Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Month. The goal? Raising awareness surrounding mental health and eliminating the stigma around it. In fact, it has never been more important than it is today that we recognize that mental health is essential to our overall health and well-being.
At Apeel, the considerations around our mental health are nothing new - it’s something we deeply care about. But with the Covid-19 pandemic and a year that was so very, well, 2020, we’ve become increasingly aware of just how profoundly important mental health awareness and support are to all of us. Now more than ever, it has become a priority for our team.
To share more about how Apeel approaches our support and the benefits we have toward mental health, we spoke to two members of the People Operations Team: Kyla Zavala and Emily Lucas.
Why is mental health so important, especially now?
Emily: Health and wellness have always been important to the total employee experience at Apeel. But in the last year, especially with the pandemic, the racial and social injustice, as well as the election, we got to the point where we saw just how much mental health matters to the well-being of our employees, both in and out of the workplace. It’s something we will always be improving on, understanding how we can be most useful and effective at any given time when it comes to supporting wellness as a whole -- which includes mental, emotional, physical, financial, and social.
How is Apeel honoring Mental Health Month?
Emily: Each month of this year, our team has come up with a theme that highlights the programs and resources we offer here at Apeel. In January, we focused on financial health – kicking off the year right with tools and tips on how to save better and what tools and benefits we have in place to support those goals and resolutions. February was all about Heart Health. We hosted a virtual event bringing awareness to heart disease and sharing resources on preventative measures. March was all about taking time to recharge, to plan time off, whether it be a vacation or a staycation. We wanted to celebrate taking time outside of work to do the activities that bring people joy.
Given that May was already Mental Health Month on a larger scale in the United States, we decided to align our company conversation to mental health awareness. It was important for us to ensure our employees were aware of the programs, tools, and opportunities we have for them when it comes to mental health. Throughout the month, our Senior Team will be doing spotlights sharing their stress management techniques. It's so important to have leadership buy-in with mental health benefits, and I am glad our leaders are open to sharing their coping techniques.
On that note, what does Apeel offer in terms of mental health tools and programs?
Emily: We offer several benefits centered on mental health and overall wellness. More generally, we offer a monthly wellness allowance to employees that helps offset some of the general wellness costs and expenses for wellness-related activities. This allows for flexibility and personalization when it comes to choosing a preferred wellness activity, resource, or experience. This could be used on things such as, meditation classes, a gym membership, offsetting counseling costs, fitness equipment, etc. Whatever supporting mental health looks like to you.
Kyla: There are also yoga and meditation classes open to all Apeelers and taught by a local instructor here in Santa Barbara available on Zoom. That’s available to anyone in any of our locations who might want to join those taking the classes on-site in Santa Barbara.
Emily: In addition, employees have access to several employee assistance programs through our insurance carriers that allow for a set number of in-person or over-the-phone counseling sessions. Employees are able to get counseling support when issues surface or a life situation arises that they want to work through with a professional. In the next month, we will be adding this benefit to our global workforce as well. We are implementing a Global EAP Program (Employee Assistance Program) starting in June that will allow employees outside of the US up to 6 free counseling sessions per issue.
Through our insurance broker, we were also able to add several wellness-related applications and subscriptions now available to eligible U.S. employees. This includes premium subscriptions to Headspace, a meditation app, Springhealth counseling app, Aaptiv virtual workout app, and many others. We are looking to add similar services to our global workforce and should have more information about that soon.
Kyla: Apeel also offers extremely generous time-off policies, so employees can take time off when they need to, ideally without hesitation, to be able to recharge.
Given that mental health has become such a larger conversation, especially in the workplace, what advice would you offer to other companies who are looking to make sure mental health is a priority for their team?
Emily: It really is a great conversation for us all to be having. I’m actually taking a class this quarter on the topic, where I was made aware of a stat published in the Harvard Business Review that 68% of businesses have added a wellness perk around mental health just in the last year due to everything that’s been happening in the world. It's a rising percentage, and it’s amazing to see the trend going in the right direction.
I think my advice would be to look at the whole workforce, all demographics, no matter what their job is, whether they are remote or working at headquarters, younger, older, with kids, married or single, etc. Talk to everyone and know where the needs are to find benefits that work.
Kyla: We look at wellness as a tree with different branches. Make sure you're really considering all of the different branches of wellness and not just one. So it’s mental, physical, social, and financial, among other things. Often they intertwine with each other. So always seeing how you can make sure the entire tree is being considered and how it overlaps. It’s the whole picture that adds up to true health and wellness.
Emily: And finally, while I’m really excited about the mental health benefits that Apeel is currently pushing forward, I’m also proud of the mindset we have that this will always be evolving. We’re always looking for what will be the most helpful at the time. So I’m excited to see the efforts we’ve made so far, but we are always looking forward to how we can do better.
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