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Steven Loeb interviews Scott Shute, Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn; his job is to help employees build characteristics such as emotional intelligence, resilience, and a better sense of well-being in order to create a better work experience.
(Editor's note: On May 19 we will be hosting the Future of Mental and Behavioral Health 2021 virtual event. We'll have top-level VCs and C-level executives from the leading mental and behavioral companies, such as Teladoc's BetterHelp, Amwell, Doctor on Demand, Kaiser Permanente, Bessemer Ventures and more. )
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Highlights from the interview:
- Schute created this role two years ago, and there are two parts to his job: mainstream mindfulness and operationalized compassion. That means offering regular meditation classes through LinkedIn's gyms every week. The company also offers drop-in community sessions, which involve a five to eight minute guided practice, and then a discussion about how the topic is relevant to the employee's lives.
- LinkedIn also offers an app; it previously used Headspace and it now using an app called Wise@Work. Once a year, the company does a 30 day challenge, where employees have to do at least 20 sessions on the app within the month of October, and they'll get a free t-shirt or hoodie.
- A few other companies have a person with a similar role, including Google and SAP and Aetna, and now more and more companies are incorporating mindfulness to support their employees.
- Around 30 or 40% of LinkedIn employees have gone to either one of a speaker series or attended a workshop or meditation or did the 30 day challenge, though the number of employees who do it regularly is smaller.
- While ROI is hard to measure, Shute thinks about it in terms of consumption and customer satisfaction. In other words, if he has a program, do people actually use it? And afterwards the company does surveys to see if employees liked it. Productivity or wellness are harder to measure because there's so many other things going on, so he relies on anecdotal evidence and what employees tell him the impact was on their work lives.
- While many companies just think about their shareholders and profitability, Shute believes you need a balance between our employees, our customers, and shareholders. When you have this balance, everybody wins, because when employees are at their best and they're going to deliver great results. For our customers, it's going to provide better solutions for them. At the end of the day, it's going to yield better results for our shareholders.
- The pandemic has helped employees open up about their mental health struggles. Zoom is a big equalizer, because now, instead of the CEO or the C-suite standing on stage, you can see their kids running in or their dog. More and more leaders are being more open about their own challenges and when a leader is more vulnerable, it gives us all license to have discussions that are real.
- Now that classes are being done virtually, they are not limited by geography, though the classes have shrunk from four hours to 90 minutes at most. The downside to the real, in the room, eye to eye contact or the hug or the handshake or the high five that you might get by being in the room is lost.
- Once workers come back, Shute doesn't think we'll go back to the way things were, maybe ever, but certainly not a long time. There will be a certain group of people who will always work at home and then some who come into the office sometimes, and then a few who work from the office full time. This has implications for how we build our offices and the types of conference rooms we have. We’ll have to relearn how to have meetings, even how to even just position our bodies in the room so that we aren't turning our back on the camera, and just learn to be aware of each other.
- Shute has a new book coming out on May 11 called The Full Body Yes: Change Your Work and Your World from the Inside Out, where he is are providing a four-step plan to help readers have a working life that is both happy and fulfilling. Those steps are: learn to know yourself; learn to love yourself; learn to master ourselves, or to take responsibility for our own life; and then the fourth step is around compassion and doing those first three steps for another person.
- He has been thinking about writing this book for 20 years and it is a personal discovery book. Shute's true hope for the book is that people actually read it, because he believes it will resonate with them, and it will change them in some way, and inspire them to be more of themselves in the workplace. If they are more of their true self at work, if they let down those barriers to being their true self, then we all benefit.
- The future of mental healthcare at work will mean the same level of mainstreaming that there has been for physical exercise. Five years from now, Shute wants everybody to know the benefits of mental exercise and for every company to offers mental health services, and for 40% of companies to have a Head of Mindfulness at their company.
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