Financial Companies Invest in Employees’ Mental Health

Private: Elizabeth “Biz” Cozine

Senior Account Executive

This week, we’ll be posting a few articles focused on health in the workplace. In this piece, Senior Account Executive Biz Cozine highlights FS brands with commendable mental health programs and the financial case for all companies implementing similar programs and policies.

The season of hand sanitizer and flu shots is upon us—thankfully Vested offers both in the office. The common cold, or even more serious physical illnesses, are generally what comes to mind when we think of “sick days.” But often overlooked is much needed PTO for mental health.

Last year, an email on the subject went unexpectedly viral, showcasing exactly how companies should handle the subject, but also shedding light on how few actually do. Madalyn Rose Parker, a web developer at Olark, tweeted a screenshot of her boss’s response after she said she was taking a few days to focus on her mental health.

“I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health,” she wrote. “Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”

“Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this,” CEO Ben Congleton wrote back. “Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”

The tweet has nearly 45,000 likes and more than 15,000 retweets; but it also elicited a litany of responses from people who said their companies’ leaders would not offer a similar reply.

“Wow, I wish!!! I literally had a boss who literally told me he was going to fire me for having depression because it was ‘inconvenient,’” one young woman wrote in response to the tweet.

Congleton, surprised by just how rare his response seemed to be among business leaders, took to Medium to pen a follow-up piece, writing:

It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”

One in six Americans are medicated for mental health treatment, so it’s safe to say no company, or industry for that matter, is exempt from the issue. Finance and technology businesses have a reputation for being hyper-demanding and pushing employees to work to a point of exhaustion. But we did some digging into how companies are shifting their health benefits to prioritize mental health and were pleasantly surprised to find many leaders of the pack were financial services companies.


Barclays, for example, wanted to show its 129,400 employees that mental health was not only something many of its employees struggled with—but that the company was on the fast-track to helping them. Through its “This Is Me” campaign, Barclays shared nearly 200 stories of its employees’ personal lives in an effort to destigmatize mental health in the workplace.

“The organization is retaining talent as more employees successfully return to work after mental health-related leaves of absence,” Amanda Popiela, author of The Conference Board’s “Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace” report, told Employee Benefit News.


Similarly, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) implemented its “Determined to Lead” program to help “address complex ‘people’ issues and ensure all employees had the quality of leadership needed to perform at their best,” which includes supporting their mental health needs. As of 2016, more than 15,000 managers were trained through this program to better serve 73,000 RBS employees globally.

RBS also supported the “Time to Change” pledge, a mental health campaign in England designed to mitigate the stigma around the issue; and offers a mental health program to equip line managers with the tools to identify, manage and support mental health problems in the workplace.

Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young also launched a mental illness awareness campaign titled “r u ok?” to help bolster company support, remove stigma and help those struggling understand they aren’t alone. Plus, the language around the campaign lends itself to non-intrusive, unassuming conversations about firm resources.

As these financial services companies continue to forge ahead, research around mental health and its effects on business suggest others do the same—and fast.

Failure to do so can negatively impact productivity at work, according to a study from the London School of Economics. Employees who feel they can openly talk about their depression with their managers are more productive, where those who can’t are found to be less productive. Similarly, the study found that people with depression were more likely to take more days off if their managers didn’t offer support, the study found.

Another study led by the World Health Organization found that globally, 12 billion working days will be lost due to depression and anxiety every year, unless improvements are made.

Failure to deal with employees’ mental health can also negatively affect a business’s bottom line. Between $17-$44 billion is lost in depression each year, where $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent caring for people with mental health issues” according to an article from the Harvard Business Review.

So while flu season will come and go, instances like Madalyn’s are an important reminder that mental health is just as important as physical health from both a wellness and a productivity standpoint.

Have an example of exceptional mental health care at your company? Share it with us on Twitter @Vested!