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Prioritizing Mental Health at Work with Farmers Restaurant Group’s Dan Simons – CEO Summit 2022

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At the 2022 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit, Dan Simons, Founder and Co-Owner of Farmers Restaurant Group, took the main stage to shine a light on mental health in the workplace and beyond, expanding on his personal experiences with mental health and his playbook for leaders to support themselves and theirs teams at work. Here are our three main takeaways for Conscious Leaders to bring to their workplaces:

Talk about it

Expanding on his own struggles with anxiety, body dysmorphia, and other mental and physical challenges he’s faced over the course of his life, Dan opened on a highly vulnerable note. Despite all that he’s been through, Dan begged the question — so what?

“I have a list. You have a list. We all have a list. So what? It’s just our list: physical, mental, where we are, how we feel … Why is it hard to talk about … why is it hard to hear?”

The answer to Dan is it’s just not taught, particularly in the workplace. And senior leaders are especially prone to not vocalizing their difficulties with mental health in the workplace. To normalize having these conversations, it’s important for those at the top to make the first step by sharing from a place of openness themselves.

Referencing his personal playbook, Dan sums it up with: tell your truth, share your experiences, make it a daily topic or check-in, and normalize the conversations.

Educate

Once space is created for candid dialogue, it’s important for C-Suite leaders to also make an effort to provide resources for individuals to manage and overcome challenges they may face—something Dan says many struggle to consistently do. 

“Do each of us have systems inside our companies to educate on mental health, to identify the struggles of our people? Have we systematized and culturalized and normalized how we support one another with mental health inside our business?” he asked. “I don’t need to do a survey, it’s highly unlikely … that we would all give ourselves A’s.”

While human resources leaders play a significant role in supporting employees, Dan puts the onus on COOs in particular to make progress in the mental health space. His call to action revolves around a clear goal: create a “mental health-informed workplace,” which he defines as one that “operates with an understanding of mental health struggles and their effects on the organization’s employees and works to mitigate the negative effects.”

Specifically, he suggests financing mental health support by, for example, keeping a staff therapist at easy access or utilizing platforms like Talkspace and sharing suicide prevention or crisis hotlines. He also recommends training managers on seeing the signs of depression, anxiety, and other issues.

Know the impact

In addition to simply being the right thing to do, providing mental health support has a strong business case, too. Dan shared the statistic that $1,000,000,000 in productivity in the workplace are lost every year due to untreated depression and anxiety.

To improve productivity, Dan calls to senior leaders to “unleash the mental wellness of our people … stop saying in the business world, ‘Leave your problems at the door.’”

Helping employees shed the burdens of depression, anxiety, stress, or trauma, can simultaneously help them go farther. Dan likens it to carrying around a heavy backpack—lightening the load for employees means they can achieve their highest potential and realize success. 

At the end of the day, the people case is what drives the impact home for Dan:

“The dollars make the case, but the humans make the dollars. If we want to do this, we have to think about the humans.”


Registration is open for the 2023 CEO Summit

Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is excited to announce that registration is now open for the 2023 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit. The CEO Summit is our premier experience for CEOs, presidents, and founders committed to elevating humanity through business. Nominate yourself or a peer to attend →

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