Chicago Companies Are Prioritizing Mental Health This Winter. Here’s How.

by Alton Zenon III
November 17, 2020
DialogTech team supporting mental health

As another COVID-19 wave emerges heading into the winter months, many of the in-person health and wellness resources companies once offered — on-site gym access, weekly office yoga classes, even good conversations around free lunches in the kitchen — remain inaccessible. 

But Chicago companies are still doing everything they can to support their employees’ mental health and wellness remotely. In doing so, businesses are placing a heavy emphasis on checking in, flexibility and providing support in whatever ways employees need it. 

Managers at call analytics platform DialogTech are leaning on informal chats outside of normal meetings, regular pulse surveys and other communication methods to stay aware of how employees are doing, and how leadership can help. Meanwhile at Braze, a customer engagement platform, employees will soon be offered mental health first aid training to identify and assist team members that may be experiencing mental health challenges. 

These person-to-person solutions — as well as others, like mental health webinars and private therapy sessions from wellness providers  — are helping Chicago companies prioritize the well-being of their teams during what appears to be a long winter of isolation.


Amy Dolan
VP of People and Culture

What perks is your company offering to support employee mental health as winter approaches? 

We encourage every employee to take three “mental health hours” a week for themselves. Team members can schedule this time to do a workout, go for a walk, step away from the screen or do anything they wish. We promote this time as a way to prioritize mental well-being. 

DialogTech also offers flexible working hours; we encourage each employee to determine the schedule that works best for them. Whether this flexibility is needed to support working parents or it’s helpful to one’s mental health and personal schedule, our team members know their needs best, and we’re here to support them. 

Some other perks include a corporate ClassPass membership with virtual courses for mindfulness and exercise and weekly virtual social hangouts to promote team bonding. We’re continuously brainstorming and researching creative new ways to support our team’s mental well-being during this time.

Our team members know their needs best, and we’re here to support them.”


How are you preparing managers to support the mental health of their direct reports and recognize whether employees are struggling?

We are encouraging our managers to do regular check-ins with each of their team members — outside of their regularly scheduled one-on-ones — with the specific intention of checking in on their personal well-being.

We are cognizant of potential burnout with the working conditions this year has brought, as well as the lack of personal or vacation time that most team members would take in a normal year. So this year, we are implementing a company-wide office closure in the final week of the year, with the hope that our team will have more time to spend decompressing from a chaotic work year and enjoy quality time with their loved ones.


How do you create a sense of psychological safety and encourage people to speak up if they need support? 

Since the pandemic began, we implemented bimonthly pulse surveys to solicit honest feedback on how remote work was going, what employees needed, challenges they were experiencing and ideas for new ways to support each other. We held regular all-staff meetings where everyone was encouraged to ask questions and surface concerns either directly to our leadership team or via an anonymous form. 

We’re planning a mental health webinar for our team this winter hosted by NAMI Chicago, which is an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a partner of ours. Our partnership was inspired by the important work NAMI Chicago provides to the Chicago community.


NAMI Chicago

Founded in 1979, NAMI Chicago provides support, advocacy and resources for mental health care. The group offers a number of bilingual peer and family support groups and educational classes, as well as a free and confidential helpline (833-626-4244) that helped more than 6,000 people last year. In 2019, NAMI Chicago reached over 10,000 teenagers with its End The Silence campaign, an early prevention and awareness program meant to fight the stigma around teens using mental health resources.


Emily Belmont

What perks is your company offering to support employee mental health as winter approaches? 

Recently, we rolled out a new emotional health and wellness provider, Modern Health. It’s a new resource for employees that includes private coaching and therapy sessions, unlimited texting and a digital library of programs and guided meditations. Employees can answer a few questions about the areas in their lives they’d like to focus on, like financial well-being, anxiety, work performance, mindfulness and others. My favorite course on the app so far has been “Managing Isolation and Loneliness,” which is so prevalent in the COVID-19 era. We also introduced workshops on burnout, presented by Dr. Ellen Vora. 

We’re working on a mental health first aid training.”


How are you preparing managers to support the mental health of their direct reports and recognize whether employees are struggling?

Weekly one-on-ones are a great opportunity for managers and direct reports to openly discuss mental health and topics outside of work. 

We also have an employee resource group called Healthy Minds at Braze, which allows us to speak to one another about mental health. Our Healthy Minds at Braze taskforce creates wellness programs for our employees centered around mental health. We’re working on a mental health first aid training that will teach employees how to notice and support an individual who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use concern in the work environment and connect them with appropriate employee and community resources. 


Jobs from companies in this blog

Chicago startup guides

Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
Women in Chicago Tech