• Scott

how the best remote cultures support their team's mental health w/betsy bula - gitlab

Updated: Mar 8

Leaders have been challenged the past year with how to best support their team's mental health. While at the same time supporting their own. We can learn a lot from the best remote cultures on how to do mental health right within your team. During a Pandemic and long after.




Here's the recap...In today's episode, we chatted with Betsy Bula, a Sr Talent Brand Manager at Gitlab about how to best lead your team during this chaotic time. Tevi & I were blown away learning how Gitlab supports their team's mental health. There's a reason why Gitlab has written the book (and lots of guides) on remote work and leadership. This was can't miss conversation from the best of the best. We learned how companies, leaders, and individuals can help themselves and their teams with any mental health challenges.

This is Part Four of our series on remote compensation. To listen to Part One click here, Part Two here, or Part Three here.


Full Transcript Below...

Related References


Betsy on Linkedin

Betsy on Twitter

Gitlab on Twitter

GitLab's Guide to Remote Work

Gitlab's Culture Blog

Out of the Office report

Handbook page about mental health Handbook page about informal communication

Handbook page about 1:1s in general

Gitlab's new Instagram campaign "We Belong Here" featuring our team's stories

Family Day Handbook

Why Gitlab shut down for a day







Wow, where to start with one???


It starts at the top 🤴


We've said it over and over during these episodes. Culture is crafted and led from the top. The captain leads from the front showing their team how it's done and supporting them along the way. No surprise at all, that's how Gitlab does it. A few months into the pandemic, Gitlab saw their productivity going up ⬆️. Yep, you heard right. Most people would simply read right past this. A remote first company that's been doing this for years, no wonder they did a better job. They were locked up and had less distractions outside the house to compete with.


Well, that's the exact opposite of what the Gitlab leadership concluded. Rather than a good thing, this increased productivity was a sign of potential doom and gloom. The increase likely meant, the team was less able to disconnect from work. They were trying too hard. So they jumped in immediately to curb this to prevent their employee's from burning out.


Yep, this deserves a standing ovation 👏👏👏


Document, document, document ✍️


I learned this lesson from my first manager. Document everything. Document questions you get more than once, document ideas one person had that may be helpful, document how your job is done so it's easy to take time away, and document everything in between. As you can see in the related references section above, Gitlab documents quite a bit. Go take some time to check all the amazing content out. It's worth it.


A few ways this methodology has helped them win at remote.

  1. It allows employees to more easily take time off without worrying about pending items or a filled mailbox when they return. Colleagues understand how they work, when they work, the tools they use, the back-up plans and whatever they would need from that person. When they're not there of course. If you had a question about the status of a pending feature request, the document would tell you what tool to look in. Need someone in IT to order new equipment, the document includes the online request form. 💥

  2. Like the above it allows your team to work asynchronously. You don't need to DM someone in Slack with every question. You don't need to corral them into meetings everyday to get something from them. It's all in writing, allowing you to work and achieve what's needed in not-realtime.

  3. Best practices are easily accessible by the whole team. Are you a new manager or just joined the team? The documentation can guide you on how to do 1:1s with your team the best way.

  4. Share A/B tests. Someone on the team has shared that this 10 min chair yoga app, or Chrome box breathing plugin has really helped them overcome stress and anxiety. Well, if it can help one person why can't it help others? Document it and share.

  5. There's a book or books that can be written about this. Though it seems they've already written them all.


Get the family involved 👨‍👩‍👦


You're stuck at home, but your work family doesn't know your home family. Why should that be. Try and test different ways to get the family engaged. It could be something awesome like Juice Box chats. Where you can get your kids off of Youtube and chatting with other colleague's kids. The same for other loved ones.


As importantly it helps your team get to know you better. Meeting that loved one and the interaction you have with them paints a more vivid picture of who you are to your team.


Culture of transparency 👐


We've spoken about this one a few times already. It's your job as a leader to create and cultivate a comfortable environment where people can share their true selves. Meaning you need to be open and share first. When you lead, others will follow. Whether it's your trouble sleeping, counting the minutes to the kids returning to school, or simply helpful articles and podcasts (like this one of course) that have helped you. Any format is good. Slack channel, team meetings, etc. Just start sharing. You can even go so far as making your calendar public where your colleagues can see your upcoming therapy appointment.


Take time off 🏝️


This is an obvious one, but many times not taken advantage of. Many startups offer unlimited vacations, but the data says people don't use it. Again, this is the opportunity for leaders to lead from the front. If you take a block of time off and totally disconnect form work, your team will follow. If you don't, your team will become hesitant to take the time they may desperately need for their mental health.


Next, implement a mental health day. That could be based individually or the entire company. Shut off devices, and no one does any work. The latter especially helps each employee know they won't return to an endless inbox of emails and tasks to catch up on.


Finally, it's simply blocking off time during the day and on the calendar where everyone can see. 12pm-1pm is gym time. Don't message me unless you want to see my beast mode 👹 Perhaps 4pm-430pm is blocked off to pick up the kids from school. You have a life and priorities outside of work. Don't hesitate to do what you need to do.


Ask your team the right questions


When you're catching up with your team during mental health checkins, 1:1s, or team meetings understand how to pose questions the right way. Are you ok? will not get you an honest and helpful response. Instead, ask questions like "What can I do to shift some priorities so you can take time off this month?| Are there tasks you're assigned that you don't feel equipped to handle right now?" "What other benefits could the company offer that would be helpful to you?"


These are specific questions that allow the employee to be open and honest and how you as their leader can support them. Just remember the section above about first creating that culture of transparency.



Scott: [00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode of Leading from afar. Like usual I'm Scott Markovits with my co-host Tevi Hirschhorn. Tevi, how are we doing?


Tevi: [00:00:10] Doing well. How are you?


Scott: [00:00:12] Okay. Third lockdown is officially over here. So the kids are back at school since our last episode. The big boulder that was on my shoulders the last number of weeks is off.


So my face has much more of a glow. So happy about that. Moving on. So today we're doing part 4 of our series on mental health. We're very happy to have Betsy Bula who is the senior talent brand manager at Gitlab to join us today. To talk about mental health within Gitlab and for leadership.


Betsy, normally how we start, it's introducing yourself and your company. Gitlab needs no introduction especially with our listeners. So maybe instead, give us a sense of why Gitlab is so passionate about remote, and how it's really helped write the book on remote work?


Betsy: [00:00:56] Thank you so much for having me. I'm Betsy. I am Gitlab's Talent Brand Manager. Based in North Carolina and have been with Gitlab just over two years. For those who know Gitlab is the world's largest all remote company. We now have over 1300 team members across 65 countries.


So we've grown a ton in the last few years. It's been really exciting time. And we've been all remote since our founding year. So back in 2014 is when we went all remote and grew from there. And then with the GitLab tool itself, empowering remote teams, it's just something that's been at the foundation of everything that we've done.


But our passion for it, I think comes from the combination of it being this huge benefit for our team members, but also the competitive advantage that it gives the business. We did hire a Head of Remote back in 2019 prior to all of the pandemic and remote work becoming so top of mind this year.


Our all remote team has been very busy this year. But we do have a number of guides, resources, and studies that we've done recently, that we hope will help other companies and teams making that transition. Or just incorporating remote first practices.


And I'd encourage anyone listening. You can find all of these guides online. If you go to allremote.info, there's just a wealth of knowledge there. All in all, our team just feels very privileged that we're able to offer guidance and support for other companies. And really just remote workers is they're looking to figure out the best way to, to handle this new world that a lot of people are facing.


Scott: [00:02:21] That's amazing. I'll include that link in the show notes. Thank you. And thank you for Gitlab for being so forthcoming and sharing that information. When COVID started a lot of the remote leaders, including myself, were very interested in sharing that wealth knowledge that we've had in building teams and companies. Saying, "Hey, the world you're joining us. Whether you want it to or not? Here's some experience. Here are some tools. Here's some knowledge of how to do it the right way versus just going in and doing it".


The first question I have is how might working remotely be better for someone's mental health? And what are the mental health challenges that might exist in a remote culture that aren't necessarily found in a regular co-located company?


Betsy: [00:03:02] So actually first I think it's so important that we take a step back and we've touched on this, but just to address that what we're experiencing right now is so not normal.

Scott: [00:03:14] Not the real remote work.


Betsy: [00:03:15] No. Maybe people are experiencing this forced work from home, not remote work.


And those of us who did work remotely prior to the pandemic, are even really struggling this year. Because for the most part we found ourselves confined to our homes. In many cases, people may have their kids with them. Like you both have said. And in some cases, like in my situation, I've got my husband home with me for the first time that we've both worked from the same home and for a lot of people who live alone it's just a new level of isolation that they might be experiencing.


So it's really just a different world, but what, when we're not experiencing lockdowns there really are so many benefits that remote work provides that can really, help people focus on their wellbeing, self-care. Whether it's that you work a non-linear Workday to allow for a hobby that you love to pursue, and it fits better during the workweek, or if you just want to get out and exercise during the day, or be present with your family or your pets, it's overall when done correctly, remote work really allows you to fit.


Work around your life instead of having work dictate everything about your life. But again, we're not in normal time. So I think right now it's really crucial for companies and leaders to first of all, just recognize that. Whether this is the first time they've worked remotely or not.

All of our teams are just under, for lack of a better word, unprecedented amounts of stress. And it's really just something that needs to be intentionally addressed. Some of the challenges that typically are brought up with remote work are even more exacerbated this year are burnout and isolation.


So we talk often about how those need to be combated. Whether or not you're in a remote setting, it really doesn't matter what your organizational design is. Those are two important things to focus on for your team. A lot of the things we talk about are creating an environment where time off is celebrated and encouraged.


Creating a nonjudgmental culture is a big thing. That's part of our company values. Also documenting the processes around mental health and what you offer in way of support for your team. We document everything at Gitlab and that's one of the really important pieces of that has been documenting our mental health practices.


You can also find those on in our company handbook. If you search Gitlab mental health, if anyone's interested in exploring that more. I'm curious if y'all have anything to add there? If you've heard anything from other companies about new things they're experiencing that they weren't necessarily prior to this.


Tevi: [00:05:36] Everything said was spot on. In recent times companies that have gone remote are finding it difficult. That's one challenge and companies that have already been remote are facing the same challenges that you already mentioned.


So it was both sides of that. I haven't heard anything different, but it seems like the people that have just gone remote this year are finding that there are some benefits, which are obvious. But then they're also saying that we can never do this forever because this is so difficult and complicated.


Scott: [00:06:00] Yeah. The one interesting thing that I've seen, we spoke about it quite a bit in our last episode. It's understanding the totally different perspectives of the pandemic. Loneliness has been in the forefront. You've hinted to it. In the last episode, we're talking about that has been one of the biggest issues of the pandemic.


Historically, in the state of remote, it's usually the number one topic in there. For Tevi and I, as was mentioned at the beginning, loneliness has been at the bottom of the list. Now the kids have been bouncing off the walls. There's no separation time and space.


You'll have some employees that need to have the connection. That are alone at home, aren't able to go outside, aren't able to connect with people, and they need that connectivity. And there's other people like Tevi and myself who are looking for the opposite. We're looking for lonely time, but we'd be happy to have alone time and quiet time.


So it's interesting for leaders to be open and to understand that there's a need to see the different perspectives. In one case it could work one way with somebody, and another employee work completely the opposite.


Betsy: [00:06:55] Exactly. Yeah. It's so important. Knowing just the spectrum of experiences that people are having.


Tevi: [00:07:00] Why should companies care about their employees mental health? And then maybe to push that harder is why and how should they take a proactive stance on it?


Betsy: [00:07:09] I think it's something that has been important for years, but traditionally or more traditional company cultures may have not been quite as open about it or been as welcoming. This year, I think has really forced all of us to have almost like a reckoning with the fact that people can not be their whole selves at work.


If they're not able to be open about the challenges they're experiencing outside of work. Especially when you work remotely. A lot of times those things are melded into one. In a lot of ways working remotely, a leader is able or really any coworker is able to experience more of that person's personal life more quickly than you might in a co-located environment.

Like you said, your kids might walk in and pop in behind your video calls You learn a lot more about each other more quickly. Then that also opens a door for needing to round out that conversation and know that you can really show up in your full self every day.


So that's, it's a huge piece of belonging. I think has lots of companies talk about that, but actually being able to support your employees and in belonging and your team is really closing that loop. For leaders, I think being able to have those conversations and open it up from the top. Every type of leaders should be having these conversations with their team.

It not only builds kind of respect for that leader but also just the cycle of trust within the team. Where it'll just continue to support everyone as they work and try to be productive during this crazy time.


Tevi: [00:08:35] Very true. Do you think that a developer focused company like Gitlab might be in a unique position compared to most others when operating remotely?


Betsy: [00:08:43] I think there are plenty of companies that their business model does not necessarily support remote work, or it's just not really a possibility to incorporate. But I do think that most companies could benefit from incorporating remote first practices. Whether or not you're co located or you're a hybrid remote company.


It really doesn't matter the idea of being able to work asynchronously when possible and document things. Those are all practices that can be incorporated into most businesses and will actually give more business continuity and prepare your business if and when something similar to this happens in the future.


I think we're really facing a time where a lot of leaders are recognizing that when we get to our post pandemic world, it's not going to look the way it did before. And so how we respond to that is going to be really important and not only just for attraction and retention of new talent, but also for your business and the health of the business in the future.


Scott: [00:09:41] Awesome. So I've heard it in a few different places, some of the great things that you're doing there at Gitlab to help team with mental health. Things like a mental health Slack channel. Something called a juice box chat. Which is fascinating to me. I guess juice box reminds me of being a kid. So definitely interested in that.


Three questions off that. One, if you could maybe share more details on what those programs are. Number two, why do you use that specific format? And number three, how do you actually encourage people to participate in those juice box chats or in the Slack channel for mental health?


Betsy: [00:10:13] So the juice box chats is a fun one. This all goes back to one of the most important things that we do at Gitlab to help connect team members and encourage people to build sort of community within Gitlab. We're very intentional about informal communication and having those moments where you can connect with other people on a more personal level.


We use Slack for many things. In addition to communicating about work, we also use Slack channels for all kinds of special interest topics. So there are hundreds of channels you can join. Whether it is dogs, travel, there's one for dad jokes, and office photos. Each of our team member resource groups has their own channel in Slack.


So there's one for mindfulness, there's one for parents. One of my favorites this year has been mental health aware. So that was a channel that was created for people to share articles, tips, or things that they're struggling with and ask for help. It's really been like a perfect illustration of our nonjudgmental culture that we try to build.


So we've documented that as part of our company values. It's something that we're trying to bring to life in every aspect of our culture. But this channel really speaks to that is that you see everyone opening up and being so vulnerable about something that you wouldn't traditionally see in a co-located space.


Even just a personal anecdote there. In my personal social circles used to be very vocal about the importance of therapy and people seeking coaching and therapy. But I had never really had those conversations in a work setting. Then when I was at Gitlab, having this channel and seeing people open up and really discuss that type of topic openly, encouraged me to then discuss it.


I've even gotten to the point with my comfort level of the topic internally at work, that on my Google calendar, the event from seeing my therapist every other week is public. So I'm totally comfortable just like with the doctor's appointment. With everyone knowing where I am at that time every week. It's just a really freeing experience to know that's welcome and encouraged and that it's just not a topic of conversation. So that has been a really important one I think for everyone this year. That they don't have to leave their life at the door. It's kind of part of your whole picture as a team member.


Juice box chats is one that actually came up in 2020. It came about because we had lots of team members who suddenly had their children at home and we welcome interruptions. Pre-pandemic, when people pop up we ask everyone, " Oh tell your child to say hi."


So it's very welcome. But I think what we were struggling with is everyone's like my child is so bored. Is anyone else's kid want to just get on a zoom with my kid and talk about whatever? We had a few people do those pairings at first, just ad hoc. It grew from there.


At GitLab, we have coffee chats that are between team members. If people just want to hop on a zoom with a team member and chat about life or whatever the topic may be. So this is the kid version of coffee chats. Which we lovingly named juice box chats. It's typically a group call.


So you've got anywhere from kids to grandparents, to whoever all joining this call together and sharing and chatting. It's a really fun new feature that came out of 2020 among lots of not so fun things. If you search for "Gitlab informal communication", you'll find our handbook page with all of our informal communication tactics. Juice box shots is one of those along with talent shows and a few other things that have come up. Creative ideas from the team in the last year.


Tevi: [00:13:33] That's really cute. It's bring your kids to work day or something.


Betsy: [00:13:35] Exactly it's so important this year.


Tevi: [00:13:38] Very cute. What are some other projects or programs that you run to Gitlab to help the team cope with any mental health challenges that they're facing?


Betsy: [00:13:47] So one of the things that is really more infused into everything with our culture is asynchronous work. So I think that's something that we talk about a lot with remote work, but it's not necessarily tied to how important it is for mental health. Knowing that you're not having the hours that you work tracked, and that it's really about the results that you produce and not when you produce them, is in itself very freeing.


We've really seen that in the last year that if someone suddenly needs to step away, luckily, we have already documented all of our work. And we can easily pass that on and work in the Gitlab tool and be able to pass that to other coworkers and be just really agile in the way that we work.


So that's a huge mental health benefit that we may not have noticed prior to this past year. As far as new programs, our most popular one in 2020 that we started was friends and family day. Back in May of 2020, our executive team noticed that instead of the productivity declining, which was expected given the amount of stress and everything else that was going on with the lockdown starting. Our productivity was actually increasing and that really concerned them. Because it showed that burnout is on the horizon.


We started friends and family day as a day to just shut down the virtual doors to the office for a day and encourage everyone to go spend time with their friends and family. Spend time with themselves, if they just want to sleep for the day. Whatever they need to do to reset instead of having to request that time off.


People don't want to come back to a bunch of emails. This way, everyone's in that same boat and taking the time that they need. We have had seven of those since that first one. We actually have another one coming up this week.


So it's been something that's really helped everyone remember to take that time off and be intentional about it. I know a lot of companies are doing kind of recharge days and but it's definitely something that people have said.


" Even if I don't have anywhere to go, it was nice just to take the day off and hang out with my kids. And not have that concern in the background of having to keep up with work at the same time."


Scott: [00:15:42] In the old days, when you needed a day off, it was like, "Oh, I need a mental health day." You felt uncomfortable about not taking those days off, but now it's so nice to see the companies are being very upfront saying people need mental health days.


Just take a day off. Everyone's closed. Be focused on you and not focused on the work.


Tevi: [00:15:59] Yeah, InVision has offline days also.


Betsy: [00:16:03] Yeah. It's so nice because oftentimes you feel like when you come back from time off, you come back to this big inbox. The things that you need to go through. But we've really noticed how that's not the experience with these friends and family days. You see our CEO sharing what he's doing on the friends and family days to encourage that everyone is doing this. It's really good to see.


Tevi: [00:16:22] Nice. You said something very interesting that leadership saw productivity was increased. So they were concerned about burnout. So there's a couple things there. One that they're tracking productivity. That they're noticing some level that seems to be concerning and that they would make a decision on it. So how was that system set up?


Betsy: [00:16:41] So for Gitlab, you're looking at things in the Gitlab tool. Merge requests, and any kind of contribution that's being made to the Gitlab tool or to our handbook. Our measure of results in many ways, is what's happening in our tool. Because we dog food or own product. We use it for everything.


That's probably the biggest indicator. Seeing people's interaction with the tool is actually increasing over time. Which our CEO said that makes sense because people were at home and they aren't necessarily doing some of these social things they might have done after work prior to the pandemic.


But that was not a good thing. Because you're going to start to run into some real problems. I think it's something that a lot of leaders might struggle to see the connection. That if you have everyone burning out so early on, you're not going to get the business results that you're looking for.


So starting with recognizing a problem before it becomes a much bigger problem is so crucial with burnout and any mental health struggles. It was encouraging to see that come from our CEO and executive team.


Tevi: [00:17:41] Was that number like surfaced to the executive team by the people team or they noticed it?


Betsy: [00:17:46] That's a good question. I'm actually not sure. I'd have to ask. I think it was something that we noticed. Our executive team is very involved in all parts of the company. Everything's so transparent that it's easy for someone to look at the contributions and the team's productivity in that way.


I think it was something that a lot of companies were also discussing at the time. "Oh, everyone's forced to work from home. Are they being productive? Are they working?" We knew our team was working because this was how we've always done it, but it was suddenly, they're working too much.


Scott: [00:18:16] So we just spoke about from our higher management perspective of seeing changes within productivity. Changes within the company and taking action to try to mitigate any issues to mental health. What can lower level managers do when they may notice some changes within their team to help improve their team's mental health?


Betsy: [00:18:34] At Gitlab, we'll talk about prevention as a team sport. When it comes to burnout, isolation, or really any mental health struggles. You start at the top with leaders who need to establish that workplace culture. Where it's a non-judgmental culture and not restricting people.


Then, with managers who work directly with their teams, they need to be proactive in sensing the signs of mental strain or issues that are on the horizon. It's also on the part of the team members to feel comfortable in some way of surfacing those issues before it becomes a bigger issue.


So we really look at it as everyone is involved in this. As far as the managers who has that close connection with their team every day, it starts with setting goals and expectations that are reasonable and realistic. If you talk about how you care about your team's mental health, and then you set goals that require them to work max capacity or overtime, you're setting yourself up for burnout.


So it's important to not only plan those goals and talk to the team about whether they feel equipped to complete those things. Because you're just going to start to spiral from there, if you don't. One thing that I think is really important is also setting boundaries as a leader and then modeling that for your team.


Whether it's that you put on your calendar that from this time on is my family time, and I'm not reachable. Or it's that you put that you're at the gym at a certain time or working out or spending time outside. Really being transparent about what those things are that you're blocking out that are not related to work. And modeling that for your team is so important because it creates this level of, we're not just talking about this, we really need it and we do it. One thing that's interesting about documentation, which is something that we're so passionate about because it helps us work asynchronously.


Documentation also really alleviates a lot of stress and mental health connected concerns. If you, as a manager have documented your expertise well, the things that you do and the processes, then if you're taking time off or you're asleep it really relieves some of that stress. And kind of creates a sense of calm among your team. That they know they can access the information they need, even if you're not there. So that piece is not talked about as much, but I think it's really important.


Then there's also just with asynchronous tools. We all know the fatigue that comes from having Slack pinging you all day. You can't focus, and it's that constant attention draw. Any effort that you can make as a manager to push work into asynchronous tools, whether it's just documenting things so that it can be moved out of Slack, into the Gitlab tools so that it's not something that just you're pinging back and forth in a conversation that will disappear later. Encouraging asynchronous documentation and work will help tremendously. Is there anything y'all have heard from other leaders that they've added recently?


Tevi: [00:21:15] I'm not sure I haven't heard of anything out of the ordinary different. Seems like remote companies are doing a lot of that. Companies that are newly remote are still trying to figure it out. I haven't heard of a company that's been transitioning well.


Scott: [00:21:28] From my side, it's something that I've done for a long time. I've been speaking a lot about it, especially with the companies that I mentor. Leaders doing check-ins at least once a week with everyone on their team. Just the mental health check-in. How's everything going? What's going on? And that is related to my next question.


With all the fantastic documentation that you already have. Perhaps you may have a template for leaders. What that kind of format or what they should be asking in those one-on-one check-ins? What do they share? What kind of questions do they ask? For me, it's very important that leaders are on top of it.


It's not on a bi-weekly meeting. It's not in a team meeting that happens every so often. It's being very upfront about having those opportunities to connect with the team, at least once every single week.


Betsy: [00:22:09] Yeah, absolutely. We are also big fans of the weekly one-on-one. We do have a handbook page that we talk about how to run a one-on-one just in general. But then specifically with mental health, there's a great wealth of tips in the mental health handbook page that I mentioned. So you can search both of those.


I keep saying that, but it's great that they just pop up as you've searched the topic. We suggest with actual questions to ask in a one-on-one is, try to ask questions that are more specific to take the pressure off of the team member and kind of create that safe space in a one-on-one conversation.


So asking things like, "What can I do to unblock you so that you feel like you're able to take the time off that you need this month, or are there assignments that you don't feel equipped to handle right now?" You were talking about the work, but you're asking it in a way that allows them the space to say, "You know what? I've got XYZ happening in my family, and I'm going to need to take a little time next week. Can we rework the timeline for this project?" Even asking them if they're scheduling time off soon. Being upfront about those questions and making sure that the team member feels like it is a safe conversation to have is a great first step.


Then just recognizing that, even if you create that safe space, not everyone has that level of comfort for being that vulnerable in a one-on-one conversation. So we are very careful in how we look into the questions we're asking. In pulse surveys and sentiment surveys that our people group sends out.


So this most recent one, we were sure to ask questions that were very specific about how people felt about the support they were getting from Gitlab, from their manager, from their team during COVID, and what we could actually do to improve that. Instead of just asking, "Do you like working here?"


It's much more, how can we actually help you right now? What do we need to be doing? Having a spectrum of feedback options for people who have different comfort levels is definitely a great route.


Tevi: [00:24:04] That's awesome. I guess it takes a lot of nuance and empathy to come up with the right questions to ask. Do you have training for managers and leaders to pick up on that, or are you just very specific in your documentation?


Betsy: [00:24:17] It goes back to the documentation for sure. We do have a learning path that's part of our learning and development platform. That's all about mental health. We actually had a mental health awareness week at the end of 2020. We noticed that we had lots of options for people to help support them, but a lot of people just didn't know about them.

We wanted to create some awareness around it. Help managers understand how to have those conversations, and give our leadership the opportunity to share their journey with mental health. So we had some live speakers and more formal forums for people to discuss those topics.


From that, we created this learning path. So it's something that's also in the handbook. If anyone wants to look at that page and replicate how we're training our team members to recognize these different options are available to them. I'd definitely recommend starting there.


I feel like this year, we're going to start to see a lot more training opportunities and things that are specifically meant for leaders to help them ask these questions. Because we're in this phase, this new chapter of the world where our leaders are starting to realize in all industries and all types of companies, that this is an important conversation to have.


Tevi: [00:25:24] Any advice for leaders on how they can handle their own mental health challenges? It sounds like you have a lot of guidance for how they should work with their team, but what about for themselves?


Betsy: [00:25:36] Yeah, this is very important. Because of the pandemic, for the first time we've seen a mental health challenge or something that everyone is going through. Every single person in some way. You're going through it in different ways, but we're all going through it.


Whether you're a manager or an individual contributor, the stress and anxiety don't care what your job title is. Being transparent and knowing that you as a manager are a person just like your individual contributor on your team is and following the advice that you give. It's easy to tell your team, "Hey, you should take this time off when you're feeling really burnt out this one week." But then if you don't do it yourself, not only are you not serving yourself, but you're not serving your team. They're also going to start to think that you're just saying these things and you don't actually mean that they should take their time that they need.


If you feel like you need time off, take it. Go be with your family for a day. Tell your team that you're doing it and why you're doing it. Not just I have this vacation day scheduled, bye. Being transparent about it and creating that safe space. Not only lets your team get to know you better as a person but as a leader. That builds respect and opens up the the door for everyone else to act that same way.


It's an important one because it's a very rare thing that everyone's experiencing this same type of crisis all over the world. It's not something that's just happening in one region or one country. It's more important than ever.


Scott: [00:26:58] Yeah. The last question that I have is, we've spoken a lot about the different projects and programs Gitlab runs to help with mental health. Are there any specific employee benefits that that you offer? It could be access to tele-mental-health or reimbursing for therapy appointments. Anything specific?


Betsy: [00:27:17] Yeah. In addition to our medical coverage, which covers mental health professionals, we also have an employee assistance program. We call it modern health. It's been super helpful this year because they've offered some really great coaching sessions and one-on-one sessions. Access with therapists. They've got resources and sessions that you can join that are even associated with topics like social justice. Things that people don't necessarily think of top of mind as impacting people's mental health, but especially in the year that we're in, it does. Being able to explore that whole spectrum of topics that are important to our people is something we found really valuable in that tool.


On our mental health handbook page, we've started a list of a mental health tool stack. It's actually a lot of contributions from our team of tools that they've found helpful. And things that might've surfaced in a mental health aware Slack channel that we've said, "Hey, let's document this because if one person found it useful, someone else might."


Our no asked time off policy is a really big one too. It's really not something that we just use for recruiting tactics. It's genuinely something we encourage and if they need the time off, to let their manager and their team know and just go. They don't have to request that it be on this certain day. There doesn't have to be a reason for that time. They don't need to be going on a trip. It's just whatever you need. Put it on the calendar and go. So that's a benefit that I think has been incredibly useful in this past year.


Scott: [00:28:41] Amazing. Tevi any last questions?


Tevi: [00:28:43] None. For me that was very insightful. Definitely gonna check out the docs and we'll share that in the show notes.


Betsy: [00:28:51] Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.


Scott: [00:28:52] Thank you so much for your time and the over abundance of wisdom and knowledge from Gitlab. Until the next episode.


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