Building Inclusion: the bright side of mental health

As a Mental Health First Responder and global co-leader of the Intuit Abilities Network employee resource group, Lou Shelley is creating processes to help people live better lives.

14 people separated in two rows smiling with their hands out wide
14 people separated in two rows smiling with their hands out wide

Intuit products are more than web, desktop, and mobile applications. We build the products that enable people to live independent lives. They manage their finances, start businesses, hire employees, and develop their careers. We’re also committed to making sure they feel safe, accepted, and understood in the process.

As global co-leader of our employee resource group the Intuit Abilities Network, Lou Shelley is on a mission to create a stigma free environment where our workers bring their true selves to work by removing unconscious bias and barriers. We were happy to sit down with Lou in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month to discuss how her experience as a Mental Health First Aider has impacted Intuit and beyond.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Intuit.   

I have been at Intuit for 10 years. I was referred by my sister Teresa Rock, who’s now going on her 21st year with the Intuit UK team. From my sister, I’d heard incredible things about the culture and that proved to be 100% correct. 

Although I work in employee engagement as an event manager now, I first started my career at QuickBooks as a receptionist. I noticed how people would want to come and chat about the life challenges we all go through, and how much it helped them. 

It spurred my interest in mental health in the workplace, and I became a Mental Health First Aider. This is exactly like being a first aider, except you’re trained to spot the signs and respond to mental health issues, and be open to talk to people about any problems they’re facing. It has been a hugely rewarding experience.

I am lucky to work for an organisation where the well-being of employees is a priority, and mental well-being is viewed as just as important as physical. We’ve trained and built a network of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) throughout our company, who offer confidential help or just a chat over a cup of tea.

What inspired you to take on a leadership role with the Intuit Abilities Network? 

I was a local site lead for London, and as a team we were doing some incredible things. I suppose it got noticed, and was asked to lead globally, so I said yes to the challenge. I’ve always felt drawn to the mission and what we represent as a network: which is everything human. We’re working  to remove the distinctions between disability and other diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to make our culture and environment equitable for all. 

This year we are focused on gaining a deeper understanding of our members to improve engagement at all levels with the message that Intuit is one of the top places to work for employees with any disability.

How have you seen disability accomodations change during your 10 years with Intuit? 

In the past, I felt like accommodations were always more aligned with physical disability. What we’re seeing now is employees needing accommodations to help structure work. We’ve been building out guides and how-to’s in an effort to consolidate resources for all types of disability. The medical definitions of disability already exist, but we can create a better, more inclusive workplace by taking time to define the social types as well.

What advice would you give to someone looking to be an ally to the Intuit Abilities Network? 

As I said we are human–just be supportive, stand up for others, and take time to listen. This helps us to unburden the stigma we feel. 

Having been closely involved in our workplace well-being programme, I wanted to share some ideas on how you too can take your passion for well-being and make a real difference to your workplace.

  • Create a network of passionate mental health supporters: It’s worth remembering that you don’t necessarily need to bring in an expert to kick-start your mental health support – if you already have someone in the business who feels strongly about well-being and is open to being trained, you have everything you need to get going.
  • Talk openly about mental health. Aim to create a culture of trust and openness so that people felt comfortable speaking up. We found that creating a few short videos with employees talking about their experience of using our counselling service encouraged many others to make use of the service. 
  • Use language people understand. It’s great to have an Employee Assistance Programme but do your employees really know what that means? Avoiding jargon and using acronyms sparingly means you’ll be able to reach a wide variety of people. 
  • Make time for downtime. Taking a break is vital to maintaining mental and physical well-being. We introduced Recharge Days, spaced throughout the year. These are days when everyone globally is given time off at the same time. 

Maintaining positive mental health is something we each need to take care of every day – just like our physical health. I’m always happy to share my experience and advice, and learn from other companies about new ways to support better mental health in the workplace.

Your unique life experiences and beliefs help increase innovative thinking, develop new ideas, and better understand customer problems. Not only does that hold true for your gender, ethnicity, age, or faith, but it extends to disabilities, mental health, and neurodiversity as well. 

If you are interested in joining our team, check out our open positions here.


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