Observing World Mental Health Day at Check

October 11, 2021
Lauren Ferrara & Joey Cheong

Lauren Ferrara & Joey Cheong

Here at Check, we make paying people simple. With 54% of U.S. consumers living from paycheck to paycheck (PYMNTS, 2021), getting paid is a source of worry for many people. Beyond the financial aspect, the impact jobs have on people’s lives goes much deeper. In observance of World Mental Health Day, we took time to recognize how intertwined our work life, personal life, and physical and mental well-being through a company-wide event.

We hosted a panel featuring leaders across Check: Andrew, our CEO, Kelly, our Head of People, and Tisha, our Head of Payroll Compliance, and wrapped it up with breathing exercises and a guided meditation. Through this event, we 

  • Destigmatized mental health and shared strategies for resiliency through our leaders’ sharing their personal experiences and struggles,
  • Checked in on our mental and emotional well-being through breathing exercises and guided meditation, and
  • Encouraged creating healthy habits through distributing journals, candles, and meditation app subscriptions.

It is particularly important at a fast-growing startup to recognize the importance of mental health. Startup life can be incredibly exciting, but the same aspects of what makes startup life exciting can take a toll on us too. This year alone, our team has grown rapidly from 13 to 78, with an even steeper increase in employees on our platform. Growth, however welcomed, may make it hard to prioritize ourselves and our needs. Psychological safety is a prerequisite to both a supportive environment for ourselves and quality products for our users, and nurturing it takes time and effort. 

With our rapid growth, deliberately and continuously shaping an inclusive and supportive environment is key. Our flexible hours, optional in-office presences, and flexible PTO policy make it easier to accommodate other facets of our lives, be it mental health days, caregiver responsibilities, or other demands on our time. Beyond these policies, we actively build a culture where we can be open about the challenges we face and support each other. 

Mental health is sometimes viewed as taboo and often a hard topic to discuss openly, especially with coworkers. But when we open up and give people a chance to show up, we can be pleasantly surprised by the amount of empathy and support we receive. Kelly shared how Brené Brown’s research about vulnerability was life-changing for her, and highlighted the value of being authentic at work whilst going through difficult life changes.

Apart from sharing how their journeys have progressed over the years, our panellists also shared some strategies that have worked well for them. The effectiveness of these can wax and wane over time, and it’s useful to have multiple tools to draw upon. Here are some of the strategies that were shared:

  • Develop self-awareness to enable identification of early warning signs and to give you the opportunity to positively influence outcomes. 
  • Identify and change that voice of how you talk to yourself; treat yourself with kindness as you would others.
  • Actively allow yourself the space and courage to be emotional.
  • Intelligent Change’s 5-Minute Journal has been a useful tool for practicing positivity through gratitude exercises, daily affirmations, and reflections. 
  • Hal Elrod’s S.A.V.E.R.S is another useful guide where you can appropriately select for the situation from six tools: silence, affirmation, vision, exercise, reading and scribing.

We are proud of and thankful to our panellists for leading by example and being vulnerable with us. As Tisha describes it, many of our personal difficult moments are in fact shared experiences. We are not alone, and it’s okay to speak up and lean on others for support.

After the emotional panel, we closed out the session with calming breathing exercises and a guided meditation. One of the breathing exercises we learned was Lion’s Breath, and it was a fun way to transition from an hour of shared vulnerability back to our steady states.

Mental health is an ongoing journey, and an ongoing dialogue here at Check. In the past few weeks, we’ve newly introduced an Employee Assistance Program that provides access to counseling services, and are also working on defining guidelines on how our Employee Resource Groups should support and be supported. What we’ve accomplished this World Mental Health Day is only the beginning.

At Check, we are building a culture that celebrates work-life harmony and supports each other openly. Our work life, personal life, physical and mental well-being are all intertwined. To our colleagues and readers, if you’re struggling with your mental health, you are not alone, and we hope you choose to lean on those around you during difficult times.

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