What If You Asked ‘How Are You’ and Really Meant It?

What would you do if someone honestly answered that rhetorical greeting we all use, “How are you?”

What if instead of “Fine” or “Good,” which is what convention requires, your coworker said, “I’m not feeling myself. If fact, I’m feeling really scared and anxious this very moment.”

“What would you say? What would you do?” asked Leslie Dragon, director of marketing at Canada’s Partners for Mental Health. “And if I even mention the words mental health, people go radio silent. They start looking at their shoes. This is awkward.”

Yet, Dragon insisted to her DisruptHR audience in Ottawa last year, mental health issues are part of the workplace and should be out in the open.

“Stigmatizing mental health issues is bad for the workplace because people aren’t accessing help — and it costs your business. Your role in HR is to help people be their best. And how can people be at their best if they’re dealing with a mental health issue?” she said.

Mental health issues costs the Canadian economy some $51 billion a year; it’s the leading disability issue. “500,000 Canadians will miss work this week due to mental health issues.”

What can HR do? Dragon laid out 5 actions for HR leaders beginning with communicating the importance of the issue and making discussions of mental health and illness normal.

“We need to start conversations in our workplaces where the question of ‘How are you’ has meaning.”

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