Mental Health at Work//

How LinkedIn is Fostering a Mentally Healthy Workplace Culture

No matter the severity, everyone deserves help in their time of need; LinkedIn’s Head of Global Wellness, Michael Susi, shares how LinkedIn helps employees tackle tough issues

At LinkedIn, we talk about our talent—employees—being the number one operating priority. The steps we take to care for our employees is underpinned by our actions which put their needs first and create thoughtful internal programs supporting employees where they have a need and are aligned with LinkedIn’s mission, vision, and values.

From our wellness program’s outset, it has been based on our 6 Tenets of Wellness: Thoughts; Breathing; Hydration; Nutrition; Movement; and Rest. These individual components make up a framework from which our program initiatives are based and for individuals to use as a checklist of how they care for themselves. The 6 Tenets of Wellness for a human are analogous to sunlight, soil, and water for a plant. Through the first tenet—thoughts—we have established a guiding light for our wellness program to have a strong mental health component.

Each month, we give employees one day to invest in themselves, their community, and the world—called InDay (short for “Investment” Day). We’ve found that many employees use this day to positively invest in their mental health. Each year, September’s InDay is dedicated to wellness and we offer global programs related to raising awareness, understanding, and improving an employee’s mental health. In the case that an employee is dealing with a mental health condition, we offer a free Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides confidential services to help employees in times of crisis, 24/7. We also have a global ERG, called EnableIn, that assists employees who may be dealing with a mental health condition.

A major part of the Thoughts tenet is mindfulness. We have built a very extensive mindfulness program that gives employees an opportunity to learn about and engage in a wide range of mindfulness practices, both onsite and online. We focus on using mindfulness to help employees develop strategies that will serve their needs. In the more immediate experience, it helps in recognizing discontent and not exhibiting negative behaviors as a result of their discontent (i.e. yelling at your spouse because you lost a sale at work).

Further, to support our employees, we have rolled out meditation rooms in our Sunnyvale, San Francisco, New York, and Sydney offices, with other launches planned in the near future. In 2018, we focused on the first Tenet, “thoughts,” and put together a program that encompassed our global benefits around the offering. We called the campaign “Keep In Mind.” In it, we highlighted existing programs and resources available to employees that deal with physical, mental, emotional, and financial health. Here are lessons and takeaways learned through the launch of the campaign.

Starting at Zero

We were fortunate enough to start our program at a time in LinkedIn’s life where there were fewer than 1,000 employees globally, making the scalability of the program quickly achievable. By being involved early in the company’s growth cycle, we were able to grow the program alongside the headcount. We also began year 1 solely within our HQ campus. This allowed us to Beta-test the program and gather learnings before we set our sights on taking the program to our global workforce.

In addition to naming the tenets, we also introduced opportunities for employees to learn about, engage in, and develop strategies around the thoughts tenet. We did this by following our program’s mission to create these opportunities in ways that met people where they are. We defined this as opportunities that were onsite, online, and in our communities.

Some examples of these are:

  • Onsite: recurring meditation classes, speakers related to the thoughts tenet, workshops, and mindfulness rooms

  • Online: access to online content and developed relationships with mindfulness-based apps (Headspace, Move Coach, etc.)

  • In Community: promoting local resources that are available to the public, through health insurance, and other company perks

We measure the success of our mindfulness/meditation programs in a few ways each month. Those include (but are not limited to):

  • Onsite participation in meditation classes

  • Utilization of mindfulness rooms

  • Attendance at mindfulness workshops

  • Utilization of promoted mindfulness apps

We recently did a utilization study of our mindfulness rooms in our Sunnyvale offices (HQ), where we have 9 rooms. The rooms average 15 visits per day, with over half being self-reported as being used for meditation. In addition to meditation, religious practices were named as a top reason employees utilize the rooms. Together, they account for more than 90% of the room’s utilization. We also have a group of employee-volunteers who help promote global mindfulness initiatives in their local offices.

We’ve also heard feedback from employees and it has been overwhelmingly positive. The best feedback we’ve received has been from employees who were skeptical of mindfulness but found that our program had a positive impact. It exposed them to various ways to practice mindfulness and many have even made it a part of their daily lives.

Influencing Office Culture and the Role Of Leadership

It’s always powerful to have the executive team at your organization promote and exemplify the qualities that you are looking to spread to all employees. Nothing sabotages a program more than an executive team whose actions do not match their words.

As an example of why companies need to create mentally healthy cultures, there was an organization that said they really wanted their employees to be able to find a healthy work-life integration, and they decided to plan a 1-hour workshop session for employees. The session was meant to be an avenue to express to employees that the company cared about them and specifically to help them strike the proper balance between their professional and personal lives. They also scheduled the workshop for 6 pm and made it mandatory. This is a great example of the best of intentions being sabotaged by the actions not aligning with the message. Culture cannot be forced on people, and the irony of scheduling a mandatory work-life balance workshop at 6 pm was somehow lost on the organizers.

Further, it’s why at LinkedIn, we utilize Scott Shute, Senior Director of Learning & Development and Head of Mindfulness and Compassion Programs, to help employees build characteristics like emotional intelligence, resilience, and a better overall sense of well-being. This translates to our employees being happier, and in turn, a better experience for our customers.

There is a happy ending to the story of the well-meaning organization mentioned above, who saw the error of their ways before it was rolled out to employees. They also were able to reflect on the work they needed to do as an executive team before they were able to roll out a program of that nature.

Even when there is executive buy-in and support, that message can be lost if the managers of departments and teams do not support the program. It is vital to give managers the knowledge to understand why an initiative is important and how it will help accomplish the goals for which they are responsible. Additionally, equipping managers with a tool-kit on how to promote the initiative is very important. Even the most well-intentioned person will get stuck if they aren’t sure how to get started.

Practical Advice

In conjunction with a handful of other organizations, a LinkedIn Group has been created for people that are leading mindfulness efforts at their workplace. The intention is to share best practices and build community. Additionally, a playbook has been created and is available to anyone by visiting MindfulWorkPlaceMovement.com to download the playbook.

Lastly, don’t wait until you “perfect” the initiative before you roll it out. Create a structure that allows for flexibility and feedback, and the opportunity to calibrate as you move forward. Measure participation and have easy ways for people to share their feedback, both the good and the bad.

We view our 6 Tenets as six distinct entry points into our Wellness Program. Not every aspect will immediately resonate with everyone. For example, the person that loves exercise will easily engage in movement activities. However, they may be resistant to activities around thoughts. Regardless of how people want to engage in the program, having multiple entry points with a strategy to help the employee expand their experiences will serve the program better than a rigid and single-entry point.

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