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There’s a better way to manage mental health at work

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter, where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern tech office. Today: mental health at work, how Google is solving for hybrid meetings and work-from-home perks.

—Amber Burton, reporter (twitter | email)

Mental health at work

This week, I wrote about a subject that is super controversial in tech: the notorious performance improvement plan, otherwise known as the PIP.

One of my sources, Betsey Trudeau, told me about the painful process of her own PIP, which ultimately resulted in termination. During the course of her PIP, Trudeau was dealing with severe depression, which she said she had told her manager about.

To Trudeau, living and working with depression was “no different than somebody who needs to wear glasses or somebody who requires insulin.” But she feels like her manager viewed it as an excuse for her performance. In retrospect, she told me she no longer feels comfortable telling a manager about mental health issues, for fear of retaliation.

Another source — whom I referred to in the story under the pseudonym Emily due to the nondisclosure agreement she signed — was put on a PIP with some unusual, non-performance-related terms: “You can’t lie, you can’t be emotional and you have to better manage conflicts with teammates.”

According to HR experts and lawyers I spoke to, PIPs are not an appropriate tool for behavioral issues. (The first “P” stands for “performance,” not “behavior” or “emotions.”)

So what do you do as a manager when you notice an employee is dealing with mental health issues? My colleague Anna Kramer has reported on some more things not to do:

  • Don’t use medical leave as a solution for all problems. Google has a reputation for putting employees on medical leave when they allege instances of harassment, racism or discrimination internally. Union members are demanding that they change these practices, since the leave is often unpaid and the onus for action is put on survivors.
  • Free coaching sounds great, but beware of the privacy implications. Kramer also wrote about the rise of free, on-demand coaching services like BetterUp and Bravely that are confidential, but still provide companies aggregated reports on the issues workers are discussing. No surprise: Burnout and stress are the most common topics.

Stay tuned for more from the Protocol Workplace team on what you should do when an employee comes to you about mental health issues at work. And if you have a story to share about your experience talking about or dealing with mental health issues in the workplace, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at or for encrypted messages.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (twitter | email)

Events at Protocol

It now seems almost certain that antitrust action, privacy laws and more will influence the tech industry and will soon affect the most powerful companies. Our expert panel will discuss what lawmakers hope to achieve, how tech companies are already responding to possible regulation and what it might look like a few years from now. Join Justin Brookman, Julie Brill, Samir Jain and Linda Moore, moderated by Protocol Senior Reporter Ben Brody on Jan. 26 at 10:30 a.m. PT/1:30 p.m. ET.

Register for the event.

The first circle of hybrid hell: The meeting

Google has entered the race to make hybrid meetings better with its latest video conferencing feature, Google Companion. Companion enables meeting attendees joining from an IRL conference room to log into meetings separately from their own devices without depending on Google Hangout hardware. Participants can then use features like chat, polls, hand-raising and screen-sharing without depending on the sole conference room monitor. Meeting platforms are all working to bridge the gap between the people dialing in from home and the office. Zoom most recently released “Smart Gallery,” which uses hardware and AI to isolate faces in a conference room and place them in separate tiles. Microsoft is also experimenting with a new type of conference room with a curved table and projected screen. The goal for all the platforms is to create a more equal meeting.

Read the full story.


As businesses grow during the pandemic, they also encounter pressing challenges to maintain that success. Among them is the pressure to strengthen their digital backbone, which leads to the question: How can companies find the ideal technology provider suited to their evolving needs?

Learn more

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Pay, perks & benefits

The latest in pay, perks and benefits news in the workplace.

Some tech companies are realizing the added financial pressure put on employees in a hybrid workplace. In addition to commuting to the office, hybrid employees are balancing the costs of maintaining a home office. Because of this, employers are offering more benefits to subsidize workers’ remote lives. My colleague Allison Levitsky found that the perks are vast. Here’s a look at some of the expenses companies are willing to pay for as more people shift to working from home.

  • Monthly stipends — Recruiting software maker Lever offers its employees $150 each month to be used toward “anything that makes working from home feel more comfortable and a little bit easier,” said Caitlyn Metteer, Lever’s director of Recruiting. That can include anything from a dog walker to a housekeeper. The stipend is in addition to the company’s monthly $100 wellness benefit.
  • Internet reimbursement — Twitter, Meta and Google all reimburse for employees’ home internet bills.
  • “Productivity allowance” — In addition to paying for internet, Twitter pays its employees a $500 annual “productivity allowance” for items like office furniture and home printers. Other companies refer to this as a general work-from-home stipend.

Read the full story.

Your employees are tired

I think we’re all too familiar with the concept of burnout at this point in the pandemic. And to say it was the buzzword of 2021 would be an understatement. Employees are tired. The weight of the pandemic and all that has come along with it caused many workers to leave their jobs and seek healthier relationships to work. Visier surveyed 1,000 full-time U.S. employees about their experiences with workplace burnout. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 89% of employeesreported that they’ve experienced burnout over the course of the past year.
  • 70% of respondents said they’d consider leaving their current jobs for a company with more robust benefits and support targeting burnout.
  • Less than half, 42%, said taking time off relieved their burnout for a significant period of time.
  • 49% said taking time off relieves burnout temporarily.
  • Top contributors to burnout include: increased workload, toxic work cultures and being asked to complete work at a faster pace.

Making Moves

Payroll platform Deel appointed Casey Bailey as its head of People. Prior to joining the company, Bailey was senior vice president of People and Places at Divvy.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Tuesday.

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