Will others follow Starbucks’ lead on employee mental health programs?
Starbucks last week committed to investing in several initiatives focused on the mental health and wellness of its associates.
Enhanced benefits are seen as a way to attract talent at a time when U.S. unemployment remains at historic lows, although Starbucks said the investments in mental illness are aligned with its purpose-driven vision.
The goals were detailed at a leadership conference for store managers held last week in Chicago.
Store managers will begin a training course that is inspired by Mental Health First Aid, a program that teaches the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use. Starbucks is also planning to partner with organizations such as the Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga’s wellness-focused organization, and Team Red White & Blue, a non-profit focused on helping veterans tackle mental health issues.
By January 2012, employees in North America will have access to subscriptions to Headspace, an app that offers guided meditation.
Starbucks’ Employee Assistance Program, which provides short-term counseling to all U.S. employees, will be further enhanced in other ways with input from employees and health experts. The program already offers inpatient and outpatient mental health care as well as six free visits with a mental health provider, yet Starbucks finds only four to five percent of employees use it.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ CEO, said many partners (store associates) are afraid to reach out because they’re embarrassed or fear discrimination by colleagues.
“In many ways we believe this is a societal problem and we want to take a step within Starbucks for our partners to break the stigma of mental health and acknowledge that it exists and then do some creative things to provide services to those in need,” said Mr. Johnson.
Companies are more openly promoting mental health programs to reduce the stigma associated with reaching out for help. Studies also show individuals experiencing psychological distress are less productive in the workplace, call in sick more often and are less prepared to manage stressful situations.
The coffee giant also vowed to further eliminate tasks to free up store managers to interact with customers and reduce stress.
- Starbucks’ CEO on breaking the stigma around mental illness in the workplace – Yahoo Finance
- Starbucks to boost workers’ mental health benefits, reduce ‘remedial tasks’ – CNBC
- Starbucks plans to improve US employees’ mental health benefits – CNN
- Starbucks serves up new employee benefits to lure workers in hot US job market – Fox Business
- 7 Reasons Mental Health Issues And Financial Issues Tend to Go Hand-in-Hand (And It Has Nothing to Do With the Cost of Treatment) – Inc.
- ‘Strong Minds at Work’ explores mental health challenges in U.S. workplaces – Unum
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are most store managers adequately prepared to identify and refer associates who may be facing mental health challenges? What overall advice would you have around addressing mental health issues in the workplace?