Headspace logo

Lead the Way: A Path to Happier, Healthier Teams

Join Us: Pledge to Support Mental Health

We’ve all recognized the strains affecting people amid today’s crises: a global pandemic, racial unrest, political anxieties. 2020 is taking a toll on many people’s mental health, regardless of any support they may have. World Mental Health Day couldn’t have come sooner.

On Oct. 10, let’s stand together and commit to support a friend, relative, co-worker, or employee, even if we do it in some small way. Let’s create an opportunity in this moment to demand a greater investment in mental health for all.

From the beginning, Headspace has shared guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, and sleep content to improve the health and happiness of the world. Now we’re encouraging organizations everywhere to stand with us and commit to support mental health over the next 12 months.

Now is the time to ask the hard questions and act with courage, integrity, and empathy. Headspace is positioned and proud to lead this call-to-action. We ask you to join us in this effort.

“The world is suffering around us. The challenges were always there and are on the rise amid global crises. Leaders urgently need to support mental health for their people, teams, and communities.” — Megan Jones Bell, Chief Strategy and Science Officer at Headspace

What Can You Do?

At Headspace, we’re encouraging leaders and organizations worldwide to stand with us to state mental health is equally — if not more important — than physical health. The two are in fact inextricably linked, and together, they create a more holistic picture of what “being well” really means.

For years, companies have invested in physical benefit programs like smoking cessation, diabetes management, and weight loss. But unfortunately, mental health is sometimes left out of the equation. With your help, we can change that.

Join our mission to make mental health care a reality for people around the world.

What to Know About Mental Health in the Workplace

People need to show up to work mentally, not just physically. Happier employees lead to healthier businesses. Employees know this: 89% believe their employers should provide mental health benefits to them and their dependents, according to our 2020 Mental Health Trends Report. This survey of over 2,500 employees in the U.S. and U.K. also revealed that 53% of workers view mental health support as essential, even after the global pandemic subsides.

The World Mental Health Association suggests the needs in the coming year will likely outpace support as people cope with “anxiety, fear, isolation, social distancing and restrictions, uncertainty, and emotional distress” amid the threats of COVID-19. But more needs to be done. There is good news, however: Willis Towers Watson reports about two-thirds of companies say they will prioritize mental health solutions for employees in 2021. Will they act on those intentions? Will what they do be enough?

Facts about employee mental health now:

5 Steps Can Make a Huge Difference

We’re asking you as part of World Mental Health Day to pledge to support mental health in the workplace. That doesn’t mean you need to commit immediately (although your team could use your support now). What we do ask is that you join companies from around the world over the next year to at least start to discover what we can accomplish together.

You don’t need to take an all-or-nothing approach to make a difference. There are many ways to ease the mental health burdens of your employees. Here we outline five steps that range from easy DIY actions to larger commitments with a greater investment.

New data from our ongoing Mental Health Trends Report shows that 53% of employees report being stressed. Implementing stress surveys can be a great way to measure and track stress levels across your organization. This gives you a read on stress among your team so you can adapt your workplace mental health programs to meet their needs. With better data, you can target specific groups or demographics that might be more affected than others. Here are some examples of programs you can consider:

  • Self-guided stress reduction and resilience tools
  • Virtual or in-person coaching
  • Support for parents and caregivers
  • Solutions targeting unique needs of specific employee populations, such as the BIPOC community.

“One thing we know about healing from any trauma is that you have to be able to name and claim the pain. And so if you’re doing a psychological assessment of someone who has been exposed to racism, the question to be asking is not ‘is racism operating here?’ but ‘how is it?’” — Dr. Wizdom Powell, population health disparities research scientist and clinical psychologist, on addressing racial health disparities.

Step 2 — Lead Authentically

People have been inspired throughout the crises of 2020 by caring leadership. Visible, transparent displays of authentic leadership are lifting up individuals, teams, and organizations during difficult times. The world needs more of that.

Behaviors seen in leaders are likely to have a ripple effect on those around us. Healthy, happy cultures start with us, as leaders,” says Headspace’s Chief Strategy and Science Officer Dr. Megan Jones Bell.

A word of caution however: 42% of leaders are experiencing burnout, according to a study by the School for CEOs in Edinburgh. “This is about you being healthy and your most resilient. Self-compassion, in particular, can help,” adds Dr. Bell. Here’s what your people most need their leaders to do:

  • Create honest, open relationships with followers
  • Listen and hear the input of employees
  • Let employees know their contributions are valued
  • Demonstrate a foundation of ethics (do the right thing)
  • Dispel stigmas around employee stress and anxiety (“it’s OK”)
  • Display compassion and cut people some slack (flexibility)

You and other leaders spend a significant amount of time with the people you manage, so how every leader shows up in the world each day impacts those teams. Leaders now have a great opportunity to reconnect with that true leadership trait of being the first to put on the metaphorical oxygen mask to be supportive of themselves, so they can in turn support and encourage their teams to do the same.

According to Dr. Bell, these qualities matter because they can directly support employees to feel:

  • Less stress and anxiety
  • More motivated and engaged, and less likely to leave
  • High trust and confidence

"Mindful leadership means our stress doesn't spill out on those around us, on our team. We can reduce it and manage it more effectively. We can be more intentional in every kind of micro-interaction that we have with our teams throughout the day," — Megan Jones Bell

Step 3 — Address Burnout

We don’t need to share the latest study on employee burnout here. A lot of us are feeling it, including you, at least to some degree. You’re likely seeing it in the people you lead. Recognizing and understanding how we are feeling is the first step in addressing extreme fatigue or burnout. Disruption of regular routines has blurred the boundaries between work and life for many of us. We’re working at home, without the usual routines and habits that break up our day and help us transition from work-to-life and vice versa. This might make some of us feel like we are always working, and yet sometimes, like we are not working at all.

On the other hand, if someone has a high sense of personal control over their work, feels rewarded for their effort, and has job requirements that align with their personal values, they often won’t experience burnout — not even under a high workload.

That’s why, as proactive leaders committed to supporting continued mental health, we should consider employee burnout holistically and should strive to help every team member achieve a good fit on all six dimensions that science tells us contribute most to anxiety, stress and ultimately, burnout: Workload: the extent to which a person’s overall job demands meet or exceed human limits

  • Control: people’s perceived ability to influence decisions relating to their work, to exercise personal autonomy, and to gain access to the resources they need to do their work
  • Reward: includes monetary, social, and intrinsic rewards of one’s work
  • Community: the overall quality of social interaction at work, including interpersonal conflict, social support, closeness, and ability to work as a team
  • Fairness: the extent to which people perceive organizational decisions and resource allocation as fair and equitable
  • Values: the beliefs and motivations that attract a person to their work, and the extent to the person’s values match those of the organization

We might not feel a good fit in all of these areas all of the time. In fact, most of us don’t, and that’s okay. An imbalance in one area won’t necessarily lead to burnout if it’s matched by a good fit in another. More information on the six dimensions model can be found here.

“There are multiple levers an organization or manager can use to help reduce the likelihood of burnout and support their teams through stressful times. We often get overly focused on the sheer amount of time working and lose sight of other important elements.” – Clare Purvis, Director of Behavioral Science at Headspace.

Step 4 — Consider Wellness Stressors

Addressing employee well-being is a many-faceted challenge. A range of factors can negatively impact employee mental health, from work stress and anxiety to financial pressures to family strife. While mental health benefits and employer assistance programs are critical to addressing some of these problems, people often need help in other areas.

Consider that roughly 50% of workers are stressed by money, citing finances as their top concern, according to our recent research.

The takeaway is that financial wellness should be addressed by every employer because it links directly to a higher prevalence of stress and anxiety, worse sleep, impaired focus at work and absenteeism.

“Companies are at their best when their employees are at their best. But the fact of the matter is, when employees are financially unwell, they are far less likely to be engaged and productive in the workplace — which can directly impact business success.” Manulife: Plan & Learn

Stress in personal relationships, including inside the family, can also decrease employee focus and increase workplace stress. In fact, stress in personal relationships is an often-overlooked workplace stressor in many employee health programs. The opposite is also true. Workplace stress leads to stress at home. Either way, without support, a downward cycle is created and endures.

Headspace research shows 51% of workers see stress in their job bleeding over to their personal lives.

Unsurprisingly, the same Headspace survey found 89% of workers think their company should offer mental health benefits to employees and their dependents, indicating a need to embed resources into all aspects of employees’ lives — including family life.

But employers can also often ease work-life stressors with flexible schedules. Employees can meanwhile take small actions to minimize work-life stress, for themselves and their partners. Consider that studies show that teaching mindfulness to one partner in a relationship enhances the well-being of both partners — even when the other person isn’t practicing mindfulness. A few other tips for employees and organizations to address family mental health include:

  • For working couples with children at home, take shifts with the kids or use your break times to play a quick game or enjoy a meal with their families
  • Anyone can easily start a regular mindfulness practice to help be kinder and more empathetic toward themselves and others in their home
  • For caregivers at home, mindfulness for self-care can have big benefits (Self-Care for Caregivers video)
  • Parents who need help managing daily routines can lead mindful exercises and games for their kids (Download Guide)
  • To help parents navigate uncertainty and disruptions, HR team members and organization leaders can help equip employees with specific mindfulness practices (Compassionate Cultures for Working Parents video)

“The dividing line between work life vs. personal life has only gotten more blurry over the years, and that’s certainly increased in light of recent events. As we allow more fluidity between work and our personal life, we can’t ignore that we have to prioritize mental health, both at home and at work. It’s not enough to manage stress during business hours. We need to integrate well-being routines into all 24 hours of our day.” says Headspace’s Chief Strategy and Science Officer Megan Jones Bell.

Step 5 — Invest in Employee Mental Health

When organizations invest in preventive and supportive mental health solutions, a little goes a long way. In today’s digital world, and during today’s crises, employees shouldn’t have to travel to access resources to prevent, manage, or reduce stress. Combining in-person and digital tools can give employees a range of options and make sure they get the right support at the right time.

The sad news is that fewer than half of all workers feel their companies have increased access to mental health tools in response to COVID-19 — and women are far more likely than men to feel that way. Companies like Hyatt, Farmers Insurance, Box, and BP, among others that are taking the pledge to support mental health in honor of World Mental Health Day, are doing so in a variety of ways. They’re investing in actions including, but not limited to:

  • Giving employees more breaks during the workday or days off for mental health
  • Expanding mental health coverage as part of employee benefits
  • Investing in employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Providing free access to therapy programs or stress management apps
  • Extending mental health coverage to dependents
  • Adding financial wellness solutions
  • Investing in mindfulness solutions that reduce stress and build resiliency
  • Offering family support services
  • Targeted mental health programs to support specific employee populations

We know each organization is different and their level of investment to employee’s mental health might vary — and that’s okay. Based on the makeup of your workforce, industry, and the nature of your business, your employees’ needs will be different. Oftentimes it’s more about communicating/promoting what you DO offer, rather than adding additional services.

Business Benefits

We hope that joining the mental health pledge comes from a place of care for your people and a commitment to do the right thing. But the business benefit is undeniable. We’ll say it again, happy employees lead to healthy businesses. Some of you may have figured that out in recent months.

Helping your employees bring their whole self to work is not only beneficial for the performance of the business, but also valuable for the business’s reputation. When your employees are happy, they are less likely to leave and more likely to refer [job candidates and customers to] you.

Showing up as our whole selves means showing up with and acting based on our authentic identity, personality, and goals. But it also means showing up with and being affected by our worries, stress, and anxiety. We can’t choose which parts of ourselves we leave at home. And the impact of our collective stress, anxiety, and depression in the workforce is evident — if you look for it.

  • 39% of workers have taken a day off in the past year due to stress, anxiety, or depression. Among genders, the rate was highest (57%) among respondents who identified as non-binary.
  • 30% of workers suspect they suffer from depression or anxiety. The number is highest and equal among women and non-binary respondents (33%), and lowest among men (27%).
  • More insights into how employees are faring in our 2020 Employee Mental Health Trends Report

“The biggest benefit is in employee sentiment and engagement. Our level of anxiety and the demands on our resilience affects my attitude at work, how productive I am, how much time I might miss, and how I talk about my employer. “If you’re taking care of the wholeness of the person, especially the mind, you’re improving everything that you brought them on board to do.” — CeCe Morken, COO of Headspace

Turn Your Pledge Into a Movement

Thank you in advance for joining the movement. Now we need your help to make it grow to create a real and lasting impact on employee mental health. Headspace research shows 4 in 10 employees don’t even think their company offers mental health benefits. You may very well be doing the right thing already and your team just doesn’t know it. Guide them.

Help your team find the resources they need. If they don’t have the right ones, consider investing in ways to improve the mental health of your most important asset. Some tips to help us grow this movement:

  • Announce your pledge — publicly and visibly to your employees and your customers
  • Share internally your plans to address mental health
  • Highlight existing benefits that support mental health (remember, many employees just don’t know that they have benefits)
  • Amplify the voice of your employees around their mental health concerns and create safe spaces where those concerns can be shared
  • Set an example through your own actions on how to handle stress and anxieties
  • Hold your own leaders accountable to the commitment to employee mental health
  • Encourage others outside of your organization to join the pledge

Deliver consistent, clear information

Moments of uncertainty tend to leave room for contradictory and sometimes unsettling and inaccurate information. It’s important that your team receive frequent, clear, and reliable information.

At Headspace, for example, our People Operations team sends our team weekly status updates with resources, verified information, and an action plan. Every people manager should also feel enabled and empowered through proper training to support and educate their teams.

It’s important that, as leaders, we do all we can to create the conditions for our employees to feel supported. Psychological safety should be a top priority. How might we help to empower our employee communities with regular, consistent, and trusted information — allowing them to make the right decisions specific to their personal needs, as well as for those around them? Another consideration as businesses start to implement social distancing is the need for ongoing, regular, and open communication being even more crucial. Employees may start to feel isolated, so we need to start thinking about ways we can create a virtual sense of community and support.” — Louisa Cartwright Tucker, VP of People Operations at Headspace


Try a free meditation

We’ve all recognized the strains affecting people amid today’s crises: a global pandemic, racial unrest, political anxieties. 2020 is taking a toll on many people’s mental health, regardless of any support they may have. Take a break with this free meditation for stress.

20-minute stress meditation