5 Tips for Talking About Mental Health With Your Manager — From SoFi’s Chief People Officer

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Anna Avalos

Photo courtesy of SoFi.

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“The health and wellness of our employees and their families are integral to SoFi’s success,” says Anna Avalos, Chief People Officer for digital personal finance company SoFi

While SoFi is not alone in recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace and beyond, the company is committed to ensuring employees are equipped with the right tools and resources. “We have a comprehensive benefits program to support the physical, mental, and financial wellbeing of our employees,” Avalos explains. “For mental health, in particular, we offer a digital benefit through Modern Health that allows our employees and eligible dependents to meet with coaches and clinical care providers at no cost to them. We also have ‘SoFridays,’ where exempt employees are encouraged to end their workweek at 2:00 p.m. local time each Friday, knowing that we’re all balancing a lot in these times both at work and at home.”

And, talking about the topic of mental health in the workplace is incredibly important, too. “Mental well-being allows us to be our best with friends and family, as much as it allows us to achieve our goals and aspirations at work,” Avalos shares. “So normalizing the discussion isn’t just good for the individual, but also for the company.”

In this interview, Avalos discusses her views on this once-taboo topic and describes how SoFi shows employees that they care about their mental health.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Actually, my strongest memories are around what not to do when it comes to navigating my own career. While the advice friends, coworkers, and family share is almost always well-intentioned, remember it's based on that person's perspective. Your goals and experiences are uniquely yours to own, and you'll reach your fullest potential by following your own path. I recently shared the five pieces of advice I’m glad I didn’t follow with Business Insider. Check it out

How do you normalize talking about mental health at work?

Mental health and well-being are quickly becoming a normalized part of the conversation both inside and outside of the workplace. From a company perspective, providing tools to ensure your employees know you care, and then training managers to check in and leave space for the conversation, goes a long way. 

As individuals, it can be as easy as taking the first step and starting the discussion. I can’t tell you how many times people have shared how relieved they were by the support they received from their manager and only wish they had started the conversation sooner.

How do you know when you should start a conversation about mental health with your manager?

If you’re experiencing mental health issues that are impacting your ability to be successful in your role, sharing them through the lens of problem-solving with your manager is the best course of action. No one wants you to suffer in silence. Unless you share these ideas directly with your manager, they have no idea what you’re experiencing and can’t work with you to help solve what they can. 

How do you begin a conversation about mental health with your manager?

It’s okay if things feel uncomfortable. In the initial conversation, don’t be surprised if your manager doesn’t have all the right words, but if you’re clear about the challenges you’re facing and the support you need, they’ll work hard to support you. Keeping an open dialogue with your manager about any issues is important and can give you peace of mind in the long run. 

What’s your top advice on how to handle a conversation about mental health with a manager?

  1. Be honest with yourself, and try to name your feelings and challenges. Giving yourself  as much clarity as possible ahead of time will help you feel prepared for the conversation.

  2. Jot down notes, and practice what you plan to say. Chances are, you may be approaching this topic for the first time, so talking points can give you an extra boost of confidence.

  3. Make sure you schedule plenty of time for the conversation. Don’t drop it at the end of a 1:1 or try to squeeze the discussion into a 10-minute chat.

  4. In the conversation with your manager, don’t worry if you get emotional or lose your words. Take your time and be gentle with yourself. 

  5. Don’t expect to have it all figured out after the first conversation. Expect it to take time and multiple discussions to fully explore what you need and how your manager can support you. 

Do you have any resources about mental health in the workplace that you think are helpful?

We leverage Modern Health at SoFi, and they have a tremendous library of tools and resources available to our employees and their families, from podcasts to events, to 1:1 therapy sessions and everything in between. This resource was created to help our employees with their total well-being including, physical, mental, and emotional support.

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