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Why Spotify Takes A Holistic Approach To Mental Health

It’s been over four years since we launched Heart & Soul, our official long-term strategy and plan for mental health. At the time, when we looked at our work with people and culture, there was a big void when it came to mental health, which meant that a vital part of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging was not being addressed. Of course,  we helped employees who came to us asking for support, but we were being reactive and not intentional or strategic. We looked around to see if there were other HR teams doing work in this area that could inspire and guide us, but we didn’t find a clear blueprint. We realised we’d need to carve our own path.

As an HR team that wanted each Spotifier’s experiences of mental health, (from illness to well-being), to be welcomed, respected, and championed, we realised that we needed to create a long-term strategy, not just a campaign. And we needed to drive change from the inside out and also top-down and bottom-up. When a strategy is sanctioned from the very top, everybody rolls with it, because it sends the message that it’s obviously important. So that’s how we came to launch in 2018.

There’s certainly still a long way to go to drive change and impact when it comes to mental health within the workplace, but we are incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved in the last four years. That’s why we recently decided to share our learnings to date in a report. The report includes a timeline of Heart & Soul, the thinking around the pillars of our strategy and some tips for other companies looking to create similar strategies, as well as detailing one of our main objectives: removing stigma.

The stigma around mental health comes from presumptions about mental health and mental illness. Our strategy aims to shine a light on the truthful fact that we all have mental health and we all go through periods in our life when our mental health is affected. This means it isn’t just a workplace subject – what we’re talking about, to put it simply, is life. And being inclusive of all aspects of life needs a holistic approach that incorporates the entire continuum and everything we do within our strategy at Spotify. This is rooted in the fact that everyone has mental health.

Coming from this position means making sure this is more than a finite programme with a beginning and end date. And it means creating and implementing an ever-evolving strategy which drives both behavioural and cultural changes. That’s why, when we decided to put mental health on the agenda, we always had the conviction that it had to be grounded in our values and culture, rather than a campaign or programme. 

The work is ever-evolving and we’re sure the road ahead will bring numerous challenges. Until everyone is comfortable talking about mental health, and feels a sense of belonging, the work is not finished. However, in the last four years we’ve worked on becoming more prepared to continue our journey than ever before, and we’re certain that we’ll continue to drive change and to push boundaries. It feels really significant to be carving our own path, but we’d much rather other organisations be on this path with us. There is an upward trend of employers recognising the need to support their employees’ mental health needs, and we really hope our work so far can help other HR teams to come along on the journey with us.

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