Where Mental Health Matters
Let's just cut straight to it. When you either walk in the door of your workplace, get in the truck on the job site, or sit in front of the computer to start your workday, you do not leave your life, struggles, and concerns behind. Unlike the popular Apple TV+ show Severence, a chip in your brain does not permanently separate your work life from your personal life.
The reality is that your health matters - physical and mental. Here in the United States, we place value on individualism and financial success fueled by meritocracy. Broadly speaking, western liberal democracies vary in their devotion to the health of the society. I would propose that devoting more time and resources and placing higher regard on health would improve our own lives and the lives of those we live among.
Mental health matters for many reasons. First, mental health is a critical component of a person's overall well-being and health care that is often overlooked. Further, those who suffer from mental illness are faced with stigma and discrimination that often results in negative economic impact (2017, Bharadwaj, et.al.). Second, studies have shown there are strong correlations between mental and physical health. Third, our mental health impacts the productivity of our work (2017, Bubonya, et.al). Finally, workplace conditions and environments are a “major modifiable risk factor” for mental illness (2014, LaMontagne).
What Are We Doing to Support Mental Health?
Mental health matters at LiveLoveApp. We are currently focused on three key areas that we believe encourage mental health, acknowledges the value of each person, and provide security and safety.
Establishing a culture of health and well-being at work creates an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and stimulated to perform at their best in work they find meaningful (2018, Goetzel, et.al.).
First, we have established PTO policies that encourage healthy behavior.
Many of our peers in the software industry have adopted “unlimited” PTO policies and entice potential new hires by offering an unlimited amount of time away from work. To be blunt, most unlimited PTO policies are flawed. First, unlimited PTO policies have been shown to reduce the actual number of hours an employee takes as personal time. Second, these policies eliminate the employer's responsibility to provide compensation for unused PTO when an employee leaves. Third, employers often track an employee's “unlimited” PTO - making it not so unlimited by denying requests and demanding additional hours to make up for PTO.
When establishing the PTO policy at LiveLoveApp we sought to create one that is equitable for both the employer and employee. What is our PTO policy? I'm glad you asked. Here is our vacation policy verbatim from the employee handbook.
LiveLoveApp offers 15 days of paid time off (PTO) plus 10 holidays every year: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Day After Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Your vacation time is prorated based on your start date during your first year at LiveLoveApp. Your vacation time expires every year on December 31. If you are terminated or resign from LiveLoveApp with unused vacation days, you will not be paid the monetary equivalent for those unused days.
Please note that this policy does not describe our policy on sick time, personal leave, family leave, and bereavement leave. We have generous policies for all of these situations that align with our desires for employees, no matter their position or compensation.
I also want to be critical of ourselves in that we currently do not pay the monetary equivalent for unused vacation days. That might sound a bit hypocritical given my critique of peers above. This decision is not based on our fiduciary responsibility to the company. Rather, this decision is deliberate in an effort to strongly encourage employees to use all of their vacation time every year. Decoupling the monetary value promotes all of us to get away from work.
I also want to briefly mention our summer policy. I don't know about you, but I love getting into the outdoors during the summer months. I also like getting out in the powder during the winter months, but we'll leave that for another time. Here is our summer policy:
We work 4-day work weeks from July 1 through August 31 every year. An employee who has just been hired may have to complete a training program per their team lead to be eligible. When a holiday occurs during summer hours, you can take the holiday off or your normal summer day off. Any additional days off would count as vacation days.
What does this mean? This equates to an additional 8 vacation days for PTO per employee which is mandatory. While I may want to spend one of these days out on a camping trip or hiking, you are more than welcome to spend the day doing chores, beating a video game, or playing with the kids in the backyard. Whatever you choose to do is your choice. The goal is to encourage healthy behaviors for all of our employees.
Second, we have established compensation policies that acknowledge the value of each person.
We strongly affirm that direct compensation for a position should be equitable and transparently communicated regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, neurodivergence, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion (or lack thereof).
How we do this is actually quite simple. Again, let me reference our employee handbook directly.
LiveLoveApp pays at median United States salary levels for your position regardless of your geographic location as determined by glassdoor.com. The glassdoor salary data is reviewed once per year at the end of November. If the US median salary for your position has increased, we'll increase pay on January 1st of the next year. We never decrease pay even if the US median salary has dropped. Everyone in the same role at the same level is paid the same at LiveLoveApp. When you get a promotion, that is you move from one level to another, you'll get a corresponding pay raise effective on your next pay cycle.
This means that you don't have to be worried over bargaining for a raise, be stressed out about your wage being diminished due to economic downturns, or wonder if your colleague is making more or less than you for doing the same work in the same position. This also means that we have eliminated wage discrimination entirely.
Third, we have established (and continue to mature) a culture of personal growth that fosters security.
LiveLoveApp has an established cadence of bi-monthly 1:1 meetings and quarterly check-ins.
Our 1-on-1 meetings are not performance reviews, rather, this provides an opportunity for us to talk about:
- daily work content and load,
- overall satisfaction,
- relationships with the team, clients, vendors, etc., and
- removing blockers to personal growth.
A quarterly check-in allows us to review quarterly MBOs and ensure your satisfaction with your work. These quarterly meetings are meant to be an opportunity for you and your manager to gauge both how well you are accomplishing your MBOs as well as your overall satisfaction.
Finally, advancing your career at LiveLoveApp never requires you to change careers or to exchange your craft for upward momentum. LiveLoveApp is dedicated to growing alongside your career. We also acknowledge that your career path may include leaving LiveLoveApp to pursue another opportunity. Given that, we do expect you to make a lifetime commitment while also being committed to LiveLoveApp during your tenure. We want to grow with and alongside you.
In conclusion, we believe that raising awareness, reducing stigma, and supporting a workplace that provides an environment that encourages mental health, will improve lives, and ultimately enables us to build better products for our customers.
We acknowledge the large gap that exists between our current solutions and capabilities, and the desired outcomes to wholly support and encourage the well-being of our employees, those we work with, and those we work for. We seek to listen, learn, and act in a manner that further reduces this gap.
- LaMontagne, Anthony D., et al. "Workplace mental health: developing an integrated intervention approach." BMC psychiatry 14.1 (2014): 1-11.
- Bharadwaj, Prashant, Mallesh M. Pai, and Agne Suziedelyte. "Mental health stigma." Economics Letters 159 (2017): 57-60.
- Bubonya, Melisa, Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, and Mark Wooden. "Mental health and productivity at work: Does what you do matter?." Labour economics 46 (2017): 150-165.
- Goetzel, Ron Z., et al. "Mental health in the workplace: A call to action proceedings from the mental health in the workplace: Public health summit." Journal of occupational and environmental medicine 60.4 (2018): 322.