Most people think DEI is a nice-to-have for their organizations — and they’re often one of the first programs to go in recessive periods.
But DEI is not only a way to keep your best people and ideas and support your bottom-line, it’s actually non-negotiable for employees. And it influences their decisions around who they work for and the type of performance they will give while they’re there.
In this episode, we’ll be talking about some of the findings from a virtual roundtable we hosted with DEI practitioners in the tech industry in April 2023 to discuss how they’re expanding their strategies while considering employees’ desires for well-being and flexible work.
We also announce our upcoming mini-series in July 2023 on “Hybrid Work & Company Culture” where we’ll share more about our roundtable conversation.
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, a Filipina American living in Spain and your guide in navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entrypoint into this conversation: your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Most people think DEI is a nice-to-have for their organizations and, sadly — as we’ve witnessed over the last few months — DEI or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives are often one of the first programs to go in recessive periods.
But we've also learned that DEI is not only a way to keep your best people and ideas, it's a way to support your bottom-line. And more so, it's an actual non-negotiable for employees when they choose who they work for and the type of performance that they'll be giving while they're working there.
I'm Kay Fabella, and I'm a DEI consultant for remote teams.
And I'm your host of the Inclusion in Progress podcast, where you'll get research-backed industry insights into the future of work, and practical “how to’s” for equity and inclusion.
I also lead a remote team — and work with clients — across EMEA, APAC and the Americas. Which means that you will always get a global perspective on how companies are supporting their distributed teams, in the process of building inclusive work that works for everyone.
In this episode we'll be talking about some of the findings from our virtual roundtable that we hosted with DEI practitioners, HR professionals, and People Leaders in the tech industry, to discuss how they were designing their strategies to accommodate their employees’ shared desire for flexible work, without compromising company culture in the process.
So if you like the podcast, make sure that you follow us on your favorite podcast app and leave us a review, because that really helps us get this content in front of equity-minded leaders in the workplace, like you, who could really benefit from the conversations and resources we share here.
And some exciting news from Team IIP: over the next few episodes on our podcast will actually be referring to the findings from our virtual roundtable with those tech companies, and the discussion that we had included questions like: What is company culture today vs pre-pandemic? How does that look like in a remote, hybrid, or distributed work environment? How is the employee desire for flexible work continuing to affect and evolve company culture? What is the role of a DEI or People Leader in implementing company culture in a flexible workplace? And how can the tech industry influence, lead, or shape company culture for the future of work?
So let's dive into today's episode.
Now, from speaking to our roundtable participants from the likes of Active Campaign, HP, HubSpot, Jamf, and Listrak; there was a consensus that the definition of DEI had expanded to encompass psychological safety — particularly when it came to supporting remote employees well-being, and strengthening organizational culture.
It should be noted that some participants internally in their organization referred to DEI as DEIB work — D for diversity, E for equity, I for inclusion, and B for belonging — which highlighted their efforts to center employees psychological safety in the workplace.
Now, the ongoing discussion in the tech industry around mental health and employee well-being really took on a more significant importance for tech companies during the pandemic, as the lines between work and home became more and more blurry. And as one of our participants from Jamf shared,
“One of the things that we’re seeing often, especially when you’ve worked remotely, is that there's no delineation that says, ‘Now I'm at work’ [and] ‘Now I'm home.’ So if you don’t have a way to really set that line, the two can bleed into each other when working remotely. As a result, we've all experienced burnout in some way, shape or form. For Jamf, DEI work helps as a multi-directional partnership. First, thinking about the employee perspective of what an inclusive work environment looks like. Then having our leaders really understand the needs of employees in collaboration with HR. Then thinking about what tone HR and the leadership team need to set for our organization, such as specific benefits to support employees. Our DEI work has helped leaders take a step back and really think about what are the needs of our teams? What are the needs of our employees collectively? What are the needs of our employees individually? DEI helps us to identify what strategies leaders can employ to support psychological safety, to truly listen to employees and apply what we’ve learned, and leverage that to build a stronger team culture.”
This renewed focus on mental health and well-being for teams was even more top of mind for companies we spoke to when we held this roundtable. With high profile layoffs in the tech sector, an uncertain economic climate, and increasing costs of living; our roundtable participants agreed that helping remote or hybrid teams work through change required expanding their DEI or company culture initiatives to provide psychological safety teams’ need to continue performing at their best.
Our roundtable participants all referenced the importance of expanding mental health support and resources for remote team members, such as through their employee assistance programs, or EAPs. Our participant from HP, for example, shared that their EAP offers on-demand access to trained psychologists and mental health professionals, while ensuring that globally distributed team members have easy access to appointments when they need them.
Listrak shared that they become more intentional with resources for employee work-life balance in their internal comms and work culture initiatives in order to mitigate the likelihood of burnout in a remote work setting.
Jamf, who we heard from before, shared that they actively partner with their employees to define what an inclusive environment looks like and collaborate with their HR department to determine which benefits, such as resources for well-being or accessibility, can be applied to support their employees with different needs across the company.
Now we know that EAPs are often talked about, but no one really knows what's in them. And, the truth is, they're not only comprehensive, they also contribute to cost savings for an organization when we are in a recessive period.
In fact, one 2022 Deloitte study calculated the cost of poor mental health to employers in the UK was £2,646, that's roughly $3,341, per employee. And that cost was due to absenteeism and staff turnover, which could affect organizations with costs of up to £56 billion, roughly $69.2 billion, per year.
But although even more employers, including our participants who we spoke to at the roundtable, rely on EAPs to support their teams, mental health sadly continues to be an unmet need for employees who, in a remote environment, are more likely to cover, to mask, or shy away from sharing their struggles openly rather than seek help.
To add to that, we also found statistics in 2023 from the UK’s Employee Assistance Program Association, which shows that, in the UK, employers will earn back an average ROI of £7.27, or roughly $9.18, if they invest £1, or $1.26, in an EAP.
In the United States — one of the most saturated market of EAPs in the world, as for many folks in the United States, they rely on their employer to provide their health insurance — employers will actually earn back an average ROI of anywhere from $3 to $10 for every $1 that they've invested in an EAP. That all sounds well and good, right?
But the statistics from the UK’s EAPA also showed us this: only 10% ofEmployee Assistance Programs are actually utilized by employees, and only 5% of employees actually contact their EAP’s call center. And on top of that, 42% of callers who specifically called their EAP for mental health challenges are rejected.
So what does that look like in numbers? Well, Team IIP did a little bit of math — yes, we also do math sometimes on this podcast. So get ready!
If we calculate for a mid-size tech company, let's say 10,000 people, 5% of those people will actually contact their EAP’s call center, who have identified that they need mental health treatment. So that's 500 employees. And we've learned that 42% of those callers who specifically need therapy for mental health challenges are rejected, which means if we add those numbers up, 210 of those people won't receive it.
So if we calculate the number of those people untreated — so 210 times the average cost of poor mental health per employee, so that's $3,341 — if we multiply 210 x $3,341 for a company of 10,000 people, that's going to be costing the organization $701,610 every year because of poor mental health.
That's wild when you think about it!
And the reality is, this is a completely hypothetical scenario that we're carving out here with these numbers, but most employees’ mental health struggles go unreported due to this continued stigma of discussing the topic in a workplace setting.
Organizations also contend with the health care costs of burnout: Quiet Quitting, absenteeism, or even emotional contagion when their employees are struggling and are vocal about their dissatisfaction with their employer. So we know the cost that we mapped out in the scenario may actually be much higher for tech organizations than what we've calculated here on this episode.
Encouragingly, all of the roundtable participants that we spoke to, not only were actively centering employees’ mental health, work-life balance, and well-being in their DEI initiatives, but were continuing to expand not only their EAPs, but their ability to serve their employees and make it easier for them to ask for help when they needed it. All of the participants that we spoke to in the tech industry were looking to both a combination of internal and external solutions to strengthen psychological safety, strengthen belonging and team morale in a hybrid work environment.
So there you have it. This is the role of DEI in remote teams’ mental health and well-being, why DEI and mental health initiatives can go hand-in-hand to support employees, especially when we look at things like an Employee Assistance Program, and why DEI is even more critical to invest in to support employee morale during turbulent times.
Now at Inclusion in Progress, we've learned that when a team is unable to discuss mental health openly in their workplace, especially when they're working remotely, it's normally a sign of whether or not psychological safety is present in the team and in the overall organization.
Employees are more likely to engage in things like Quiet Quitting or Silent Suffering, especially when they're working in a remote environment where they don't see their colleagues or managers, or when they're globally distributed, or when they don't speak the same language, or when their own mental health is suffering in different ways for reasons outside of work. These teams lack the tools to openly discuss or identify when their mental health is suffering, leading to decreased psychological safety and, therefore, employee morale and engagement.
It's why we've designed pre-recorded offerings — such as keynotes workshops or licensed trainings — as well as continue to commit to providing resources that will serve you as a DEI practitioner, or People Leader, aiming for Equity and Inclusion on your team.
So one of the key things that we've saw in the course of this roundtable, as well as in the work that we've been offering for client partners this year, is that remote teams really need help in terms of self-identifying and better managing their mental health at work, so employees can increase their awareness and take responsibility for their well-being, and managers can spend less time and emotional management of their teams, and so that tech organizations as a whole can look at places where they can not just increase cost savings, but also reduce the cost of absenteeism and burnout.
To that end, we are pleased to announce the release of our latest whitepaper as a resource that we hope will serve you at this time called, “Is hybrid work killing company culture?”. You can download a copy on our website at inclusioninprogress.com/learn or head to the link in the show notes.
And if you'd like to learn how we can support you specifically with creating psychological safety on your teams through our remote DEI initiatives, you can email us directly at email@example.com to book a free no-pressure consultation call with our team.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing these episodes with others. And we'll see you next time on Inclusion in Progress!