Rousseau Kazi of Threads is standing against a white background wearing casual clothes.
Rousseau Kazi. Image: Threads

Why employers must ‘allow for human moments’ right now

10 Jun 2020

Rousseau Kazi of Threads shares his advice about supporting the mental health of your employees as they work from home.

Looking after our mental health is an important part of life, whether we’re working in an office or from home. That’s something Rousseau Kazi, CEO and co-founder of Threads, wants employers to consider.

Threads is a platform that aims to make workplaces more inclusive with tools for communication and collaboration. Based on his experiences with the company, Kazi spoke to me about the importance of mental wellbeing and how employers can take steps to better support their staff under the current circumstances.

‘Allowing for human moments and making sure your team knows that there are resources to help support them is key’

Why is it important that we support employee mental health right now?

People are not just working from home, they are working while being ‘held’ at home. Many of the simplicities that were available to them before to de-stress and even express themselves – such as the gym, yoga classes – are no longer options or not available in the same ways they were before.

Many are struggling to separate work life from home life and, as a result, are working longer hours while under immense pressure as unemployment skyrockets. As a CEO and a fellow human being, prioritising and supporting the mental health of my employees has never been more important.

At Threads, we believe in empowering individuals to do their best work as it will create an environment where better decisions are made as a team. Empowering your employees also means letting them know they have resources and can find support, even when they don’t have all the answers or aren’t performing at peak levels every minute of the day. Allowing for human moments and making sure your team knows that there are resources to help support them is key.

What are some mistakes employers make in this area and how can they avoid them?

Employers assume people are working less because they can’t see them. In many ways, we’re seeing people work more since they don’t have their natural life break up their day. Many companies are overdoing it with video chats to make up for not being in the office. But the truth is, people need clear and uninterrupted time to get work done.

Rather than moving all of your physical behaviours to the online world, think of new processes that adapt to the new constraints. We shouldn’t underplay the emotional toll this is having on everyone – especially people who have kids.

What are ways employers can start taking better care of their employees’ mental health?

We’re all dealing with unforeseen circumstances outside of our control. Offer employees ways to check in on their own mental health by encouraging benefits, like mental health stipends. Over 60pc of Threads employees utilise their mental health stipends for helpful outlets like therapy and art supplies.

Remaining open and facilitating dialogue on how it’s okay to not be okay during this time eases the pressure of constant professional performance and allows employees to feel comfortable with opening up about their troubles.

It’s also important to be open and honest about what’s happening at your company and how Covid-19 may impact yearly goals and quarterly strategies. Everyone deserves to know what’s going on and remaining transparent will help to alleviate any unnecessary stress or anxiety.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to an employer hoping to make better strides in this area?

Mental health is often a topic that has a stigma attached to it. However, Covid-19 seems to be working to de-stigmatise it as more people are comfortable discussing how isolation, social distancing and remote environments are impacting them personally.

I would encourage employers to ride that wave and continue to normalise talking about mental health. Having leaders show that it matters – whether it be by practising self-care or supporting teams – will make a huge difference both in connecting with others but also in creating a safe and comfortable work environment.

For knowledge workers in particular, the mental strain of the job can be devastating over a long enough period of time. Showing them that leadership relies on mental health support will change the stigma of ‘I’m weak for needing it’ to ‘I’m a leader for acknowledging it’.

What are some resources you’d recommend for people experiencing mental health problems at the moment?

Therapy is a huge resource that I would encourage everyone to look into regardless of whether it’s something they have considered in the past or present.

Additionally, if your company can afford it, I would highly consider creating a benefit where the company helps its employees pay for therapy. When people realise they have access to something, they usually will take advantage. By providing your employees with the option to utilise a space where they can free their minds, you’re also empowering them to prioritise themselves.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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