Author Khari Bodrick On 5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees
An Interview With David Liu
Invite Guest Speakers/Non-Profit representatives to speak about the importance of wellbeing:
Hearing your leaders and coworkers speak about mental health at work can be helpful, but sometimes hearing inspirational stories from those you don’t know can be more impactful. These stories can uplift us, make us smile, encourage, and provide us with valuable life lessons. They often give us an empowering sense of faith: “if he or she can do it, then so can I!”
As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Khari Bodrick.
Khari Bodrick is a best-selling author, mental health advocate, public speaker, and entrepreneur from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the founder of the Khari Bodrick Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides guidance on both entrepreneurship and mental health & well-being. His memoir, By Any Means: Reflection of a Young Mogul, was released in May, 2021.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Absolutely. As someone who suffers from extreme anxiety, I’ve always had a connection with mental health and now, my purpose is to share my journey with others in hopes of providing a sense of inspiration to those suffering in silence. I found myself through fashion and starting a clothing brand alongside my twin brother, Omari Bodrick. This business provided me with a feeling of fulfillment and personal satisfaction. It gave me feelings of self-confidence and success, which were my biggest barriers when struggling with anxiety. We sold the business in 2020, and now I mentor entrepreneurs through the Khari Bodrick Foundation. I’m also a mental health advocate, and travel across the country telling my story in hopes of inspiring others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting thing to me was the number of people who have reached out after reading my book, stating how much it changed their lives. I’ve realized that at some point in life, we’re all going to face challenges with mental health. When people know that others have faced similar challenges and found successful ways to cope with it, that provides inspiration and strength. This has been truly humbling.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to have a flexible mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. Although working toward a single goal can be a source of motivation, this tunnel vision can backfire when you are only willing to accept a predetermined marker for success.
I believe that we should see our goals as dreams we strive to achieve rather than a fixed destination. When one has a flexible mindset as an entrepreneur, every obstacle has its own rewards and lessons which can result in less stress and a more rewarded career.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
When it comes to culture in the workplace, it’s important to implement Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. This shows that a company respects the unique needs, perspectives, and potential of each employee. This will result in a deeper trust with team members and more commitment from employees.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“There is no illusion greater than fear. It’s all in the mind. Once you correct what’s on the inside, everything on the outside will fall into place.”
This is an original quote from my book. “By Any Means: Reflections of a Young Mogul” and provides a different perspective on how to approach life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Introduce a Mental Health & Well Being Affinity Group: The purpose of this organization is to promote employee well-being and to create a safe community where everyone can come together to reduce the stigma of mental health, raise awareness, create a culture of acceptance, and support one another.
- Promote the company “Employee Assistance Program”: An employee assistance program can lead to increased employee retention, encourage a health work environment, and lead to increased productivity. These programs are designed to increase an employee’s performance by proactively helping them resolve personal issues. This program offers confidential and short-term/long-term support that provides assistance with a variety of issues, from financial and legal hardships to physical and mental health.
- Provide in service/on site events: Whether a company decides to invite a motivational speaker to share a story with employees, host a community and service event, or have a lunch/dinner for employees, these all are great examples of showing appreciation for our employees and provides reassurance that the company cares for them when at work and outside of work.
- Increase engagement activities: Increasing engagement activities in the workplace is the simplest way to let employees feel appreciated. Many companies have a “Mental Health Room”, where employees can go into a private area and unplug during breaks. Other engagement ideas include interactive bulletin boards around the building that allow employees to stay in tune with their thoughts and emotions. Also, having a “Well Being Day” every month that is dedicated to well-being activities and exploration. This can include a hydration station with water, fruit, etc. a meditation area, and a stretching area. These all are easy ideas for a simple yet refreshing Well-Being day.
- Invite Guest Speakers/Non-Profit representatives to speak about the importance of wellbeing: Hearing your leaders and coworkers speak about mental health at work can be helpful, but sometimes hearing inspirational stories from those you don’t know can be more impactful. These stories can uplift us, make us smile, encourage, and provide us with valuable life lessons. They often give us an empowering sense of faith: “if he or she can do it, then so can I!”
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Weekly 1:1 check-in with employees. This can help leaders understand how employees are feeling in regards to their day-to-day work, professional development and life outside of work. This will earn the trust of the employee and will lead to better performance and overall engagement.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?
The biggest way to offer support is simply talking about it. This can be through public speaking engagements, organized community walks, or through social media. Many people who suffer in silence do so because they are somewhat afraid of judgment. We all will encounter challenges with mental health at some point in life, and making this a normal topic of discussion can ultimately decrease the level of stress, depression and anxiety that many are facing.
This might seem intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell it out. Can you help articulate a few ways how workplaces will benefit when they pay attention to an employee’s mental health?
Sure. When a company pays attention to an employee’s mental health, it will build trust between both sides. When an employee knows a company has their back and cares about their wellbeing while inside and outside of the workplace, it will provide a feeling of comfort. If a company addresses mental health issues in the workplace and invests in mental health care for workers, they will likely see an increase in productivity and employee retention.
Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?
Absolutely! I begin every day with a 30-minute meditation session. This process helps because it allows me to focus on the present moment and eliminate any negative thoughts that may enter my mind. The aim of meditation is not to get rid of our thoughts as whole, but to change our relationship with them. Meditation is simply letting the mind be itself with thoughts and emotions, but also have awareness. This allows one to have a mentally clear and emotionally calm state of being.
I work in the communications industry, so I’m particularly interested in this question. As you know, there are a variety of communication tools such as video conferencing, phone, text, and push-to-talk. What changes or improvements would you suggest for these technologies to help foster better mental health?
I would encourage these companies to implement a program where they can get a closer relationship with those using their products. We will all struggle with mental health at some point in life, therefore I believe a simple survey that populates on desktop or mobile applications that check in with users by asking simple questions related to mental health would be very impactful. Depending on the answers to these questions, companies could partner with other organizations and provide local and virtual mental health support to users in the area through counseling and therapy opportunities.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The Khari Bodrick Foundation is planning to host an annual event where we walk for mental health and raise awareness surrounding it. This is a very important step in reducing the stigma surrounding it, and will also provide a sense of unity.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
WWW.KHARIBODRICK.COM and @kharibodrickfoundation on Instagram.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!