If you are in the talent business, do the equation

Our work environment plays a huge role in our psychological health. If we’re not okay in life, we’re likely not to be okay at work. We don’t want our employees to hide behind a happy face at work – we want people to feel that they can tell their manager and colleagues that they are not well. And get the support needed. We know it’s common to suffer from mental health issues in silence and alone which only makes it worse. We want to change that. 

Spotify is nothing without our band members and if somebody is not well in life, they are likely not to be well at work. Our professional life and personal life are not isolated from each other. If our people feel unwell at work, we all need to rethink how we go about tackling the fact that most of us will go through a rough patch or struggle with serious issues. Not dealing with it at all and turning a blind eye is not cool and very costly; for the individual, the team, the company, and society.

Mental wellbeing, a question of belonging

Heart & Soul is our global effort when it comes to raising awareness on mental health, building knowledge and removing stigma, and providing proactive self-care and professional support for all employees. 

It actually started, like many of our initiatives do, as something else. Mikael Bäckström, one of our five Business Unit HR Leads, had a conversation on how to go from defense to offense when it comes to substance abuse and how we do that when the best way to work with these issues varies a lot in the +45 countries where we have staff. We already knew we had the perfect person as Mental Health lead for this and we both agreed that this should sit with our Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team. But, a couple of things we thought we would focus on turned out to be the ones that ended up last in the queue. Not because they are not as important, but because Linn Caldas, our fierce Heart & Soul lead, and our brave and amazing ambassadeurs set us straight. 

We are committed to creating a safe, stigma-free, environment where there is support, acceptance, and sensibility around mental health and mental health issues. We are providing proactive self-care and professional support for all employees. Through our long-term mental health effort & initiative, Heart & Soul, we support our employees and strive to create an environment where everyone can feel they belong.

Our Why

Competence is scarce and humans are valuable. The math is pretty easy besides it is the right thing to do. We spend 35% of our awake time at work and therefore it’s to be expected that our work environment plays a huge role in our psychological health. 

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are increasing in society and have done so in the past years and there is nothing to indicate that this increase will stop. In Sweden, as many as 46 % of the women say they sometimes suffer from angst, worry or anxiety, the number is 32 % of the men. Not feeling well, affects how we can grow as humans and perform at work. We want to do what we can to support and boost mental health since this affects all of us in one way or another. 

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are increasing in society and have done so in the past years and there is nothing showing that this increase will stop. They affect how we can grow and perform at work. We as an employer want to do what we can to take care of the mental health of our employees.

The How

Heart & Soul is driven by the Diversity & Belonging team together with a global ambassador team. Without its employees, Spotify would just not be.

We have provided proactive self-care and professional treatment for all employees long before we started our Heart & Soul initiative, but we only really started to get some real awareness when we started to build out a community of Heart & Soul ambassadors who have the autonomy to drive initiatives and have a local impact. 

Through our employee assistance program (24/7 free counseling on personal/professional matters), free Headspace account for all employees, self-care resources, substance abuse treatment in Sweden, dedicated office space and activities for unwinding New York, London, Stockholm, Berlin & Sydney so far. But maybe more importantly, Heart & Soul is about creating and sustainable company culture where it is safe to talk about mental health and where it is ok not to be ok. 

A lion part of the work is done through the Heart & Soul team, who are 45 people from all business units and all levels in the company, with full-time jobs, dedicated and passionate employees in 17 different offices who helped us implement our strategy globally, organize local initiatives and makes sure we are locally on point. 

October 10th, 2019 on World Mental Health Day, and the Heart & Soul team invited everyone to spend the day to take a breather, explore their mind and learning more about mental health and how you can take care of yourself. Heart & Soul Ambassadors in offices around the globe planned a range of fantastic events; from speakers to workshops to relaxation exercises – all focused on how we can be better to ourselves and to our colleagues. Activities that were adapted to the local cultural context and center around everybody feeling safe to be curious, to share experiences and to learn from the assets that Spotify provides. 

The stigma…

Our approach is to make our employees aware of the issues and by discussing this in the open. We do this with seminar series, workshops, training (included in our management training), guides and documentation, mental health labs, innovation, and new technology. We are not about policy documents, we are about talking about it, frequently and in different channels. We believe that stigma can be removed by allowing people to open up and share their stories and struggles. Concrete examples of such are our annual global inclusion summit where we host sessions where brave employees and managers share their struggles with for example addiction, losing a colleague, postpartum and losing a parent. Or my colleagues in our lead team sharing personal stories from their own lives and how they have dealt with it, with the whole company. On an everyday basis, our Heart & Soul ambassadors around our offices do really important work by leading by example and by encouraging others to do so too.

We couldn’t have done or do this without our ambassadors!

Spotify is a global company, but when it comes to mental health, we need to adapt our way of thinking for each market. We try to find the right way to do this in a way that makes sense to our people and this is where our ambassadors play an invaluable role. They have the autonomy to drive initiatives and have a great impact locally. Building Heart & Soul from the inside and out, we create opportunities for ambassadors and employees to drive their own initiatives. We think global but act local.