Here's How Starbucks Is Putting Employee Wellbeing First

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Mental health has been hitting the headlines a great deal in recent years. On both sides of the Atlantic, medical professionals and patient advocates are fighting to generate more awareness of psychological conditions and their effects — and to give them as equal a level of urgency as physical illness or injury.

This need is finding its way into the workplace as well. As we've discussed in previous articles in this series, employees desire a greater work/life balance and are actively seeking employers who can provide incentives that help facilitate it. Conversely, brands looking to attract the best talent are making sure they promote themselves along these lines.

And this need is now being felt more keenly than ever, as research has found an alarming rise in mental health issues among today's employees.

Mental Health

Recent research indicates that employees under the age of 30 are more likely to consider ending their own lives than their older counterparts - five times more likely to be precise.

The research found that two in every 1,000 employees under 30 have made a plan to kill themselves with the intention of following through with it. This compares to the over 60s for whom the figure is 0.4 and the average across all age groups which is 0.86.

"The numbers may seem small," said CEO of Catapult Health, David Michel. "But, if your company has 5,000 employees, that means that at any given moment four of them are probably seriously considering suicide, and the number is higher if you employ more younger workers. It is imperative that employers help their employees recognize depression and provide the resources to overcome it."

The news about suicide figures comes following similar research from 2018 which identified that 60 percent of US and Canadian organizations have seen an increase in mental health and substance abuse issues among their employees in recent years. This is even further compounded by a 40 percent increase in employee stress levels over the last two years, with 40 percent of staff being assessed as very or extremely stressed.

"Employers are becoming increasingly mindful of the mental health and substance abuse challenges their workers might be dealing with, as evidenced by the fact that almost all of our responding organizations report offering benefits to help with these conditions," said the IFEBF's, Julie Stich. "Many organizations have analyzed claims data, introduced alternative pain management treatments and started using prescription drug monitoring programs. Employers recognize the severe impact of these conditions on both worker well-being and cost to their businesses — and are doing something about it."

Global coffee chain Starbucks is just one brand which is looking to tackle this issue head on and is focusing on overhauling mental health benefits for its nearly 300,000 US employees.


The world-famous coffee shop brand has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing mental health issues among its employees and already offers short-term counseling, inpatient and outpatient mental health care, and six visits to a mental health provider at no cost to US workers.

However, the brand has been soliciting feedback on the program from its employees and from mental health experts and has decided to take a second look at its offering. Presently, only around five percent of Starbucks employees take advantage of the company's mental health support package.

The new plans will involve working with employees to craft bespoke benefits packages that contain the perks they feel they need. They will also allow staff to split their work time between Starbucks and other non-profit organizations, with the goal of creating happier and more fulfilled people. Furthermore 12,000 Starbucks store managers and field leaders from the US and Canada have received training to help them support their staff with mental health concerns.

"We believe this is a societal problem and we want to take steps within Starbucks for our partners to break the stigma of mental health, acknowledge that it exists, and do some creative things to provide services to those in need," said Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson. "The more thoughtful we are about creating a range of benefits that matter to our partners, that helps us attract new partners. Over this past year, one of the things that partners have highlighted is the need for increased focus on mental health."

Final Thoughts

With these new plans, Starbucks is demonstrating its commitment to the health and wellbeing of its people. With more brands following suit and putting mental health assistance at the fore of their HR offerings, we can successfully tackle this crisis and create a happier and healthier workforce for present and future generations.

You can hear Starbucks Vice President of Global Talent, Molly Hill, speak at HR Retail 2020, taking place in April at the Hilton Austin, TX.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.