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Valerie Junger Of Quantcast On 5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees

An Interview With David Liu

Mental health is a very sensitive matter, and you should never put a label on how anyone is feeling. Instead, listen to the person, ask them how they’re doing, let them tell you what’s going on, be understanding and offer a helping hand. As a society, we need to fight mental health stigma by talking openly about its importance, educating ourselves and others, showing compassion, and choosing empowerment over shame. We should always encourage individuals to seek support, especially from their workplaces.

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 Valerie Junger.

Valerie is the Chief People Officer at Quantcast, she is an experienced Human Resources leader who has led HR functions for more than three decades and has a track record that demonstrates consistent success in a range of high-growth, technology organizations. Valerie has her Bachelors from San Jose State University and her juris doctorate from Santa Clara University School of Law. Currently, she resides in the Bay Area and is the mom of two young women and a golden retriever.

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?

I am the Chief People Officer at Quantcast where I oversee our people, culture, and workplace strategies worldwide. I was born in Belgium and came to the US as a foreign exchange student, and I ended up staying for good. I studied journalism and got my first job in tech as a Technical writer. After working in the tech space for a while I naturally fell into HR and realized that it was a more fulfilling career path for me. From compensation and employee development, to leadership training, there’s something new every day. After a detour to law school and some time practicing employment law, I came back to HR and have never regretted it. I’m still learning and growing, and my work has kept me interested for over 30 years.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Rely on those around you, no one succeeds alone, and we all need a support system. Strong personal networks and communities enable individuals to better balance the challenges of juggling work and life. Fostering relationships is key and will help empower your path, regardless of your industry. Not to mention, teamwork is the basis for alleviating work hardships.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Companies play an integral role in providing employees with the support they need to achieve personal and professional success. In my opinion, the most important factor for leaders to consider is leading with empathy. Leaders that put themselves in their employees’ shoes are able to better detect team needs and can enable better work cultures. In addition, investing in your employees is key. At Quantcast, for example, we offer a mentorship program and leadership development training. We also run specific programs, such as the Quantcast Women’s Network, which holds regular meetings that bring our female employees together to help them connect, share learnings, and grow their skills. Investing in culture is fundamental, especially as we navigate shifting work realities such as remote, hybrid work, and The Great Resignation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Expect the unexpected”

I’ve always loved this quote, even before it became obviously relevant in 2020 when the pandemic began. I know from personal experience that your career path might not turn out as you expected, which is why I recommend people to explore and experiment — that’s the best way to discover what truly excites you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if what you love doing doesn’t align with the life plan you originally had — the important thing is that you enjoy your work and keep on growing every day.

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?

  • Company Wide Days Off — In recognition of the importance of mental health and wellbeing during the height of the pandemic we gave quarterly company-wide mental health days to recharge and spend time with loved ones. The added benefit of taking a day off together ensures emails and Slack stay quiet, and teams will not come back to a pile of emails and tasks waiting for them.
  • Access to Wellbeing Resources Quantcast offers wellbeing resources for employees including access to Headspace, Ginger.io, and Aaptiv. These platforms promote meditation, digital mental health, as well as physical health.
  • Flexibility — Employees need flexibility to master work-life balance. Enabling their options to either work remotely or in a hybrid setting, as well as flexing hours, taking time off, etc., are all initiatives that ease pressures and promote mental health.
  • Employee Assistance Programs — These programs are accessible to employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support them in times of stress, personal and work life challenges, and other areas that may affect mental wellbeing. They are confidential, on-demand, and provide emotional support through real-time coach chat, guided content, and video therapy.
  • Wellbeing Sessions: To support employees as they cope with many changes in the work environment, Quantcast offers webinar sessions to support employees on prevalent topics like managing holiday stress, returning to the workplace, and finding balance in busy lives.

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?

Mental health awareness is non-negotiable, and to establish successful programs we must begin at the basis: leadership. Training leadership ensures that healthy behaviors are modeled throughout the organization and that mental health priorities are engraved in each step of the decision-making process.

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?

Mental health is a very sensitive matter, and you should never put a label on how anyone is feeling. Instead, listen to the person, ask them how they’re doing, let them tell you what’s going on, be understanding and offer a helping hand. As a society, we need to fight mental health stigma by talking openly about its importance, educating ourselves and others, showing compassion, and choosing empowerment over shame. We should always encourage individuals to seek support, especially from their workplaces.

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?

Employees are the heart of any company, which means their health, safety, and wellness should be the top priority. In fact, when employee wellness is compromised, it brings down the health of the entire company. Ensuring team members feel cared for and supported creates a more positive environment for all, which ultimately contributes to a better work culture.

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?

Early on in my career, I had an executive coach who emphasized wellness for me and this has been invaluable. Following her advice, I make a point of taking short walks during the day and even just closing my eyes and meditating for 10 minutes every four to five hours while at my desk.

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?

Technology is amazing — It has quite literally enabled two years of continuous work when most companies were at a loss, and during the pandemic, it kept the world moving. Unfortunately, we are highly dependent on technology, not only for work but in our personal lives, which means we’re always connected — we’re always in front of a screen. Communication tools need to remain responsible and make it easier for users to take care of their mental health. Whether that be allowing users to set time limits for themselves or creating automated reminders that let people know it’s time to take a break, we need to remind folks that they must step away from their technology. People need to put down their phones, have lunch away from their laptops, grab a book instead of watching a movie — and hey, maybe even go for a walk instead of playing a video game on their phones.

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. :-)

This is not-HR related but if I didn’t have to work, I would focus my time on voting rights and sustainable farming techniques.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriejunger/

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication

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