Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to pursue a career in Human Resources, and how has your career choice impacted your emotional and mental health?

My name is Adebisi Ogunsanya, I am a creative and energetic HR professional, who is keenly interested and passionate about creating enabling, supportive, and emotionally healthy spaces in organizations. Over the years of working as an HR professional, I have worked in health-tech, Edtech, and fintech firms, and generally, it is no news how fast-paced and intense working in the tech space can be, coupled with working and managing teams with dynamic personalities as HR. My career has impacted my mental health in so many ways, but one major way it has impacted me is in building and strengthening my ability to regulate my emotions and build emotional resilience in ways I could not fathom. Being at the forefront of handling complaints, frustrations, and grievances of employees and as the HR person, you always have to be professional and not give in to whatever negative energy is being thrown at you. Emotional regulation has had a constant impact on my career.

How do you manage your mental health, especially given the demands of your role in promoting it for others?

I like this question, cause no one hardly bothers about the mental health of HR. Like the first question, I mentioned emotional regulation which has also helped me manage my mental health by teaching me not to personalise certain feedback, situations, and actions. People often forget or rather do not know that emotional regulation is very key in managing one’s mental health, it is the basis. As HR, we are often the middleman between management and employees and the dynamics sometimes are not so nice. In some cases, some not-so-nice words or feedback are directed towards you when an initiative or change is being implemented. So at that moment, I try to regulate my emotions, and perspectives by being objective towards the feedback, focusing on mindsets such as ‘’It is not a direct attack on my person or personality, it is just feedback directed towards this particular initiative or policy.’’

Also, being an empathetic individual, the line is sometimes blurred between being empathetic and sympathetic to others’ plight and personalising it so much that it starts to affect you, so learning to create some emotional fence or not personalising certain things has definitely helped me.

As the People Experience Associate at gomoney, how have you established a company culture that is a non-toxic, supportive, and emotionally healthy work environment and company culture?

By first ensuring whatever policy/processes/ initiatives/ are fair at all times. I learned this from a mentor time back. And she will always say - ‘’the goal is to be fair and just, your job is not to make employees happy cause you cannot always make people happy but you can always be fair, humane, and just. So that when you look back, you can always defend what you did and it is duly justified.’’ Sometimes being fair might not make employees happy but it builds an honest, respectable culture that is free from any manipulation and toxic practices.

Another major thing is creating an environment that makes people feel seen and heard; this one was quite tricky and is still tricky to manage; but prioritising employees’ feedback and opinions is very pivotal in building a supportive and emotionally healthy workspace.

Also being emotionally intelligent in communication, policy drafting, and understanding how the other person at the receiving end will take it is key. Your communication with employees, be it in writing or verbal, your delivery, and your tone all matter cause you are interacting with the emotions in people daily.

In your experience, how does working in fintech specifically affect mental health, and what unique strategies does your company use to address these challenges to maintain productivity?

Generally, the tech space is often fast-paced but now working in a fintech space, it can be another different level of fast-paced and pressure due to the level of sensitivity involved. It is honestly not easy.

However, we find ways to address these challenges by prioritising communication across the organization especially during high tension periods and moments. Oftentimes, when people are in the dark, it creates more tension, and fear and hinders productivity a whole lot, especially in a tech space. This is one thing I learned and vowed to do better in. Simply communicating and addressing some salient issues might just be enough to help employees.

Also, there are some times when employees are working round the clock to fix problems or a policy was introduced that is offsetting; one particular way we address those times is that we have the mindset to honour and appreciate people, particularly during those peak and high tensioned moments. As the HR team, we send these team members a token of appreciation. However, it is important to note this is not a one-off thing, as it is an existing culture, and whatever one-off initiatives we then do is often borne out of an already existing culture that is marked by constant appreciation and acknowledgment of the work everyone does.

How do you work to create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health issues? Can you share an example of a successful initiative or event that helped reduce stigma?

By first initiating conversations about mental health awareness; this month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month and that was our focus theme engagement for the month. We partnered with our company’s HMO - Axa Mansard and invited a Health Specialist from their team to come talk to us in an in-house webinar/Knowledge Sharing Session on ‘Navigating Mental Health while maintaining productivity.’’ The feedback we got was really encouraging. Throughout the month, we also facilitated weekly initiatives to drive the conversations and further create an environment where employees duly feel comfortable discussing these issues.

Last year for International Men’s Day, we also had an in-house session where we invited a Medical Doctor and representative from Nguvu Health (a retail therapy platform). The theme was ‘’Zero Male Suicide’’ and we had the opportunity to also facilitate such conversations especially for our male employees. It was also a really successful initiative with great feedback.

I think in all, we try to leverage international events and also align with things happening around us to facilitate conversations around mental health, this interview is also a great way where candid conversations are being had. The culture again is one where empathy comes first and communication is encouraged, no one is penalised for having such conversations, and confidentiality is also prioritised as well.

What makes mental health awareness so important to you and within your role, and how has your personal perspective influenced your approach to handling such discussions in the workplace?

In 2022, I got diagnosed with Attention Deficiency and Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and was placed on medications, I could not afford the meds and had to painfully work my way and navigate what ADHD means and its impact on my day-to-day life and productivity at work. That whole experience taught me patience with myself and with others and taught me to understand people's struggles even more than they understand them. I usually have the approach of when I was really struggling, what was that one thing I needed from others and I make sure to do it to others as well. So a lot of understanding, assertiveness, patience, support, empathy, and kindness - these were actions I saw around me that helped me navigate those times which greatly influenced my approach to handling such discussions in the workplace.

I understand some work environments can be very tough and can be a dog-eat-dog world, so these things might be non-existent. However, the type of work environment I love are spaces where such discussions are not shunned and people are not seen as weak.

What upcoming projects or initiatives are you most excited about in terms of advancing mental health support in your company?

Facilitating Employee Assistance Programs via HMO; and simplifying the process around it is what our focus is on moving forward. The same way we encourage employees to go to the hospital via their HMO when they are down with a fever or so is the same way we want employees to seek professional help via their HMO when they are experiencing some internal and mental challenges even for issues such as mild anxiety, stress and overwhelm.

That is a culture I most definitely look forward to advancing and improving on.

What advice would you give to other professionals in similar roles looking to improve their company’s mental health support and increase productivity?

Focus on the energy you express, whatever energy you give back be it in your communication, policies, processes, etc is what you will most likely get back from employees. If your policies, culture, and manner of managing employees are anti-people and somewhat toxic, there might be a disconnect when you implement initiatives targeted toward mental health which may feel disingenuous to the employees.

So start from the very basics, work on a culture that consists of effective and proactive communication, making employees feel seen and heard, encouraging openness and honesty as HR professionals, being fair and just in employees’ issues, and maintaining discretion and confidentiality at all times. Those seemingly little things are a great way to improve the work environment, and can significantly improve productivity.

What is that one opinion you hold about mental health awareness?

People come in different expressions and personalities, there are neuro-divergent and neurotypicals which all make the world quite interesting. I believe there needs to be more acceptance, grace, and understanding offered to people who might be quite different from the norm, particularly in the workspace. Diversity and Inclusion must not only be preached and talked about in seminars but must be meted out in daily interactions and practices.