Have you seen Ted Lasso, the beloved T.V. show about a British soccer team who hires an American football coach?
In one moving episode, a key player has a traumatic event on the field, and can’t get back in the headspace to play his beloved game. So, the team brings in a professional: therapist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. Dr. Fieldstone helps the player conquer his fear and get back to loving the sport, and she’s so successful that the whole team jumps at the chance to work with her. She becomes the team’s therapist — even coach Lasso starts working with her.
What does Ted Lasso have to do with performance at Star Staffing — a company responsible for helping businesses hire during a staffing crisis?
After the season aired, I couldn’t help thinking about my team. And it led Star Staffing to add a significant hire into our 2023 budget: a performance coach.
The Dangerous Rise of Toxic Work Culture
We’ve been through so much trauma over these past few years in a pandemic, and we’re all facing stress and burnout. We’re all feeling emotions more intensely — especially fear. I don’t want that for my employees, and neither, I’m sure, do you. And yet, it’s happening.
In 2021, a Society for Human Resource Management survey of 1,099 employees found that during shelter-in-place orders, as many as 2 out of 3 employees were experiencing occasional to constant depressive symptoms. Vulnerable employees reported even higher numbers. Concentration suffered, too, with women struggling more than men and Gen Z reporting more difficulty concentrating than other age groups.
81% of workers agree that mental health will be important when looking for future work. And yet, nearly one in five of those workers describe their workplaces as “toxic.”
At first, it felt reasonable that isolation had caused this decline in mental health and attention spans, especially at work. But as workers returned to the office — the numbers, arguably, got worse. In a McKinsey survey in June 2021, 36% of respondents reported that their return to work negatively impacted their mental health. Those respondents were five times more likely to take on reduced responsibility at work. Meanwhile, almost 50% of respondents who hadn’t returned to the office yet reported that they expected going back would negatively affect their mental health.
I don’t think I have to tell you that your employees’ mental health affects your workforce, workplace, and company culture. Still, many of us underestimate how much the ripple effect of COVID-19 has impacted employees everywhere. Frustration is at an all-time high, and employees are shifting their priorities amid the Great Resignation.
A 2022 American Psychological Foundation survey found that 81% of workers agree that mental health will be an important consideration when looking for future work. They also report valuing social and psychological welfare over salaries. And yet, nearly one in five workers described their workplaces as “toxic.”
Another McKinsey survey found that across all income levels — and this is key, especially for the industries we staff — workers feel that having an “interesting” job is as important as having a solid income. But the study also found that employers tend to prioritize only the psychological needs of their highest-paid employees, intentionally or unintentionally leaving junior and hourly employees out of conversations about mental health and career fulfillment.
I thought about all the incredible athletes, entrepreneurs, and elite professionals who use performance coaches to help them achieve their goals. That’s what we need, I thought: someone to help us invest in our team’s career — and overall health and wellness.
Why We Believe In-House Support is the Future
I read all that and more, and it brought me back to Ted Lasso, otherwise known as my “a-ha moment.” I wanted to find a way to help our team — our whole team — develop healthy boundaries and prioritize taking care of themselves. And I needed to call in a professional.
I racked my brain for what we needed to offer to help us all get into the right mental state and to help us achieve a more fulfilled life. I thought about all the incredible athletes, entrepreneurs, and elite professionals who use performance coaches to help them achieve their goals. That’s what we need, I thought: someone to help us invest in our team’s career — and overall health and wellness.
Before starting our search for our coach, my team worked on a list of goals for introducing a policy that would positively affect the well-being of every employee. The resulting list looked like this:
- Begin shifting the organizational culture to one where team members actively support each other’s well-being and well-being becomes the norm
- Help our team eliminate fears and break through any mental roadblocks that hold them back
- Share strategies that allow our team members to operate at peak performance and achieve rapid personal and professional growth
- Reduce the hours our team needs to spend on tasks by upgrading our organization, systems, and procedures to maximize efficiency
- Help our team learn to work more successfully within a stressful environment without taking on additional stress
- Give support during working hours to help our team feel valued and cared for by our company
- Help our team set healthy boundaries and see this program as an investment in their personal and professional success
We want to get this right, so we’re starting with a pilot program for our managers to work out any kinks. Soon (we’re aiming for the end of Q2), we’ll bring on a performance coach for all our employees.
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What an In-House Performance Coach Program Looks Like (For Us)
To start work with our performance coach — who is certified in team performance coaching and has more credentials in this than our whole staff combined — we:
- Kick off with a work style assessment, followed by a meeting to see how we can work together more seamlessly
- Then, we move into group sessions once a month, where the coach discusses team agreements, sets ground rules, digs into significant challenges, and formulates solutions.
- Our staff also does interpersonal homework because change doesn’t happen in meetings — it happens outside them!
Any time our team members spend [working with the performance coach] happens during work hours. This is a paid project — not something they have to add to their already busy plates without compensation.
And here’s something critical: Any time our team members spend in meetings and doing homework happens during work hours. This is a paid project — not something they have to add to their already busy plates without compensation.
I also want to add that anything my team tells the performance coach will be kept completely confidential — I won’t hear anything unless the coach has permission to share. It’s even in our contract! I want our employees to feel the complete freedom to express what they need — this isn’t a ploy to spy on our employees.
When I presented this concept to our team, they were so excited — which absolutely thrilled me. I honestly feel lucky: I can support my team to create healthy boundaries and achieve a more balanced life. It’s a privilege as a boss to take care of your team, and I can’t wait to start.
I want to use this experience to support them. I hope it renews their confidence, trust, and commitment to our company. But it’s more than that: I hope each person feels more mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilled. Here’s to having your team’s back — for many years to come.