Along with "talent shortage" and "Great Resignation," the term "burnout" may seem like a common incantation murmured on the lips of HR professionals. As is the case with buzzwords, genuine issues lie at the heart of the conversation: Workers may not have what they need to thrive or even survive when it comes to mental health.
A seemingly radical but efficient approach is forcing employees to take a mental health day — or five — to recoup. Hootsuite, along with Hubspot, Mozilla, Bumble and LinkedIn, offered employees a week-long, paid burnout break. (Hootsuite’s "wellness week" took place July 5 to July 12.)
Company leadership also offered its "owls" a Headspace mental health platform subscription, and tripled its mental health benefits. Especially after George Floyd’s murder and subsequent protests, Tara Ataya, Hootsuite’s chief people and diversity officer, built focus groups and surveys with the additional psychological burden of marginalization in mind.
A few months removed from summer 2021, the consensus seems to be that yes, investing in mental health has made all the difference at Hootsuite. Here are five takeaways from Ataya’s conversation with HR Dive, regarding employee wellbeing amid the pandemic.
A DEI focus boosts engagement
In the year and a half since she joined Hootsuite, Ataya said she’s witnessed a 15% boost in employee engagement. Why? Because Hootsuite has put an emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion and connectedness, she explained. "The feedback we’re receiving from our people, our ‘owls,’ has been incredibly positive," Ataya said over email. Explicitly, employees across the board have told Ataya and her team that they’ve felt supported throughout the pandemic.
"It’s a testament to the work that has been done by different teams, across all functions of the organization with an employee first perspective. The HR function rolls out these programs, but at Hootsuite, we believe in a DE&I-first mindset," she added. "All our programs and initiatives embody that. This is spearheaded by our leaders, and lived out by all of our people. It’s a non-negotiable for us." In essence, Hootsuite said it doesn’t just treat DEI as a "nice-to-have."
Additionally, every quarter, Ataya's team collects insights from the company's Culture Amp "Hootpulse" survey. "This quarter, we’re sitting at 84% engagement, with an 81% percent engagement rate overall as of September 2021," Ataya said. Any score above 70%, she explained, is a positive score. "So we were happy to see these initiatives and programs having such a strong impact on our employees."
Betting on well-being pays off
Through rolling out these initiatives, one of the biggest lessons Ataya said she has learned is that experimenting in favor of employee well-being is worth it.
From her perspective, HR professionals who want to bring their benefits package beyond the standard are pioneers. "You can’t wait for everyone to come along on this journey with you before you innovate," she said. Especially regarding DEI, Ataya said she thinks often about the "Innovation-Adoption Lifecycle."
"You have Innovators who wait for no one — early adopters who are quick to try new things, and so on. You cannot wait for the others to cross the chasm," she said.
Practice what you preach
Of course, many HR professionals are exhausted these days, but that conversation often goes by the wayside. When asked about her tips for talent and people teams facing burnout, Ataya said, "Although flying still seems like a distant memory to many, the idea that you need to put on your own oxygen mask first rings true here. You aren’t able to help anyone if you haven’t looked after your own well-being."
Ataya added that leaders who don’t take time for themselves set the tone for the rest of their organizations. "HR professionals must lead by example when it comes to prioritizing mental health and wellness and that will likely look different for everyone," she said. "My advice would be dedicate ‘me’ time for yourself every day, limit responding to emails during non-work hours, connect with family and friends frequently, take time off to recharge, and never be afraid to ask for help from those on your team."