Well-Being Mental Health

Starbucks offers new mental health support for employees, but not everyone is pleased

starbucks employee mental health resource headspace meditation labor law understaffed wages low pay increase
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Story at a glance

  • As part of its Mental Health Matters campaign, Starbucks announced free subscriptions to meditation app Headspace for its employees.
  • While some employees appreciate the support, others think more tangible benefits, like higher wages, would be more helpful.
  • The company has a history of working employees hard but also providing progressive benefits.

Starbucks is offering new mental health care options for their employees. 

In a press release Monday, the coffee conglomerate announced a partnership with the mindfulness app Headspace that will offer employees free subscriptions. 

Headspace is a downloadable app that offers guided meditation tutorials and encourages taking several minutes a day to meditate and be mindful. The initiative is part of Starbucks’s Mental Health Matters campaign to open a supportive dialogue surrounding mental health.

Partners supporting Mental Health Matters include high-profile nonprofit organizations, such as the Disability Advocacy Network, Third Place Development Series, the veterans organizations Team Red, White, and Blue and Team Rubicon, and the Born This Way Foundation, among others. This coalition is meant to address a variety of concerns, from anxiety and depression to PTSD. 

Starbucks also sponsors store managers to receive training from Mental Health First Aid, which is training specificallydesigned for Starbucks by the National Council for Behavioral Health that will provide guidance and skills needed to listen to and provide initial resources that can support someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue, substance use problem or crisis.”

While many employees have expressed excitement and support for the new Headspace initiative, others are not as thrilled. 

Speaking with Business Insider, one said that more tangible benefits, such as higher wages, would be an ideal form of support in lieu of trendy mental health products.

“I think that Starbucks is taking the steps to make sure partners’ mental health is being addressed and cared for,” they said, “however, I feel like this is just scratching the surface to fix the real issue.”

Understaffing in Starbucks cafés has reportedly been an issue for years, and one worker feels that the Headspace partnership is a way to focus on productivity rather than hiring more workers. 

Others say that the majority of Starbucks employees are “housing and food insecure,” and would be better served by increased wages, stating that “We [Starbucks employees] didn’t ask for a meditation app, we want to be able to pay our rent.” 

Starbucks has historically offered benefits including health care, college tuition assistance, stock equity and paid parental leave. In April 2018, the company announced a pay increase and expansion in benefits. 

A spokesperson for Starbucks said that “The development and decision to expand our mental health benefits have come as a result of direct engagement from our partners in the U.S. and Canada, who provided us insight on the types of benefits that would support their mental health and well-being.”

They also added that since announcing their Headspace partnership, Starbucks has recorded over 30,000 employees download the app and sign up. 

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