As a company, we must support our employees and our communities around the world to fulfill Colgate’s purpose to reimagine a healthier future for all.
By Sally Massey, Chief Human Resources Officer at Colgate-Palmolive
In mid-2020, when the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic started to sink in, there was a lot of talk about “silver linings.” People shared stories of upsides to remote work and school, like less time spent commuting, more time for family, pets or exercising. Yet at the same time, the toll of the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic came into focus. Suddenly, everyone was—and still is—talking openly about mental health.
Could this be another silver lining?
Following the past two-plus years of uncertainty, loss and disruption, it’s clear that mental health continues to pose an ongoing challenge. The World Health Organization reported global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%. In the U.S., almost half of adults say that worry or stress about the pandemic has impacted their mental health, and this number has remained consistent over the course of a year. And the CDC found that the rate of adolescents who experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness has grown consistently over the past decade, and this has only been heightened by the pandemic, with 1 in 4 young people feeling increased levels of depression.
With the importance of taking care of our mental health front and center, we have an opportunity. As individuals—parents, teachers, friends, community members—we can take action to help those around us. And, importantly, as a company, we must support our employees and our communities around the world to fulfill Colgate’s purpose to reimagine a healthier future for all.
Employers: it’s on us
Mental health issues don’t take a pause during the work day, and employers are taking notice. In fact, 70% of employers now see mental health as a serious workplace concern. Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability worldwide—and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated unhealthy feelings specifically related to work, too. An Indeed survey found that more than half of workers feel burned out, and more than two-thirds say this feeling worsened during the pandemic. Feelings of stress, anxiety and burnout affected women disproportionately during the pandemic, with more than 1.8 million women leaving the workforce in the U.S. alone. Today we’re still seeing the effects of The Great Resignation - an unprecedented exodus from the workplace largely attributed to the effects of the pandemic; 50% of full-time U.S. workers have left a previous job due, at least in part, to mental health reasons.
At Colgate, we recognize our responsibility to prioritize mental health, especially now, and we’re proud to put our employees first. We are a caring, innovative growth company that is reimagining a healthier future for all - and healthier means overall health—oral, physical and mental.
We are proud to provide resources and opportunities to help our employees take care of their mental health, from facilitating a strong company culture that empowers colleagues to connect with each other to offering robust benefits that position mental health as integral to overall health. We’ve taken a few specific measures to address mental health directly, including:
- Access for all Colgate people, around the world, to an Employee Assistance Program
- Mental health awareness training
- Free health, fitness and well-being classes
- Ongoing flexibility in work schedules to reduce stress
Mental health beyond the pandemic
Mental health issues—already on the rise before the pandemic—aren’t going to magically fade once the pandemic is behind us. What we, as employers, do next can make a difference.
It’s essential that we normalize conversations around mental health throughout our organizations and build mental health and well-being into our employee-facing programming and culture. We’ve made some strides in this space with such efforts as:
- R U OK?—an initiative leveraged by C-P Australia to foster open and honest dialogue about mental health
- Wysa - a digital app available to Colgate People in India that uses an AI driven chatbot and principles of cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT) to help process feelings and emotions
- CP Brazil implemented a Mental Health Ambassadors concept in partnership with a specialized well-being company. Employees were provided with techniques to propagate the culture of caring and well-being
- Well-being Compass - CP Brazil employees are empowered to take care of their health and wellness by doing an individual assessment of their health and creating action plans
- Over 70 people from around the world recently gathered virtually to reimagine ways to improve mental well-being for all Colgate People by focusing on topics like finding your rhythm, psychological safety, caring, and reducing stigma
- Using our scale—With a presence in more than 200 countries and territories, Colgate continually strives to foster optimism and to raise awareness about issues affecting mental health. Two examples include our Optimism Project and our partnership with The Cybersmile Foundation, intended to foster digital well-being and combat cyberbullying
Health and well-being—historically the domain of a company’s human resources department—is now a business imperative. We need to act now to take care of our people, making sure everyone has access to mental health resources, no one feels any stigma and we all have the flexibility, compassion and support needed to be healthy.