Well-balanced, healthy employees are a key part of a strong, positive work culture. To help support the mental health of our team, we were invited to participate in an initiative called Healthy Minds at Lullabot. Healthy Minds at Lullabot is a program through Healthy Minds at Work from Healthy Minds Innovations that provides a dedicated platform for us to receive mental health assistance through a number of avenues. The program also included a 30-day voluntary challenge many of our team members participated in. How did a program of this kind get started at Lullabot, and what was the impact?
Why a mental health initiative?
In 2018, a working group was started to provide open resources and support for team members, as more research showed high numbers of mental health issues among professionals in the tech industry. Matthew Tift, a lead engineer at Lullabot, who is also a yoga and meditation teacher, was asked by the working group to lead weekly virtual meditation sessions to give our team dedicated space for guided mindfulness exercises. The impact of an unprecedented global pandemic, paired with everyday personal pressures, proved that this type of initiative was not just a good idea but a necessity in the workplace. To better optimize these meditation sessions and help reach more people, the working group sought out an existing program that employees could engage in. Healthy Minds at Work from Healthy Minds Innovations ended up being an ideal fit.
The 30-day challenge gave employees access to a mobile app with tailored-to-workplace activities and materials to create mindfulnesses practices. The app allowed participants to access meditations and lessons at their own pace, leaving space for missed days to further enable the successful completion of the program.
What is the goal of the initiative?
With data showing anxiety, depression, burnout, and stress being high in the industry, coupled with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, it's important to the mental health working group to ensure its mission of “promoting optimal mental health at Lullabot” was being fulfilled. In action, that mission is fulfilled by:
- Reducing the stigma by openly discussing the challenges of mental health
- Providing resources from mental health professionals
- Increasing support for each other
Another goal was to simply provide another way for people to connect with themselves and others, whether they were going through trying times or feeling relatively well. These goals connect directly with Lullabot’s core value, “Be Human."
Healthy Minds Innovations found that this program, on average, decreases stress by 28%, increases social connection, and reduces depression symptoms by 24% in organizations that have adopted it. At Lullabot specifically, 75% of team members signed up for the 30-day challenge.
At first, participants were asked anonymously about the amount of stress and burnout they felt and about their overall sense of well-being. At the completion of the 30 days, they were asked to again share their stress and burnout levels, along with their feelings of well-being (measured by positive mood, general interest in daily life, and energy levels). As a result of participating, stress levels reportedly decreased by 5%, burnout decreased by 19%, and overall well-being increased by 3%. In addition to this, team members reported that their sense of community at work increased from 87% to 90%.
Participants expressed how many of the practices they learned during the program. Even those that seemed minor had a significant impact on their daily routines, and they continue to implement them now that the 30-day period has ended.
One participant shared in their post-survey, “the practice of pausing and reflecting before taking an action, such as sending an email, or making a comment in a meeting, has been beneficial at work.”
Another noted, “I check on how I am several times a day. I breathe and stay aware.”
The importance of the initiative to Lullabot’s leadership
Allowing team members time during work hours to practice meditation together and have discussions on mental health is not commonplace in organizations. Leadership buy-in is important to the ongoing success of an initiative of this kind. Lullabot’s leadership was in full support of this, with many participating themselves.
We're always interested in novel ways to support our team's well-being, and the Healthy Minds at Work program surfaced as a low friction way to introduce mindfulness practices to the team. The optional 30-day challenge provided an easy onramp, and we found a large percentage of our team engaging with the daily activities, myself included. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I personally found the program to be quite helpful in teaching practical approaches and methods to center myself in stressful situations, both at work and in my personal life.
This sort of initiative can also have an impact beyond just improving the mental well-being of team members. As noted by Director of Human Resources Kris Konrady in the Lullabot Healthy Minds Podcast, the byproduct of a healthier, happier, more grounded person is that their work performance is improved, leading to better results for clients and their teams. So although participation in the initiative did not directly contribute to billable hours, it still had a positive effect on the billable work team members do.
To lead, I think you have to first learn how to be there to make choices. That’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. Our minds are constantly distracting us, dragging us through a myriad of thoughts and images, demanding our attention, breaking our connection to the present moment. Healthy Minds helps train the attention, and I believe paying attention is a skill to be cultivated. If we can be present with our work, and attend to each other, we're going to do a better job for our clients. Perhaps more important, we're going to better enjoy the journey we're on together as a team.
Beyond a 30-day challenge
Building an inclusive and supportive culture has been a longstanding priority at Lullabot, and a mental health initiative goes hand-in-hand with the company’s mission and values. Mental health support continues to be available through the Healthy Minds app, bi-weekly meetings with the mental health working group, and other ad hoc opportunities for discussion and collaboration. When team members feel supported and balanced, they can be better for themselves, their families, and their teams.
If you would like to dive deeper, Matthew Tift interviewed Stephanie Wagner on the Hacking Culture podcast about Healthy Mind Innovations, the non-profit behind the app.