For people from Latin America, Argentina has a strong reputation for being a country passionate about psychoanalysis. This reputation is well deserved, as Argentina has more psychoanalysts per citizen than any other nation on earth.
“Argentina is strongly psychoanalytic. We really value psychology and mental health here. For us it is common to go to therapy, it’s culturally accepted and we are encouraged to pay attention to these issues,” said Nicole Calaresu, a psychologist and HR analyst at the staff augmentation company Avalith.
In the United States, executive therapy is a common practice to assist business leaders. While the rise of the Silicon Valley business culture during the last two decades has also influenced the very notion of work-life balance and mental healthcare in the office. However, as Nearshore Americas reported, only recently companies in nearshore markets have boosted their mental health initiatives, driven by the massive movement to remote work and the need to increase employee benefits in order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive labor market.
Avalith is one of those nearshore partners that even before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was seeking ways to protect the psychological welfare of its employees.
“We structured what we call a ‘benefits framework’, which includes personalized coaching meetings, mindfulness exercises and meditation and company-funded travel opportunities. We invited a multidisciplinary team of professionals to support this program in a 100% remote manner and we’ve seen very positive reactions from everyone involved,” said Rodrigo Gaston Bloise, Avalith’s Chief Marketing Officer.
For Mauro A. Stefanini, a trained public accountant that serves as a yoga and mindfulness instructor to Avalith employees, the capacity to integrate various team members with diverse backgrounds and training facilitates the success of this program.
“Avalith doesn’t consider these resources as merely complementary but as an essential part of how we manage human resources and how the company as an institution engages with its employees. We’re a group of people always trying to listen and remain in contact with every element within the company,” said Stefanini.
The combination of various professional backgrounds and a holistic perspective into HR management allows the company to get into issues such as productivity and employee satisfaction in a more comprehensive fashion. It also provides constant insights into workers’ physical and mental health. Avalith employees, who are distributed across different countries, can access all of the company’s resources regularly in group sessions, but they can also reach out to the expert professionals for private consultations.
“This is always a great opportunity for people that need further assistance. In general, the company was very well positioned to transition to remote work but people adapt in different ways, so we have to be ready to be there for them in whatever way they need,” said Fernando Munafo, Avalith’s Vice President of Operations for the US market.
Munafo, a self-described beneficiary of Avalith programs, suffers from stress-induced neck pain and migraines. After going to the doctor, he immediately decided to reach out to the in-house team.
“They don’t only help you with a health issue, which in my case had both mental and physical variants, but they make you feel accompanied. These resources build an incredible sense of community,” added Munafo.
The idea of providing resources to manage stress or certain physical illness saves the company and employees time and efforts that otherwise would be directed to sick days.
But mindfulness and meditation not only bring health benefits. Research by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) shows that implementing mindfulness and meditation programs allows organizations and individuals to develop and increase certain skills.
“Mindfulness training produces an improvement in three capacities that are key for successful leadership in the 21st century: resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions,” the HBR research reads.
However, for remote, international companies, the cultural differences can present challenges to the equitable access of these programs. For Avalith, even though all of their employees perform their work remotely, which is an equalizing element, in reality there are some differences in who accesses these resources.
“We are an Argentine company but with an international, culturally diverse workforce. Today we have issues reaching employees that come from other countries in Latin America. We don’t always have the same success engaging them with our programs. But we want to provide these tools to everyone and we’re always trying to better understand how to adequately use them for people from other cultural backgrounds,” said Stefanini.
For Calaresu, it is all about allowing people to see the relevance and benefits of mindfulness, meditation and psychoanalysis.
“It is particularly challenging for our coworkers from Ecuador and Venezuela, who have more issues assuming these practices. I guess they’re culturally more distant to these concepts. But here in Argentina our parents didn’t go that much to the psychologists but we do now. So we’re confident that we can promote that cultural shift within our employees as well,” Calaresu concluded.