Recently my manager, Dana Aderhold, shared this Psychology Today post that tackles myths of workplace mental health. She highlighted this sentence on the concept of managers serving as brokers of supportive resources: “You do not need to be a therapist to your team—a best practice is to be a broker of services, and make sure your team knows what resources are available.”
At SAS, the resources one can point to are bountiful. Consider the fact that I’m writing this post in the first place. I’m a social worker employed by SAS. I can’t name many other companies that have a full-time social worker on staff, let alone a whole team.
I wanted to propose what it might look like to be a broker of resources as a manager at SAS. I asked Dana for her input as both a social worker and Senior Manager of Work/Life and EAP Programs.
Start with Work/Life
The SAS Work/Life Center is staffed by four masters level social workers. We provide consultations for all US and global employees by Teams, email, phone, or in-person. We address topics like:
- Stress management
- Mental health and substance use
- Relationships and divorce (including intimate partner violence)
- All ages of parenting - expecting and new parents through college age and beyond
- Caregiving of any kind
We help employees think through next steps in addressing their situation and connect them with local, virtual, community, and private resources that can be of support. One of the most frequent resources we help people get connected to are therapists in the EAP or BCBS network, or psychiatrists in the BCBS network.
I’ve always observed a positive difference in both the confidence and comfort of employees who are either encouraged to seek out Work/Life support or even connected directly by their manager. We call this a “warm hand-off” – and it’s also what it looks like to be a broker.
To get a better idea, I've shared two scenarios below. For each you'll see the situation and the resources an employee might be connected to. I also asked Dana to share examples of how a manager might word a warm hand-off.
Scenario 1: Caregiver Support
Your direct report has a parent who lives in a different state and was recently diagnosed with dementia. This has caused significant emotional distress and in addition they are trying to manage their parent’s care needs from afar and figure out a plan to move the parent locally.
Thoughts from Dana and Warm Hand-off Example:
Start with acknowledging that they are going through a difficult time and you understand it is not easy to talk about issues like this with your manager. Do not feel like you have to try to make them feel better or offer any kind of medical or therapeutic advice.
Thank you for sharing this with me. I’m sure it is difficult to know that your parent is going through this and you are not there to help. I hope you will consider reaching out to the SAS Work/Life team. They have expertise in all aspects of Eldercare and Caregiving and can help you understand what you can do for your parent. They can also provide resources for you. Benefits also has an InsideSAS page on Care for Family Members. The emotional aspect of this has to be heavy and you will need support during this time. Please tell me how I can support you. Is it okay if I check in with you once per week and ask how you are doing? Please know that you can reach out to me at any time if there is something I can do for you, I want to be a support for you during this time.
If this employee were to connect with Work/Life for a consultation, here are some of the resources they could be directed to:
- A local EAP therapist to provide up to 8 free therapy sessions for emotional support on coping with grief and caregiving stress.
- Resources like Area Agencies on Aging and Geriatric Care Managers in both the parent’s current state as well as the state they would like to move them to.
- Checklists on how to move an aging parent.
- Compiled lists of employee recommended resources like facilities, home care, and estate attorneys.
- Connections to a monthly Dementia Education group and caregiving support group.
- Books and articles on caregiving.
- Psychoeducational support in thinking through care conversations with family and care providers.
Scenario 2: Emotional and Social Well-being Support
A young professional direct report has been engaging less than usual. The employee shares with you that they struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety. They have felt increasingly isolated since their college friends moved away.
Thoughts from Dana and Warm Hand-off Example:
Start with establishing empathy and trust. It is ok to disclose personal information in order to demonstrate understanding but be careful! You do not want to turn the conversation into talking about yourself or sound dismissive.
Thank you for sharing this with me, I will keep this confidential. I remember moving away from my friends for my first job out of college and feeling isolated and nervous about the transition. Did you know that we have a team of people here at SAS that can talk to you about what you are feeling and help connect you with resources like a therapist to help with anxiety and depression? They can also help you consider ways to connect with other young professionals and people with similar interests like Employee Inclusion Groups or sports leagues. I will share their contact information with you, I hope that you will have a conversation with one of them and see if there are some resources to help. Also, please tell me how I can support you. Is it okay if I check in with you once per week and ask how you are doing? Please know that you can reach out to me at any time if there is something I can do for you, I want to be a support for you.
If this employee were to connect with Work/Life for a consultation, here are some of the resources they could be connected to:
- Either a local EAP therapist for free counseling sessions, or an in-network BCBS provider.
- A tailored list of in-network psychiatrists if desired.
- Information on SAS-based resources for social and community well-being like the Young Professionals Network EIG or Work/Life’s First Year, First Career Series.
- SAS-based Resources like Biofeedback classes through the HCC, Wellness resources from RFC and Career Well-being resources.
- Books and online resources geared toward young professionals.
- Ideas of local opportunities to meet new people and strategies for engaging with others when feeling nervous or anxious.
The Employee Assistance Program
If someone isn’t interested in contacting Work/Life, you can also suggest the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a place to start.
- The US EAP benefit provides up to 8 free sessions of counseling, a 24/7 crisis line, free 30 minute legal and financial consultations.
- The Global EAP covers 5 free sessions of counseling and also offers legal and financial resources.
Don’t Wait to Share Resources
As managers, it is important that we let our teams know that we care about each person’s well-being. It is not only a part of our company culture at SAS, but it also demonstrates that we value more than just their performance at work. Sharing resources with your team does not have to be a deep, personal conversation. Here are some ideas for how to share resources with your team.
- Share the Global Well-being InsideSAS page and monthly newsletter with your team and encourage them to attend an upcoming Well-being Orientation.
- Invite a Work/Life team member to a staff meeting. We can do a 15-minute overview of our role at SAS and answer any questions about the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- Encourage your team members to subscribe to the Work/Life and EAP announcements Viva Engage group. They will be able to see our weekly newsletter and any upcoming events.
Work/Life addresses concerns related to life outside of work. If, as a manager at SAS, you have concerns or questions related to work or performance-related conversations, you should reach out to your HR Business Partner. You can also find more career development information on the InsideSAS Learning and Development page.
There are many additional internal resources for SAS employees to further their understanding of mental well-being and relevant supports. SAS employees can reach out to the Work/Life Center for more information. External readers can look to the following organizations for resource ideas:
- Mind Share Partners
- Mental Health America Resources for Employees
- Center for Workplace Mental Health