The CEO of the company personally responded to thank her for her honest email.
An employee at a live chat software company, Olark, recently took to Twitter to express gratitude to what she thought would be her family and friends but soon turned into a viral tweet. Web developer Madalyn Parker had sent an email to her team towards the end of the week to let them know that she would be taking two days off before the weekend to “focus on my mental health” and didn’t expect the response she would get.
Olark CEO Ben Congleton had sent a heartfelt email back to Parker that expressed his support and said her email was instrumental in removing the stigma surrounding mental health in corporate environments. After receiving his reply, Parker gained his approval to post the email on Twitter, where it has since been shared 14,000 times and liked by 40,000 users. The original tweet can be seen below.
For Parker, this is about more than just taking a few days off to focus on herself once or twice per year. Her anxiety and depression has been so debilitating for her in the past that she has had to be hospitalized, leading her to have a very frank conversation with her bosses at Olark. She posted about this interaction in a blog post on Medium, which outlined the very intimidating experience but extremely positive response she received from the founders of Olark, who went so far as to change their sick leave policies. The policy now includes mental and emotional health as reasons to take days off, and this was accomplished after the company had an internal meeting to discuss how they could be helpful during episodes, what it is that those suffering go through, and what that looks like from the outside.
“I feel incredibly lucky that my personal experience has played out this way. I know that it is more the exception than the rule,” Parker said in her blog post.
Most companies don’t offer this type of support when people come forward and many Twitter users revealed that they had been fired in the past for attempting to discuss their mental health with their employers. One user talked about how they left their job at a mental health charity because human resources wanted to know in advance about any potential panic attacks.
Any jobs going where you work? So rare. I left a mental health charity once bc HR wanted to know in advance when I'd have a panic attack
— mollywallop (@mollywallop) July 6, 2017
It’s horrible experiences like these that compelled CEO Congleton to respond so positively, since he knows that most companies and higher-ups admonish employees for their mental health needs. Despite the fact that offices run smoother and more efficiently when employees are physically and mentally healthy, many corporate environments do not allow for workers to take the time they need to work on themselves.
Congleton took to Medium and wrote his own response to the viral tweet. In his response, he delivers excellent points about why it is that his email went viral and how it’s an indicator of the current work environment versus what it should be. In his blog post, he said,
“It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.
“It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to offer paid sick leave. Did you know that only 73% of full time employees in the US have paid sick leave?
“It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”
It is truly inspiring that any employer would support their employees in this way, let alone the CEO of a company, and his words are an example to all of how mental health should be treated in the workplace.