Mental Health & Mobility: Looking Inwards 10.24.2022 | Ruhi Van Andel

World Mental Health Awareness Day, recognized earlier this month on October 10, seemed to hit a little harder this year. After all, for many of us, 2022 has been…heavy. The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be behind us, but many of the impacts are still reverberating through our communities, including feelings of isolation and overwhelm. Financial challenges — namely inflation and the soaring cost of living — are only compounding these stresses, and health providers are warning that a mental health epidemic is upon us.

The campaign around Mental Health Day was spearheaded by the World Health Organization, with the objective to raise awareness and mobile efforts in support of mental health. A critical space for this awareness and action to start is within the workplace. It is, after all, where so many of us spend the vast majority of our time and energy. So, cultivating an environment that is healthy and supports mental well-being is at the crux of maintaining a robust and productive workforce!

According to SHRM, a staggering 200,000,000 workdays are lost globally due to the cumulative effects of disability, absenteeism, presenteeism (when an employee is physically presented, but not performing at optimal levels), and general lost productivity.

We seized this as a reminder and an opportunity to look inward at our organization. We’re not perfect, and that’s okay, but we’re committed to listening, learning, and changing to be better. Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the creation of our new Colleague Resource Groups, which have served as dynamic platforms to have unbiased and authentic conversations around topics impacting our people, including mental health and wellness. We are pleased to share some of those perspectives and stories, which cast a light on the power of acknowledging and supporting mental health as an organization.

Laura Levenson, Practice Leader, Consulting & Advisory Services

Maintaining a sense of belonging is an important piece of my mental health journey and one that I feel is a significant value for companies to uphold. After all, without a sense of belonging and the inability to bring one’s authentic self to the workplace, how can we expect people to perform at their highest and best?

In my experience over the past ten years, Weichert has been a great place to work mainly because it has allowed me to bring my authentic self to my role and the workplace. My story starts before I was hired. As a part of my interview process, I presented a business case for change to a construed client. I elected to include non-traditional (arguably controversial) recommendations for changes to the policy and program. Of course, I did this to demonstrate my ability to think outside the box and test Weichert’s appetite for creative, innovative solutions. My purpose was to prove any idea can be considered so long as there is a solid rationale for proposing it. And it worked!

With that trust established, I knew Weichert and I would be a great fit. I am fortunate to have since spent years championing DEI and sustainability issues with our colleagues and clients; issues and initiatives that I’m personally passionate about and that have been consistently supported by Weichert. It has been so rewarding to see how these have evolved into our CSR initiatives (and our first annual CSR Report), our partnership with Ecovadis, and the formation and launch of our colleague resource groups.

A sense of belonging and acceptance is equally important in the context of an assignment or permanent transfer. It’s easy to lose sight of this when clients, customers, and those who serve them prioritize the investment, the logistics, and getting someone physically onboard and settled in as quickly as possible. The more personal aspect of the adjustment can fall to the wayside when so much is going on, but in my experience, this is such a critical component to success. And one we need to advocate for as mobility professionals.

Christina Kasiraja-Lebrun, Vice President, Business Development

I’ve always believed that the focus on employee well-being needs to be top-down. And this is something I’ve seen upheld at Weichert. It’s what attracted me to the organization, and it’s what has made me feel at home one year in. Like Laura, my story begins with an interview, where Dave Bencivengo authentically demonstrated that, while they were currently invested in technology innovation, their primary focus would always be upon the people operating said technology. Because progress starts – and ends – with people. Happy, healthy, engaged, and inspired people will always be necessary for long-term productivity, and Weichert gets that. That’s why there’s a Talent & Employee Engagement seat at our Executive table – our own Chris Brunone.  And it’s why, even though I’m in Business Development, Weichert recognized my passion for CSR/DEI, and gave me a platform to practice these passions.

My boss, Jim Schneider, has been instrumental in making sure I feel professionally safe to continuously perform to the best of my abilities.  And my business development mentor, Sandy McKinney, inspires me to always do better, helping me navigate and circumvent high-stress situations that crop up in my day-to-day. Our industry is undergoing critical changes, making our jobs far more unpredictable than ever, requiring more from us mentally in order to achieve a short or long-term performance goal. That said, the respect and empathy people here have for one another across functions, makes it easier to work towards said goals and cultivates a suitable environment for me to be continuously productive.

I think it’s important for organizations to establish that delicate balance between expecting employees to do their jobs (or go over and above if their professional personality type calls for it) and cultivating a safe environment within which they can perform. For me, Weichert has done this. But I’m just one personality speaking to one experience! I’ve been impressed by the organization’s willingness to constantly listen – and act – so that everyone company-wide can achieve the balance they need to feel professional and personally whole.

Teresa Clay-Christmas, Moving Coordinator, Movers International (MI)

Mental health is extremely important – no matter your age – especially for someone like me who grew up thinking that discussing anything related to your mental state was taboo. My mom, who was only 39 at the time, passed away on the couch next to me when I was 9 and my sister was 10 – she had a seizure that led to a heart attack, so it wasn’t a peaceful passing. No one ever asked me how I felt or gave us the platform to discuss what was going through our heads, and this affected us profoundly. In the years that followed, I became angry and rebellious because I didn’t have the tools to express myself properly.

Once I started having children, I realized I was dismissive of their feelings. I had let this toxic cycle continue, and I knew I needed to reverse it to cultivate the strong, trusting relationship I wanted with them. It was hard for me to adjust because I’d never known anything different and could hardly remember my relationship with my own mother.

I knew I needed to talk to someone. To release everything I’d been holding in. To heal. To be a better mom, wife, friend, and person! I’d spoken to counselors here and there, and my sisters and pastors, but nothing consistent. Because let’s face it: real counseling costs.

When I joined MI/Weichert, things changed for me. I was with a company that genuinely encouraged mental health and wellness. Many of my colleagues were so open about speaking with psychologists…and it was in our coverage! I was extremely excited and took advantage of this as soon as I could.

While this isn’t a quick fix – and I still have a long journey ahead – I just can’t stress how great it is to work within a company that cares and not only talks about mental health, but acts on it, providing you with the time and resources to take care of yourself.


Keen to learn more about the research and data behind the mental health epidemic and the impact on mobility? Check out this blog post.

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Written by Ruhi Van Andel

Ruhi is the Digital Content Specialist on Weichert’s Marketing team. Leveraging a decade of experience in writing and marketing, she develops buzz-worthy content for the company’s website, social media channels, and client & colleague communications. Ruhi is a cat person, in case you were wondering.

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