May marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, and I am very excited that Dig Insights is partnering with a new initiative, Headway for Healthy Minds at Work– a movement inspired by Luke Sklar to help companies create open dialogue and support mental health in the workplace. Luke battled with severe depression for three years and died by suicide in May 2018.
I was extremely fortunate to work alongside Luke for several years. Luke took an active role in my development, and his positive energy and encouragement set my career on the path that it is on today.
Prior to Luke’s passing, mental health was an issue that was not top of mind for me. I was caught off-guard that depression could affect someone like Luke, a person who brought so much positivity into every interaction he had.
With the launch of Headway for Healthy Minds at Work and DIG Insight’s sponsorship, I wanted to share two lessons that Luke demonstrated to me that I believe can encourage companies to take initiative and actively embrace mental health best practices in the workplace.
Enabling Others to Succeed
Those who knew Luke fondly remember his boundless energy. I have never met anyone that could get as excited about something as boring as market research can be. It took me a while to realize that although he was interested in the work we were doing, what actually fired Luke up was seeing others succeed.
When Luke believed in you, you felt it. He was contagious to be around because he made other people feel more positively about themselves than they otherwise would. Oftentimes it was as simple as sending me a note right after I crafted an email that I was sending to senior executives. I was nervous and unsure of the reaction I’d get, but Luke’s quick reply would immediately put me at ease. He had my back and wanted me to succeed.
In the workplace, it is easy to forget the level of stress and pressure that people place on themselves. It can lead to second guessing what people think about you, and the value you bring, which becomes another source of stress. Creating a work environment that enables others to succeed isn’t always simple, however, there are multiple small interactions everyday that give us the chance to encourage and reinforce the contributions of others. Luke demonstrated this in both large and small ways, and constantly reminds me that helping others to succeed has a profound influence on their growth and well-being.
Bringing Your Self to the Workplace
In a professional setting, I find it challenging to be ‘myself’. It doesn’t help that at work we fulfill roles that require us to be many things that we’re not always in our personal lives: quick-thinking, objective, and meticulously detailed. I find it difficult to balance these demands while also being personable and likeable. As a result, I believe we bring less of our personal selves into our interactions at work, and we can become less compassionate.
Luke demonstrated a masterclass of being his true self at work. In a very short period of time working with him, I felt comfortable sharing personal details I hadn’t shared with other colleagues. I admired how he spoke passionately about family, and how important they were to him. While working with Luke, my Dad came down with a serious infection and subsequent pneumonia. He was in intensive care in a coma for 2 weeks. I was still trying to put time in at work and Luke knew it was weighing heavily on me. He opened up about his own father and I vividly remember how Luke described him and that he still thought about him every day. I was sad, upset and distracted and Luke made me feel at ease simply by listening and offering support. I came away from the conversation feeling that even if my Dad wasn’t going to pull through, that there was a fondness that I could be thinking about. He made a world of difference for me at a very challenging time.
There is so much I believe we can do to encourage others to be themselves at work. We can be more patient and understanding of others when distractions outside the office inevitably arise. We can go even further, and be an excellent listener, and demonstrate compassion for others just like Luke showed to me.