Qualtrics chief people officer leads by example to help improve employee mental health

Qualtrics chief people officer leads by example to help improve employee mental health

HR leaders have spent the last few years prioritizing other people — often at the expense of their own mental well-being.

Almost all HR professionals are burned out: research from workplace communication app Workvivo found that 98% of HR professionals have experienced feelings of burnout, and 79% are considering leaving their jobs.

Addressing these issues means that HR leaders need to “put our oxygen masks on first,” says Julia Anas, chief people officer at Qualtrics, an employee experience platform. Over the last several years, Anas has seen the impact HR leaders have had on employee well-being, but they should be able to reap the benefits of that support, too.

“HR professionals are no different than other employees,” Anas says. “There’s an opportunity to listen and learn about ourselves in this process.”

Read: Why Allstate revamped their mental health benefits more than 2 years into COVID

Anas recently chatted with Employee Benefit News about the challenges HR is facing, and why she herself took time to reflect on her approach to work and leadership during the pandemic.

HR leaders have been super focused on their employees’ mental health — but are they overlooking their own well-being in the process?
COVID fundamentally changed the way HR leaders do business, and it’s created space for people to think about what’s most important. HR leaders want to help employees have what they need to be successful and productive and create successful business outcomes. Companies are looking at their HR teams to help guide and lead, because people are the company’s most important assets.

But oftentimes the view of HR is that they have the resources for others, and sometimes it’s like, how are we leveraging that for ourselves? Are we putting our own oxygen masks on first and taking care of ourselves before we’re able to take care of others?

Read more: 5 ways to encourage mental health in your workplace

That’s a lot of pressure on HR people. Who should be looking out for them?

I’m going to be vulnerable here, because it’s been a little bit of an awakening for myself. I think about how I talk to the team and leaders about work-life harmony, yet I constantly have to remind myself that I don’t live to work; I work to provide a living. I ended up moving with my kids to Utah from California and we were really excited about going on our first spring break. We hadn’t been on vacation in two years and I told my team I was going away. Then we had to cancel our plans because my family came down with COVID. And looking back, I didn’t provide a great example. I still took care of my family and modified my schedule. But we didn’t take that vacation.


So what I reflected on is, I can be better at [modeling good behaviors]. That means leading by example, and valuing vacation time and being open with my organization about how they take care of themselves and invest in their well-being.

What does that look like at Qualtrics?
We really take time to connect with each other professionally and personally in our meetings — we take a few minutes to say, show us a picture, tell us something amazing that’s happened in your life. It’s a really great way to remind one another of what’s important. Sometimes that’s work and sometimes it’s not and that’s OK. Bringing that balance into the workplace has created a very different vibe within the team which has been awesome to see.

Read more: How to design an unlimited PTO policy employees will actually use

We’ve also announced a wellness reimbursement of $1,200 that employees can spend across any wellness pillar, whether it’s financial wellness, emotional wellness, mental health or physical health. We also offer an annual experience bonus and that’s for employees to go spend on an experience that matches their passions. It’s things like that allow employees to be able to do something and invest in themselves in a very meaningful way.

For HR leaders, how can you ensure that they’re using these benefits, too? How are you encouraging them to prioritize their well-being?
For HR professionals, we’re no different than other employees. There’s an opportunity to listen and learn about ourselves in this process. We’ve focused on prioritization and creating a strategy around what matters most. When there’s not, there’s a lot of variation and a lot of noise around what we need to do. So being able to provide HR leaders with clarity around what’s important can help us deliver things that make the most impact and put resources to it. You can focus on a lot of little things and do them marginally, or you can focus on doing a couple things and do them exceptionally well.

Read more: The 10 most popular mental health and wellness apps

What we’ve all been through has had us reflect. At the core, taking a human-centric approach and recognizing that everyone needs different things and honoring that has been the biggest learning. If we can take care of all of our employees on their professional journey, and create the professional journey that supports them in their personal journey, then we’ve differentiated and created a great experience that aligns to their ultimate purpose.



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