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Lessons from Ted Lasso on Employer-Sponsored Mental Health

Apple TV’s Ted Lasso, a show about a happy-go-lucky American who is sent to coach soccer in the United Kingdom, has become incredibly popular since its debut in 2020.

As one gets deeper into the show’s three seasons, the plot becomes less focused on soccer and more concerned with the idea of finding happiness, living well, and supporting mental health.

Eventually, viewers learn that the titular character Ted, played by Jason Sudeikis, is experiencing feelings of intense anxiety and depression beneath his golden retriever-like demeanor. As the show explores Ted’s journey in dealing with these emotions in a workplace setting, it lays out many lessons that employers and business leaders can take to heart.

Ted Lasso premiered at a very appropriate time for America, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused many people, businesses, and institutions in the United States to think more critically about workforce mental health. Employers everywhere have sought to place a greater emphasis on holistic wellness and to provide their employees with health resources that go beyond traditional medical, dental, vision, life, and disability benefits.

One of the best ways to get started on this is by assessing the personalized needs of your workforce, brainstorming ways to make your employees’ lives better, and providing resources that equip them to manage daily stressors. Promoting flexibility in the workplace and sponsoring financial wellness initiatives are just some of many ways to show your employees that you value their wellbeing.

The introduction of mental health and wellbeing benefits can tremendously improve your employees’ lives while also assisting with broader organizational goals. Employers who take mental health and wellbeing seriously can

  • increase employee loyalty,
  • increase productivity,
  • attract new talent and
  • provide meaningful help to those who need it.

A Better Workplace Culture

Ted’s actions in his role as coach demonstrate the importance of personally modeling positive behavior in order to build a better workplace culture. His outgoing nature and positive vibes consistently provide an uplifting presence to his colleagues in the show and he regularly creates opportunities to ask someone “how are you?” and ends conversations with “I appreciate you.” These simple, yet often overlooked, opportunities engage your workforce on a personal level and build bonds of trust.

In today’s world of often back to back virtual meetings, the daily “check-in” has become lost, which may contribute to a feeling of alienation among many employees. Ted’s in-show behavior should be a role model for managers who struggle with low morale and intra-team communication.

Ted always put others before himself and consistently takes the high road in tense social situations, as evidenced time and time again throughout the show. The supportive workplace culture that Ted fosters allows his colleagues and teammates to know the space is safe and, most importantly, that everyone is respected. Business leaders can take a page out of Ted’s book by:

  1. taking time to check in and ask employees how they are doing,
  2. providing in-office flexibility,
  3. ensuring opportunities to grow, and
  4. allowing employees to bring their authentic selves to the office.

Meeting mental health needs for your team may mean celebrating a win with your colleagues (e.g., Ted enjoying a night out with his teammates in Amsterdam) or holding an open dialogue around successes and challenges that you are collaborating on.

To get from one end of the field to the other, you must pass, run, trust, and work together. Similarly, in the workplace, we must rely on each other for good-faith support, clear communication, and a commitment to manage challenges together.

Access to Therapeutic Resources

As the show progresses, the audience learns that Ted suffers from depression and anxiety as a result of isolation and disconnection. He is lonely, reeling from a recent divorce, hasn’t seen his only son in a long period of time, and is living in a foreign land. While not exactly a typical situation, the negative feelings that Ted experiences and his struggle to deal with them in a healthy way are similar to what millions of people go through every day, both in and outside of work.

In season two of the show, the team hires a psychologist to be stationed in the office to support the teammates who desire mental health support. While this type of solution is likely out of reach for most employers, Ted is shown accessing the same provider via telehealth in season three, which is a much more practical option.

Virtual solutions such as telehealth allow employees to access care on their schedule, avoid missing time from work, and not be seen by their colleagues when entering or leaving a waiting room. By providing this type of in-house support, the soccer club draws people to the office and demonstrates caring and commitment.

The Role of Belief

A team is a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal. Whether that goal is a win, a sale, or another opportunity, everybody must work together to get there.

Relying on each other and bringing your best self to the game is critical, and it’s important that everybody on your team understands and believes that someone has their back.

“I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that's being alone and being sad. Ain't no one in this room alone.”
-Ted Lasso

For more guidance about employer-sponsored mental health initiatives, check out: 7 Ways to Support Mental Health in the Workplace.