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First published in Digiday
on October 28, 2022
by Antoinette Siu

Agencies say Investing in Employee Mental Health can Boost Business


Rick Milenthal, CEO of independent agency Shipyard, echoed the positive impact that mental health programs can have — especially when it comes to employee engagement surveys and client relationships. His firm actually started focusing on a mental health in itiative nearly four years ago when an executive lost his son to suicide.

“We’re not a big holding company or anything ... so the first thing we did is substantively make sure all of our health care benefits were superior in encouraging confidential counseli ng, and then we promote,” Milenthal said. “That’s not just something in our benefit plan, not something tucked at every all hands meeting. It’s reminding folks, ‘You have three sessions with a counselor that are no cost.’”

In addition to the benefits and p olicies supporting mental health, Milenthal said agencies need to work at promoting those services and teach managers how to respond to requests, for instance, when people request a leave or ask for support.

Shipyard’s employee surveys have shown that supp ort for mental health is the No. 1 reason for retention. These practices have also helped the firm to scale business and produce for clients even in a demanding environment, and the results show up in client reviews.

“We’ve had [clients put it] as one of the defining reasons they chose us,” Milenthal said.

In some cases, Milenthal said implementing mental health can be viewed as a financial burden, but he has seen it as a “rocket ship” for his agency: better retention, lower attrition, increased creativity and productivity.

“Even if you look at it, the hard numbers financially, if you get more serious about what you’re doing from a mental health standpoint, maybe in the beginning, it might have a cost. In the long term, [it is] a huge return on investment. Just get started, and you’ll be amazed at the returns, both emotionally and, frankly, business - wise,” Milenthal said.

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