Mental wellbeing case study: HubSpot


Sia Papageorgiou

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Sia Papageorgiou

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The following case study was originally printed in the global report: The State of Mental Wellbeing in the Communication Profession – released in May 2022.

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Normalising mental health and wellbeing

HubSpot is very intentional when it comes to checking in on the wellbeing of their people.

They obsess over their culture, just like their product – because they recognise that culture is a product. HubSpot’s view is culture happens whether we like it or not, so why not create a culture we love.

When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, HubSpot is proactively creating a working culture and environment that normalises the topic of mental wellbeing and encourages the engagement and use of the support on offer. HubSpot’s goal is to, “help you be the best ‘you’ that you can be, both inside and outside of work.”

Prior to the global pandemic HubSpot had a broad range of wellbeing support mechanisms in place for their employees. These initiatives included employee assistance programs, and support across the dimensions of wellbeing – mental, physical, financial, social, environmental, and occupational. The organisation also has a number of employee resource groups to foster an inclusive workplace, including LGBTQ+ Alliance, Families@HubSpot, People of Colour at HubSpot, BLACKhub, and Women@HubSpot.

Since the pandemic, the organisation has a heightened awareness about supporting their global workforce who have been impacted in different ways and at different times.

“Burnout was being felt across the company – for a multitude of reasons – and this led to very intentional practices and programming to support our workforce.”

HubSpot conducts a quarterly eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) survey to measure employee sentiment about the company. The survey includes questions about how employees are feeling, what the organisation can do better, what people need at that point in time – designed to increase understanding about people’s needs and preferences, what leaders need to do to act and what’s really going to help amid such uncertainty and unpredictability.

The results speak for themselves:

Employees are treated like people, not line items

HubSpot acknowledges that its employees are whole people, with families, hobbies, and lives outside of work. They work remotely, keep non-traditional hours, and use unlimited vacation time to create work-life "fit". Their employee benefits are truly impressive. 

The organisation has implemented a plethora of new initiatives to support their employees during the pandemic – some of these have a direct impact on mental wellbeing, and others are more peripheral, including:

A mobility policy to assist their global and geographically dispersed workforce who live and work away from their usual home base. The policy enables employees to temporarily relocate to a country where they can legally work in order to spend time with their families.

The introduction of HubSpot Unplugged, an initiative driven by employee feedback, which includes three key components to help with burnout: 

  1. Global Week of Rest: In 2020, the organisation had regional Global Days of Rest, which was a dedicated day off from work. In 2021 HubSpot made 5–9 July a company holiday week for all employees to take time off and recharge. The deliberate move to make this an organisation-wide event meant people felt they could genuinely take time off, without worrying about returning to an overflowing inbox, missing key meetings, or dipping into their annual leave entitlements. Employee feedback was so positive that the organisation has made this an annual commitment.
  2. No Internal Meeting Fridays: HubSpot encourages employees not to book internal meetings on Friday to help combat Zoom fatigue and restore some positive Friday energy. Employees are encouraged to use good judgement for what that looks like for their teams and meetings with their customers and business partners.
  3. More Mental Health Programming: HubSpot has added to their existing mental health and wellbeing programming through Modern Health – a wellness platform launched in January 2021 offering a personalised combination of digital programs, group learning and 1:1 coaching and therapy to help employees and their families feel more resilient, productive, and empowered at work and at home. According to a recent article in PR Newswire, 30 percent of employees are already actively utilising the benefits of Modern Health – a far higher engagement rate than traditional EAPs, which tend to see an engagement rate of around 1-3 percent. Of those employees who have used Modern Health's benefits, almost half (44%) have engaged in one-to-one care with either a coach or therapist and half (50%) have utilised Modern Health's suite of in-app evidence-based digital programs. More than a third (39%) have actively engaged in meditations. The organisation is also hosting additional programs for employees to listen, learn, and identify ways to prioritise their mental health at work. 

Leaders leaving loudly at HubSpot

Leaders at HubSpot believe it’s their job to show their employees that taking time off isn’t just encouraged, it’s critical – and they model the behaviour they want to see. So, the organisation encourages their leaders to announce when they’re leaving early and why. It’s this seemingly small gesture around looking after yourself, taking time out and acknowledging vulnerability, that has a big impact on HubSpot’s culture.

This practice extends to the marketing and communication function with leaders in the function reinforcing the importance of ‘tools down’ days or no meeting days/weeks to enable people to rest without feeling pressured or like they’re missing out if they’re not at work or always ‘switched on’. Psychological safety is important to the marketing and communication function, and it’s having a profound impact on the team’s openness to have candid conversations about wellbeing, how they’re coping and feeling, and encouraging people to look after themselves.

Having come from a more traditional workplace where people are at their desks all day, it took Mia some time to adjust to hearing and seeing her manager and team members announce they'd be in late because they were going for a cycle, taking an extended lunch break to get a haircut, or taking Friday off to recharge – but it helped her to practice leaving loudly too.

Taking care of business and each other

The increase in pressure for marketing and communication professionals stems in part from their drive to succeed and their determination to have a positive impact on their business. Even more important, is their desire to help their customers and the business community during such a challenging time. But this has meant people have felt overloaded and overwhelmed at times. 

To help maintain a healthy balance the marketing and communication team makes taking time off work a priority, using HubSpot’s unlimited vacation time policy to take planned long weekends and full weeks off work to unwind, whether that was for a short domestic trip or just to stay home and focus on their personal wellbeing.

The team has also kept a ‘check in’ on their 1:1 meeting agenda each week. If people didn’t need it, it wasn’t a forced conversation, but it created a safe space to have the conversation if necessary.

The important lesson Mia learned about managing through COVID-19

“Proactive management of your personal wellbeing is critical. It’s easy to push down or ignore the feeling of always being tired or worn out when we’re busy, and even more so when we’re stuck at home during a pandemic. You reason with yourself that you’re not doing much, you’re just at home – so how can you be exhausted and drained?

I know this is what I told myself in the first few months of the pandemic. I was also in the first few months of a new job at HubSpot, so I was already busy learning and onboarding into my new role. Once I acknowledged that feeling worn out didn’t just come from being ‘busy’, I began to proactively manage my wellbeing. This included getting enough sleep, making space for exercise, practicing gratitude with my husband, and finding ways to maintain social connection.”

Sia Papageorgiou is managing partner at the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence and co-founder of The Alignment People. She’s a multi-award-winning communication leader on a mission to elevate the value and visibility of communication professionals and help them become trusted, strategic, and in-demand advisors. Sia is opinionated about what our profession can achieve and believes communication professionals have the best job in the world. She’s a certified strategic communication management professional, a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and past president of the Victorian chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She’s also a past board director at IABC Asia-Pacific and is immediate past chair of the Global Communication Certification Council. In 2021, IABC Asia-Pacific named Sia Communicator of the Year and in 2022 she was awarded the prestigious IABC Rae Hamlin Award in recognition of her exemplary service in advocating the Global Standard of the Communication Profession and evangelising the power and possibility of communication.