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'Mental health is health': Here’s why you should talk about it at work

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today: bettering mental health in the workplace, how Spotify uses Spotify, and where companies will go next with COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

—Amber Burton, reporter (email | twitter)

Let's talk about mental health

Did you know that depression is the leading cause of disability in the world? And yet, it’s still taboo to talk about mental health at work. (According to a 2019 study, 68% of employees think opening up about mental health issues will impact them negatively at work.)

This week, I spoke to tech leaders, HR experts and psychologists about how to destigmatize mental health across the tech industry. They offered up some interesting solutions.

Across the board, companies are offering new mental health benefits with the aim of attracting and retaining talent. Some creative ones that I came across in my reporting:

  • TaskRabbit offers its employees access to two apps: Ginger, for on-demand therapy and counseling, and Headspace, for meditation. CEO Ania Smith cautioned, however, that these apps are not the “whole solution,” and companies need to pursue a personalized approach to employees’ mental health needs.
  • HR software startup Phenom is introducing an unusual new benefit starting Feb. 1: $1,000 for every employee, to be spent directly on mental health. Qualifying expenses include therapy and meditation courses. It made the move after noticing low utilization of its other mental health-related benefits.
  • Execs I spoke to, from Smith to Calm’s Chief People Officer Scott Domann, are starting to tout a once-controversial move: taking sick days for mental health reasons. In the words of Domann, “Mental health is health.”

As one of my sources put it, “If you’re just not having a good mental health day, why should that be any different than someone who’s caught a cold?” Do you agree, and would you consider taking a sick day for mental health reasons? More importantly, would you feel comfortable telling your manager about it? Let me know.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

How Spotify uses Spotify

At Protocol, we’re fascinated by (and write about!) how tech companies use their own tech. For the latest entry in this series, reporter Lizzy Lawrence uncovered how Spotify uses Spotify. You might not be surprised to find that Spotify employees spend a lot of their days listening to music. Employees regularly test out new features before they launch, build playlists for teams and even receive work communications through Spotify itself. Yep, just like other tech companies, they “dogfood” their products. They also have internal, employees-only Spotify podcasts. Their tips for organizing your next work playlist: “Folders are a godsend when it comes to organizing my library of ~575 playlists. I literally have folders in folders,” said Alya Fetyani, an associate technical account manager in New York.

Read the full story.


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Pay, perks & benefits

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

Google is the latest company to announce it is upping its leave to help out parents and caretakers during this time. Parental leave for all parents increased from 12 weeks to 18 weeks starting at the beginning of 2022; for birthing parents, it was lengthened from 18 weeks to 24 weeks. Beyond parental leave, Google is expanding its leave policies for caregivers starting in April. The company plans to double "carer’s leave" from four weeks to eight weeks, in addition to extending the number of vacation days employees receive. They’ll now have 20 minimum paid vacation days; previously, they received 15. Great to hear, but will all parents take advantage of it?

Read the full story.

The future of COVID-19 policies at work

The Supreme Court ruled against the vaccine mandate, but that hasn’t stopped some companies from proceeding with their own policies. A survey earlier this month by Gartner of about 400 executives took a look at how companies plan to respond to the Supreme Court decision regarding vaccine mandates.

  • 21% of companies responded that they are less likely to enforce COVID-19 vaccine and testing policies following the SCOTUS decision, or they plan to drop their requirements altogether.
  • 35% said the ruling has no impact on their corporate policies and they are still planning on setting a mandate.
  • 52% of the executive respondents said the Supreme Court ruling “has no impact on their plans to track employees’ vaccination status.”
  • 23% of the companies said the Supreme Court ruling will make them even more likely to enforce employee mask policies in the workplace.


Whether you work on the top floor or the shop floor, Workplace celebrates who you are and what you can bring to your business. Discover the place where you can be more you.

Learn more

More stories from us

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Around 100 leaders signed a letter urging others to join them in furthering disability equality in the workplace.

The TechEquity Collaborative released a report unveiling the many inequities facing contract workers in the tech industry.

Around the internet

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

Funding for Latinx startups has remained low, at 2% of overall startup investment.

Turns out you can successfully find a mentor while working remotely.

More tips on how to set boundaries when working from home, and some good advice on how to say "no" to your boss.

An article regarding that viral tweet about Wharton students last week. You know the tweet I’m talking about.

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

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