We hear time and again that a culture of care and belonging underpins workplace mental health and wellbeing. But the question many people have posed during our webinars is: “What happens if you don’t have the Board’s buy-in?”
Nick Tzitzon , Chief Strategy and Corporate Affairs Officer with ServiceNow will be joining us as a speaker at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October in London. In this profile interview he give a flavour of the insights he’ll be sharing in the session “Toxic workplace culture turnaround”.
First, can you tell us where your interest in workplace mental health and wellbeing stems from and why you have decided to drive this agenda within ServiceNow?
When I first became a parent and started thinking about what sort of healthy living practices I would want to role model for my children, I started to appreciate how important mental health would be throughout their lifetime. By extension, I realized how little focus my own generation had put on that same topic. So, in the spirit of wanting to practice what I preach, I felt like it was time for the issue to become an important focus for me personally, and something that I advocated for others to concentrate on, as well.
How long has ServiceNow had a support programme for staff mental health and wellbeing? Is this a national or international programme?
Officially, we implemented our employee assistance program (EAP) in the US back in 2013. We then rolled it out internationally in 2018. Additionally, I would say that ServiceNow has done an excellent job focusing on the idea of creating a sense of belonging in its culture. I feel like this goes beyond even the official mental health programs that we offer because it has created the circumstances around which people feel more and more comfortable talking about mental health. All of us have pressures on our mental and emotional wellbeing at work, so really for us this is about getting the conversation out of the stigma and into the status quo.
What would you say has been the most important aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing programme (in general)?
I don’t want to be repetitive, but I would stress that probably the most beneficial thing we’ve done is to remove the stigma from the topic in general, and to give people permission and encouragement to be open about what they’re facing, and how it impacts them not only at work but beyond. In that sense, we’ve done a lot to make people feel like ServiceNow is somewhere they can be their whole-selves and maximize their full potential.
This has been more than just words and some of the learnings are counter-intuitive in some ways. For one, you can’t treat the idea of openness one way for certain topics, and another way for topics that are more complicated. Openness is openness. Empathy is empathy. Respect is respect.
Since COVID-19 what has been the most effective aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing programme?
I think, as many employers, we have done things that are small and some things that are more systemic. For example, we made it possible for people to expense home exercise equipment because we recognized that it would be harder for people to go into their normal physical fitness routines, and that would weigh on their additional stress burden.
We have also made a concerted effort to train our managers and enable our managers to be more empathetic with respect to device overload and burnout. And in general, we have tried to keep the conversation around the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at the top of our company conversation.
We never wanted our people to wrongly feel like they have to keep these issues to themselves. Our concentration was on creating a supportive environment in which they can share what’s really going on.
The pandemic has forced mental and physical health to the top of organisations’ agendas. Our goal is to make sure it remains a priority and becomes embedded as business as usual post-COVID. What concrete tips can you share for those who are struggling to get the C-suite’s support of this agenda?
I think this is one of the rare topics in business today that is both unequivocally the right thing for leaders to do, and absolutely necessary for leaders to do if they want to foster a culture of high performance.
If people are being challenged by pressures on their own mental health and wellbeing, and they don’t feel that they’re in an environment where they can get help and support, then they’re likely either to look elsewhere, or to approach their job with far less of their individual focus and capabilities.
To every leader, I would simply say this: This is an issue for your organization, whether you are dealing with it or not. So, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to step up, confront it, and make your culture an asset – one where people feel encouraged to speak freely and be who they are.
We are delighted that you will be joining us as a key speaker at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October in London. Is there anything you’d like to share with readers about your session “Toxic workplace culture turnaround”?
First and foremost, I wouldn’t want anybody to think that I walked into a toxic culture at ServiceNow. I think that my angle is to show people there are things about the ServiceNow culture that I believe are straightforward and easy for others to emulate.
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The mistakes I have seen elsewhere in cultures are likely mistakes that many are living with today. If there’s a key takeaway from what I’ll say during the summit, it’s this: There are small steps that everyone can take that will make a really big difference. There’s nothing more powerful to a culture than hearing a single influential leader express vulnerability.
What are you looking forward to most about the MADWorld Summit?
I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m looking forward to actually attending an in-person event. I know the summit has attracted so many talented and visionary leaders, it’s a chance for me to learn from others, more than anything else. When you’re talking about something like mental health in the workplace, this is a race without a finish. There are always ways to take the conversation to the next level, and I couldn’t be more confident that we’ll find some of those ways together in London.
The MAD World Summit is on Thursday 21st October, in-person at 133 Houndsditch in Central London. The Summit is the go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. For more information visit the event agenda or to book visit the booking page.