by Marcel Schwantes

After a year of challenges and disruptions brought on by the global pandemic, mental health is having a moment.

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. employers say employee mental health and wellbeing is now a top company priority, new research shows, after leaders and team members alike struggled with changes and times of isolation and uncertainty.

As we turn to reopening and recovery, employee mental health and wellbeing present an opportunity for leaders to strengthen their work cultures.

In my quest to document like-minded leaders grounded in the belief of supporting the whole person to thrive under crisis, I recently connected with Jim Kavanaugh, CEO and co-founder of World Wide Technology, a private, $13-billion dollar technology solutions company. Kavanaugh shared a few notable habits to building a supportive work culture.

"Supporting mental health is as important to a world-class culture where all people want to work as it is to powering growth and financial success," he said. "As a leader, it's my job to guide the organization in a way that becomes foundational to the way people act."

Start with listening

Driven by the fallout from COVID-19 and racial injustice, social responsibility is a growing business priority. And in efforts to make lives better for the people and communities they serve, looking within is one of the first places businesses can make an impact.

Supporting mental health starts by ensuring your workplace culture values inclusion and trust and then putting those values into action. That action can be as simple as listening.

"You never know what a person is going through," said Kavanaugh. "If we want employees to speak up when they have world-changing business ideas, we also need to be there for them when they need help."

Throughout 2020, Kavanaugh's team embarked on listening tours across WWT's global organization to better understand employees' experiences. This empowered colleagues to speak up, leading to greater understanding and trust.

Read Jim's full interview with Inc. here.