Starbucks isn’t just known for their coffee.
Over the years, Starbucks has proven itself to be one of the top employers. Known as “partners,” those finding themselves employed by Starbucks have a multitude of benefits, including free coffee, free membership to Spotify, discounts to gym memberships, college tuition perks, and a 5% match to a 401k.
Now, the company is offering a mental health care package.
In a letter to their employees last Thursday, CEO Kevin Johnson announced an initiative along with others to help improve employee productivity and engagement. The announcement came as Starbucks hosted a massive leadership conference in Chicago, at which 12,000 store managers participated.
In the letter, Johnson stated, “our store managers and field leaders will experience a Mental Health Matters session with a clinical psychologist that will introduce emotional first aid, followed by a discussion about what it means to thrive and develop self-awareness.”
Breaking The Stigma
Johnson additionally stated the initiative was brought on by finding employees afraid to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program, so they’re working to enhance the program, which provides short-term counseling services.
According to Senior Vice President of global public affairs and social impact for Starbucks, John Kelly, the current offerings are “very comprehensive.” But, he noted, just 4% to 5% of employees actually use it.
With its new efforts, Starbucks is also hoping to “break the stigma,” said Kelly, “and really normalize that your mental health is just as important as your physical health.”
Starbucks will also will partner with organizations such as the Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga’s wellness-focused nonprofit organization, and Team Red White & Blue, a nonprofit focused on helping veterans, to tackle the stigma around mental health.
Employees in the U.S. and Canada will also have access to subscriptions to Headspace, an app that offers guided meditation, by January.
Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“If we take a positive step forward, you know, sometimes that can be a catalyst for others to take a positive step forward and create a movement,” Johnson said in an interview.
The coffee company has always been known for its benefits. They recently launched a number of employee benefits and programs to keep and attract workers. In 2014, the company introduced the Starbucks College Achievement Program, which gives employees a full, free ride to Arizona State University. The company offers stock options to workers, and last year started testing a program that allow some employees to spend half of their workweek at a local nonprofit.
At the conference, Johnson added: “This is just the beginning, and we are excited and optimistic about what we will do in this regard. Look for meaningful changes to be rolled out over the next year.”
Starbucks is also continuing its plan to free up more time for employees to interact with customers. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the coffee chain started moving some “remedial tasks” that baristas were doing during the day to be completed after closing.
In fiscal 2020, it plans to automate, reduce or eliminate an additional 17 hours of tasks each week. For example, instead of writing out schedules by hand, store managers will create schedules digitally. Inventory of to-go items such as juices will also be automated, rather than being counted by an employee a few times a day.
“Those kinds of things make them have better jobs, deliver a better customer experience and just modernize what’s happening in our stores,” said Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer.