As I reflect on the past two years of living through a pandemic, what stands out most are the conversations I’ve had with my team and the reduced stigma around mental health that has resulted. During the darkest and most challenging moments, we’ve come together to talk through what we were experiencing and feeling, sometimes asking for help, other times to vent, but mostly to find connection.
I often think back on a conversation with one of my team members in the early months of lockdown. She had two school-aged children, and her husband also worked full time. She recounted the careful planning, together with her husband as well as their managers, to coordinate their hours so one of them was always with the children while the other was working. They were able to successfully balance their schedules so one was not unfairly burdened with a remote learning day shift followed by a work night shift every day of the week.
The result was distance in their marriage. My colleague and her husband hadn’t spent time together for weeks—they barely spoke, and despite the hectic activity surrounding them, they had never felt so alone.
I shared with her my own story. My son, who was 3 at the time, is non-verbal and on the autism spectrum. I had no way to explain to him why I was locked in my home office each day. As I sat on video conference after video conference, I sometimes watched through the office door as he struggled with the handle to get in. He cried and pressed his face against the glass not understanding why I was unavailable.
Although our challenges were different, my team member and I are both wives and mothers, and in this moment, we both felt seen, heard and connected. This is the power of being “unapologetically human” —a term I use often with my team—which means bringing your full self to work every day, understanding that so much of work and life have become intertwined.
Now, as we remove our masks and return to offices and airplanes, we still feel the impact of the past two years. With Mental Health Awareness Month upon us, Walgreens Boots Alliance is doing even more to prioritize mental health for our team members. At WBA, we know that living a full, productive life depends on more than our physical health, and that caring for our mental health is essential. When our team members come to work, they don’t check themselves at the door. We strive to foster a workplace where every team member is supported and celebrated for being their authentic self, is treated with dignity and respect, and has access to tools, resources and support for their wellbeing.
This week, we introduced Be Well Connected, our expanded team member program for mental health and wellbeing. This includes two new platforms, Journey Live and IndieFlix, which complement our existing Life365 and Employee Assistance Program, all available at no cost to our U.S. team members and their immediate family members.
Although stigma used to be the single greatest barrier to people seeking treatment pre-pandemic, mental health has now become a national dialogue. WBA is building a culture defined by empathy and compassion where our team members can bring their full selves to the workplace and are equipped with the tools and resources needed to succeed at work and at home.
Learn more about our new mental health and wellbeing program for team members below—and please remember to be kind. Sometimes behind the brightest smile lies the saddest heart.