Mental health is something I’ve cared deeply about for a long time. During Mental Health Awareness Month, in particular, I reflect on the ways mental health has touched my own life.
Several members of my family have suffered with mental illness, most notably, my mother, who was severely depressed for most of her life.
My mom was a great mom, but she was very sick. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone you love struggle with their mental health — it can make you feel powerless, frustrated, and alone. As the oldest child of six, I responded to my mother’s illness by stepping in, and at times, taking charge. These experiences shaped me profoundly.
Mental illness is on the rise — and companies must take note
The experience of living with mental illness also influenced me professionally. It shaped the kind of leader I want to be — one who leads with empathy and care.
I’ve been heartened to see the discussion around mental health shift so dramatically over the past few years. It went from a relatively taboo topic to one that no employer can ignore.
In the United States, mental illness is something one in five adults are experiencing — that’s 47 million Americans. And it’s safe to say that every person globally has been impacted in one way or another by the trauma that comes with living through a global pandemic; not to mention the recent horrific tragedies in Texas and New York, racially-motivated violence, war, and climate change, among many other important issues of our time.
People are a company’s greatest asset — without our people, we have nothing.Brent hyder, president & Chief People Officer
I’ve always believed that employers have a responsibility to make sure employees are happy and healthy. As Chief People Officer at Salesforce, I’m in a unique position to impact employees’ individual experiences every day. That’s powerful. But this is not just an altruistic belief — happy and healthy employees bring their best selves to work everyday, which has real implications for the business. People are a company’s greatest asset — without our people, we have nothing.
How Salesforce approaches mental health in the workplace
Within our own workforce, employees are reporting mental health challenges more than ever before, especially around the start of the pandemic. It’s something we take very seriously, and our team has rolled out a five-pronged support system to help employees:
- Therapy and coaching: We’ve partnered with Lyra Health to provide free therapy for employees and their families. We understand employees are at different places in their mental health journey, so we also offer preventative care like dedicated mental fitness coaches and interactive workshops through BetterUp.
- Personalized care: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. We offer inclusive healthcare solutions for people of all identities through Included Health. We rolled out new gender inclusive benefits for the LGBTQ+ community at Salesforce, including gender affirmation medical reimbursement and leave, wardrobe reimbursement, and counseling services. If employees cannot get the care they need close to home, our longstanding policy provides financial support for travel or relocation to ensure employees and their families have access to the specialized care they need.
- Substance use: There has been a rise in unhealthy substance use and addiction since the pandemic, and we offer rehabilitation and recovery services through employees’ medical plans. We also have community groups for sober employees, employees seeking sobriety and their allies, called Soberforce, as well as a Mental Health Matters group where people can come together to share stories and support one another.
- Time off: We all need time to step away from work — whether it be for major milestones in our lives or just to unplug and reset. During the pandemic, we expanded our family care leave, making parents eligible for six weeks of paid time off — in addition to six months of paid parental leave after having a baby. We continue to offer flexible and volunteer time off, as well as additional leaves for medical, military, bereavement, and personal reasons. And we encourage employees to prioritize wellbeing with no-meeting Fridays, async weeks, and “Focus Time.”
- Stress management: Our Wellbeing Reimbursement Program reimburses employees up to $100 every month for activities that help them and their families be well, such as gym memberships, massages or cooking courses.
Our goal is to help employees find their joy.Brent hyder, president & Chief People Officer
Our goal is to help employees find their joy. One way we do this is through benefits, but that’s just one part of the equation. It’s also about culture and creating empowered employee experiences where people can do meaningful work, build trusted relationships with each other, and find purpose and belonging.
We’re certainly not perfect, and there’s work still ahead. But my team and I are committed to prioritizing the employee experience, which starts with mental health.