Wellness Program: Our wellness program provides the resources, tools and support our team needs to be healthy — physically, emotionally and mentally — and we activate it through annual initiatives related to foundational healthy habits like sleep, meditation and fitness. Each employee also gets an annual wellness budget to use for anything that will support their health.
As a part of my series about “How Business Leaders Are Helping To Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Martin.
Rebecca Martin is VP, Culture & Talent at Beehive Strategic Communication. She is an HR and talent development leader with 20 years of experience in the PR/communications industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My career did not take the path I first anticipated. And thank goodness it didn’t, because it’s been so much better than I could have imagined. My original plan to was to work in publishing. I took a “temporary” job as an administrative assistant at a PR agency while I job searched. I ended up shifting into an account role and stayed there for six years. Fifteen years ago, I moved to Beehive Strategic Communication in an account role. I realized after several years, however, that people and processes were my true strengths and ultimately landed in a culture and talent role, where I manage recruiting, onboarding, professional development, employee wellness, diversity, equity and inclusion, social impact work and the agency culture.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting thing that has happened since I began my career is how quickly the pace of change has increased and the degree to which technology has impacted how business is done. Twenty years ago I was using email for the first time, didn’t have the Internet at home and didn’t even have a cell phone or laptop. PR firms were still faxing media advisories, finding media contacts manually using Bacon’s books and mailing press kits. Smartphones weren’t even widely in people’s pockets until less than a decade ago. And think how much has changed in the social media landscape in just the last two years. What an interesting ride it’s been. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
I believe the two most important ways to thrive (professional and personally) and avoid burnout (professionally and personally) are to stay curious and to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health. Staying curious about your industry, trends, issues and ideas keeps you engaged and keeps the work feeling fresh and interesting over time. Avoiding burnout is all about managing your own health. People who invest in their health are physically stronger, mentally more focused and emotionally more secure. This gives them the foundation from which to make positive choices, communicate more effectively, manage conflict more easily, establish healthier relationships, and set clearer boundaries for themselves in work and in life.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
If a leader wants to create a fantastic work culture, the most important skill they can develop is active listening. Every culture is unique and every culture can be fantastic if leaders take the time to really listen to what their employees want and need — and then take action. Implementing that two-way feedback loop is critical to surfacing and solving issues, implementing positive changes and deepening trust with employees. Cultures rooted in high levels of trust and respect are more easily able to navigate challenges and evolve over time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” I believe it’s only when you quit comparing yourself, work, career, style and abilities to others that you can truly find your strength, confidence and authentic voice.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives you have taken to help improve or optimize your employees mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
Beehive has always supported our team’s well-being through regular well-being challenges and other well-being practices. This year employees are managing a lot — feelings of social isolation as they work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, balancing work and caretaking from home, anxiety and stress related to social injustice issues and the presidential election. Stress and anxiety are increasing for nearly everyone. We understand our employees need more support with mental health than ever this year. Here’s how we’re helping to do that:
- Positive Daily Practices: Consciously investing in Beehive’s nine daily practices improves focus, boosts progress and lifts energy. We are proactively sharing tips and support around each of these on a regular basis and encouraging employees to track their progress. Practices include: priority setting, daily intention, focused power hours, mindfulness, gratitude, reflection, movement, nutrition, sleep and hydration.
- Mental Health Care: We are proactively reminding employees that our health care and disability plans equally cover physical and mental health. In addition to health care benefits, employees also have access to short-term disability, which provides partially paid leave for employees experiencing mental health challenges. They also have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. It’s important to have mental health care benefits, and it’s equally important to keep the resources and information fresh and accessible for people.
- Encouraging PTO Use: We are encouraging employees to use PTO to reset and refresh so they can better manage stress. We are making sure employees know if they are caretaking for someone due to COVID-19, there is additional federal support available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Beehive also provides PTO in one-hour increments so people don’t have to take full or half days off. Sometimes just a couple hours off can help be the reset that’s needed.
- More Connections: Our team is doing daily huddles by Zoom to stay connected despite people working remotely. During the warmer months we also organized small, safe, socially distanced and outdoor in-person gatherings to stay connected (like volunteer events, lunches, walks and Happy Hours). Seeing one another safely in person lifted everyone’s spirits.
- Wellness Program: Our wellness program provides the resources, tools and support our team needs to be healthy — physically, emotionally and mentally — and we activate it through annual initiatives related to foundational healthy habits like sleep, meditation and fitness. Each employee also gets an annual wellness budget to use for anything that will support their health.
What you are doing is wonderful, but sadly it is not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Organizations should first ensure they have excellent mental health care coverage — that is tables takes today. Then, they need to show active support by regularly talking about mental health and frequently sharing information, tools and resources. Ideas for raising awareness and providing support in the workplace include: sharing mental health information and resources in regular weekly or monthly newsletters; integrating mental health into wellness programs through speakers, webinars and reading series; providing training to managers and ensuring they check in with employees regularly — especially if employees are showing signs of stress or struggle.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?
Mental health has long been stigmatized in our country. But anyone feeling stressed, depressed or anxious should first realize they are not alone. Every year, 43.6 million U.S. adults ages 18 years or older suffer from mental illness. And almost half of all adults (46.4 percent) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. As individuals, we can help normalize mental illness by sharing our mental health stories, issues, challenges and successes. As a community and society, we can ensure mental health resources are widely available to people. As businesses, we can offer excellent mental health care coverage and raise awareness around employee burnout syndrome, stress, anxiety and depression through wellness programs.
Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?
Developing healthy habits can feel overwhelming at first. The most effective approach is to start small and set reasonable, manageable goals. Saying you’ll quit eating sugar, start sleeping 8 hours every night, begin a new exercise program and resume meditating all in the same week is likely to fail. If you don’t know where to start, reflect on which core healthy habit would give you the biggest boost of energy. Then, use that energy to establish additional healthy habits down the road. Many people find that starting with a healthy sleep routine is the best practice on which to start building a strong foundation, later adding movement and a healthier diet. If you start with sleep, begin by setting an alarm to go to bed and turning off your phone at least 30–60 minutes before you want to be asleep. Establish calming pre-bed rituals that will encourage sleep like a warm bath or light stretching. Another strategy for developing healthy new habits is creating “if — then” statements. Let’s say too much caffeine is contributing to nervousness and lack of focus. Create an if-then statement to work through the process of scaling back: If I drink a cup of coffee, then I drink a full glass of water. This will slowly begin to develop a new habit of increased hydration and less caffeine. Remember, small steps taken over time with consistency is how habits develop.
Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?
Taking mindful breaks or time to meditate each day restores our energy, reconnects us to our intention, and offers countless mental, physical, and emotional benefits like reduced stress and anxiety, greater self-awareness, improved creativity and much more — all of which leaders especially need in times of uncertainty. Using the app Headspace has helped me through guided and moving meditations. When it’s hard for me to quiet my mind, and sitting down to meditate or breathe feels impossible, I find that moving meditations are especially helpful for syncing my mind and body. I also get the added benefit of being outside in the fresh air, physical movement and a closer connection with nature — all of which help calm my mind.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth — Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” had a profound impact on my understanding of presence, consciousness and purpose.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to see businesses invest in emotional intelligence (EQ) training for their employees. EQ is the capability to understand, process and manage your emotions in a positive way that helps avoid stress, conflict and burnout. Businesses that have employees with strong EQ benefit through better teamwork, stronger collaboration, more productive working relationships, and overall better workplace environments.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!