPICS COVERED 1. What are we talking about? 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. 4.

    1 in 5 adults living with mental illness at any

    given time Source: International Journal of Epidemiology
  4. 6.

    1 in 14 children and adults under 45 living with

    asthma in Europe Source: European Respiratory Society
  5. 8.

    Mental illness is one of the most prevalent chronic health

    conditions, but we don’t talk about it
  6. 9.

    A VERY INCOMPLETE LIST OF MENTAL ILLNESSES Depression Generalized anxiety

    disorder Bipolar disorder Substance use disorder (alcoholism) Eating disorder (bulimia) ADHD PTSD Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Impulse control disorder Antisocial personality disorder Schizophrenia Dissociative identity disorder Autism spectrum disorders* Burnout**
  7. 11.

    SYMPTOMS OF MAJOR DEPRESSION ▸ Feelings of sadness, 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
  8. 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
  9. 16.

    35-50% of people with mental disorders in high-income countries do

    not receive any kind of treatment Source: WHO
  10. 20.

    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/contracts ▸ Fear of reduced hours (for hourly workers) ▸ Fear of being asked to take unpaid medical leave ▸ Fear of being treated differently
  11. 30.

    “ I could do so many awesome things if only

    my own head didn’t get in the way. - Ed Finkler (@funkatron)
  12. 32.

    COMMON 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 work hours ▸ Someone needs to fix things when they break overnight ▸ There is a heavy emphasis on drinking culture
  13. 34.

    RELOCATION Positive: ▸ Much easier to feel a part of

    the team and helping toward the mission if you're on-site ▸ Can bring you closer to a community of practitioners in your field than where you currently are
  14. 35.

    RELOCATION 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! Positive: ▸ Much easier to feel a part of the team and helping toward the mission if you're on-site ▸ Can bring you closer to a community of practitioners in your field than where you currently are
  15. 36.

    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
  16. 37.

    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!
  17. 39.

    REMOTE WORK Positive: ▸ Flexible hours ▸ Easier to attend

    daytime therapy appointments ▸ Easier to stick to medication regimens ▸ Easier to take breaks ▸ Quiet & peaceful
  18. 40.

    REMOTE WORK 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 challenging to maintain work-life balance Positive: ▸ Flexible hours ▸ Easier to attend daytime therapy appointments ▸ Easier to stick to medication regimens ▸ Easier to take breaks ▸ Quiet & peaceful
  19. 41.

    REMOTE WORK Solutions: ▸ Make funds available for employees to

    join a co- working space (or encourage colleagues to do so) ▸ Fly in remote employees or hold company-wide off-sites 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
  20. 43.

    OPEN PLAN OFFICES Positive: ▸ More conducive to collaboration, creative

    problem-solving between multiple employees ▸ Easier to construct because of e.g. fire code ▸ Can increase sense of team unity, camaraderie
  21. 44.

    OPEN PLAN OFFICES Negative: ▸ Noise reduces productivity ▸ Lack

    of privacy ▸ Increased stress ▸ Increased peer pressure ▸ Highly conducive to spread of disease (cold, flu, etc.) Positive: ▸ More conducive to collaboration, creative problem-solving between multiple employees ▸ Easier to construct because of e.g. fire code ▸ Can increase sense of team unity, camaraderie
  22. 45.

    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
  23. 47.

    ON-CALL ROTATIONS Positive: ▸ A huge burden being shared among

    the team improves sense of team unity, camaraderie ▸ Engineers have a way to prove understanding of the technical systems, ability to handle crisis
  24. 48.

    ON-CALL ROTATIONS 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 leads to burnout Positive: ▸ A huge burden being shared among the team improves sense of team unity, camaraderie ▸ Engineers have a way to prove understanding of the technical systems, ability to handle crisis
  25. 49.

    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
  26. 51.

    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 ▸ If you don't offer alcohol, those who want to drink will go to a bar instead of staying to mingle with others at the event
  27. 52.

    ALCOHOL AT TECH EVENTS Negative: ▸ Non-drinkers feel unwelcome ▸

    Recovering alcoholics feel threatened ▸ Free alcohol and drinking culture are so pervasive that there are probably more functioning alcoholics in tech than we're aware of Positive: ▸ One or two drinks can make it easier for some introverts and those with social anxiety to socialize with peers ▸ If you don't offer alcohol, those who want to drink will go to a bar instead of staying to mingle with others at the event
  28. 53.

    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) ▸ Have activities other than drinking (e.g. board games) ▸ In a recurring series, try alternating dry/non-dry events ▸ Add workplace wellness programs on substance abuse
  29. 54.

    MANAGERS, TECH LEADS AND SENIOR DEVS: 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 health and mental health
  30. 55.

    OTHER ACTION ITEMS FOR MANAGERS ▸ Make sure employees understand

    their rights, 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 the Mental Health First Aid training
  31. 56.

    MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID (mhfainternational.org) ▸ Teaches how to respond

    if you encounter someone having a mental health crisis ▸ International program (started in Australia) ▹ Available in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands & more ▸ 8-hour or 12-hour training course ▸ Employers can host a training on-site
  32. 59.

    SUPPORT MARGINALIZED PEOPLE IN THE TECH INDUSTRY ▸ Chronic harassment,

    bullying, and micro- aggressions can lead to depression, exacerbate eating disorders, and cause or worsen other mental illnesses ▸ Even in tech, women are still judged by their looks ▸ 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
  33. 60.

    FULLY EMBRACE NEURODIVERSITY ▸ Mental disorders 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 ▸ "Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage" (HBR)
  34. 61.

    THINGS WE CAN ONLY CHANGE AS A CULTURE ▸ Working

    ourselves to death - the over-emphasis on hard work, and stigma against vacation ▸ The need to always be available by phone or email ▸ The peer pressure caused by social media ▸ The belief that you must be in Silicon Valley to succeed ▸ The stigma against talking about our feelings ▸ The idea that engineers don't have empathy
  35. 65.

    “ I could do so many awesome things if only

    my own head didn’t get in the way. - Ed Finkler (@funkatron)
  36. 66.

    RESOURCES Want to help? ▸ reach out. ask. listen. tell

    your friends you care. ▸ osmihelp.org ▸ mhprompt.org ▸ if-me.org ▸ mhfainternational .org Need help? ▸ talk to someone: a friend, relative, counselor, etc. ▸ forums.osmihelp.org ▸ 112 ▸ samaritansonlus.org or 800-860022 or 06-77208977 ▸ telefonoamico.it or 199284284