iStock and Mind Share Partners Launch New Visual Guidelines To Elevate Conversations and Stories Around Workplace Mental Health

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iStock and Mind Share Partners launch new visual guidelines to inform and educate businesses and media on making better visual choices that depict mental health in workplace situations

New York — November 3, 2021: Today, on National Stress Awareness Day (November 3), iStock, a leading ecommerce platform providing premium visual content to SMBs, SMEs, creatives and students everywhere, in collaboration with Mind Share Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to changing the culture of workplace mental health, today unveiled new guidelines designed to help businesses of all sizes, as well as media covering these stories, to more accurately visualize mental health in the workplace.

The new guidance is a direct response to recent research from iStock’s Visual GPS survey and study data in Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow, which both demonstrate a clear need to proactively portray a healthier, more sustainable culture of work within business communications.

According to Mind Share Partners, 76% of full-time U.S. employees reported experiencing at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year—up from 59% in 2019. Further, iStock’s Visual GPS research revealed that 91% of Americans think it’s just as important to take care of themselves emotionally, as it is physically, with 89% of people wanting to see more tangible support for those with mental health issues.

“Mental health is an increasingly common topic in workplaces and in the media—in fact, it’s becoming the norm. Yet media and corporate visual choices around mental health are all too often dramatized, staged, stereotyped, and even entirely incorrect,” says Bernie Wong, Senior Manager of Insights & Principal at Mind Share Partners. “These portrayals have a very real impact on the ways we come to understand mental health, seek support, and treat the people experiencing mental health challenges. Ultimately, we all have a unique opportunity to create meaningful change around the narrative of workplace mental health through the language we use and the visuals we curate.”

“Our research shows that employer support and investment is paramount as are authentic, inclusive representations of mental health and people’s day-to-day lived experiences,” said Rebecca Rom-Frank, Creative Insights Researcher, iStock. “Businesses everywhere must consider how they craft communications and guidance, especially when selecting visuals, and ultimately work to foster a culture supportive of mental health in the long term.”

Given that companies of all sizes are considering how to message “return to office” protocols in the wake of vaccination availability, now is a great time to intentionally choose visuals which demonstrate an interest in the wellbeing of employees and their mental health. The below guidelines seek to provide actionable guidance to make thoughtful visual choices—imagery, video and illustration—when depicting mental health in the workplace, and to help elevate the conversations and stories around mental health at work to be more accurate, inclusive, and productive:

— Capture the Breadth of Mental Health Experiences: According to Mind Share Partners study, the most common symptoms in 2021 were burnout (56%), depression (46%), and anxiety (40%). In a similar vein, iStock saw a 204% rise in image searches for “burnout” globally in 2021, indicating the value of specificity and wider representation. Use visuals that showcase authentic experiences and scenarios that showcase the nuances of how people might respond to such symptoms—both the positive and challenging—from everyday life at work.

— Make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Center Points in the Conversation: Amidst the surge of racial injustice throughout the pandemic, intersectional conversations around mental health are increasingly crucial to employees of historically underrepresented communities. Mind Share Partners found that 54% of workers agreed that mental health is a DEI issue—up from 41% in 2019. In addition, within the last year, iStock saw a 234% increase in searches for “workplace diversity,” indicating a clear appetite for widespread representation. When selecting visuals, be intentional around inclusivity across gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and more, including their intersections.

— Share Proactive Strategies to Support Workplace Mental Health: In the wake of the “work from home shift,” the lines between work life and home life have blurred, raising concerns as employees return to in-person office settings. According to research from iStock, only 16% of Americans said they’re looking forward to returning to work and 60% want more support in balancing responsibilities at work and home. Similarly, Mind Share Partners found that 32% of workers reported work-life balance as a factor impacting their mental health. To address this, prioritize visuals that promote healthy, sustainable ways of working and proactive strategies to support the mental health of individuals and teams.

— Include Work-Life Balance, Flexibility and Remote Work: As the workforce prepares for office re-openings, remember that not everyone’s work life looks the same. Flexible work is on the rise, with a greater number of Americans opting for hybrid or permanently-remote situations. Mind Share Partners found that the top ways their employers’ “return to office” plans are negatively impacting their mental health were the policies themselves followed by their impact on work-life balance; in fact, a growing number of reports show that nearly 40% of U.S. workers would plan on leaving their roles if full-time, in-person work was reinstated.

Remote work is also top of mind among marketers. iStock research reveals that searches for “virtual meetings” have risen 70% in the last year alone. Workplaces that prioritize visuals around traditional workforces’ risk alienating remote and hybrid workers or causing feelings of detachment. When curating visuals, incorporate a mix of workers collaborating in-person, talking on the phone and via web platforms, as well as working from home.

— Showcase Connection and Community: Employees are feeling the strain of social distancing. According to iStock research, 48% of Americans feel that communicating online has made some of their relationships worse. With this in mind, choose visuals that showcase communal work settings, including coworkers attending an in-person or hybrid meeting, at a networking event, or collaborating over lunch. According to Mind Share, 65% of respondents reported having discussed their mental health with someone at work in the past year. To ensure these conversations keep happening, organizations should create a culture of connection, further normalizing these discussions by depicting work culture and community.

— Depict Suicide and Other Serious Mental Health Topics with Care: Industry leaders in suicide prevention have outlined clear guidelines in responsible reporting around suicide and other serious topics, such as: convey that suicide is complex and often caused by a range of factors, rather than by a single event, show that help is available, and use nonjudgmental language. Additionally, when selecting visuals, avoid depicting methods of suicide, traumatic visuals, and negative or explicit portrayals of mental health. Always include resources for navigating crises and ongoing support for mental health.

Based on these guidelines, iStock curated a selection of visuals that promote a healthy, sustainable workplace culture and wellbeing. Browse our curation here:

Image credit: wenjin chen/iStock

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