This might come as a bit of a surprise to you, but apparently 2020 has been a somewhat stressful year. Impeachment, pandemics, riots, social unrest, election controversy and Hillary Clinton's new podcast have all loomed large to darken the year and bring angst to the average bear. But in the midst of it all, there have been positive stories of resilience and creativity intended to help people cope, and in many ways corporate America has led that charge. Whether it was retooling a factory to produce needed medical equipment or taking extra steps to keep critical services going, companies everywhere have proven that creativity in corporate America is not a lost art. As the pandemic has dragged on, those same efforts are turning to address the longer-term effects on people in the workforce. On their face, some of those ideas are surprising.
But of course, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we should learn to expect the unexpected.
That is why it was interesting to learn that AIG, a company ranked as the 87th largest public company in the world by Forbes Global 2000 list, closed its doors on Friday in order to give their workforce a “mental health day.” In a memo to all employees, EVP & General Counsel Lucy Fato and EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Ling said, “October is Global Diversity & Inclusion Month, and October 10 is World Mental Health Day. In recognition of these two events, both highlighting necessary elements of our more holistic definition of Wellness at AIG, we are giving all our colleagues around the world an extra day off on Friday, October 9. This is in addition to the extra day off we announced last April.”
The effort appears to be part of a larger concern focused on the wellbeing of the AIG workforce. The memo reads:
We're now 10 months into one of the most challenging, stressful years any of us can remember. We're navigating through a devastating global pandemic, widespread social and political unrest, social isolation, and some hard truths about structural racism in the United States and many other places around the world. Through all of it, you've worked hard and moved mountains to adjust while maintaining productivity. We know our colleagues are stressed. We're stressed too.
So, we're taking a bold step toward wellness…
October is Global Diversity & Inclusion Month, and October 10 is World Mental Health Day. In recognition of these two events, both highlighting necessary elements of our more holistic definition of Wellness at AIG, we are giving all our colleagues around the world an extra day off on Friday, October 9. This is in addition to the extra day off we announced last April.
If for any reason you cannot take this Friday as an extra day off, please speak with your manager about an alternate day.
“But I'm so busy…”
We're an achievement oriented team at AIG. We get it. And we can almost hear you groaning that you have too much work to take a day off! But, chances are, it can wait. So, we're encouraging everyone to let things go for a day.
Use this day to refresh – meditation, a hike, a picnic with loved ones. Write a song, get back to your journal. And, if you feel comfortable, share your Mental Health Day activities, photos or revelations, on the Global Wellness Yammer page using the hashtag, #RUOk. We will make sure we share what we did to ease the stress.
Just the beginning…
Our Mental Health Day is just the beginning. It signals the start of an ongoing campaign to build an inclusive culture of wellness at AIG. You will be hearing a lot more about our Mental & Social Wellness campaign. But for now, make a commitment to yourself: free your schedule and plan to take an extra day off (which will not count as Personal Time Off or annual leave).
If you want to learn more about our existing resources to support mental and social health, check out the links in the sidebar.
It is an impressive effort, when you think of the size and scope of a company like AIG. Whether their ongoing efforts regarding “an inclusive culture of wellness” are successful or not remains to be seen. But it is notable that some companies are recognizing the stress their workforce is under and are making efforts to help ease that burden.
Although I am not sure I would have urged my associates to “write a song” while they were off. If that was my office, I suspect the result would be something like this:
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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