February 14, 2024

How Betches Media’s HR Leaders Encourage Employees to Center Their Mental Health In Their Work Culture— Even When That Means Logging Off

As Betches Media continues to grow, so too will the company’s support systems for its team members according to Keisha Toussaint, Senior Manager of People and Culture.

The internet doesn’t have an off switch, so working for a digital company can quickly feel like you’re plugged in around the clock. At Betches Media, however, employees are expected to log off — early, in fact.

The company, which produces content across its website and several social media platforms, implements four-and-a-half day workweeks year round so employees can get a head start on resting and recuperating from the week. They’re also encouraged to take personal days and mental health days if and when they need them, and aren’t expected to come to the office every single day, or even a certain number of days a week. And if they want to work remotely from a vacation spot, Keisha Toussaint, the company’s senior manager of people and culture, explains, they can do that, too.

“What's really important is that as we are a growing company, it's critical to have that balance,” says Toussaint. “Sometimes we get caught up with projects, and being at a media and entertainment company, social media is 24/7. We try to really just push, ‘if you need the time, take the time.’”

A dedicated mom of two, Toussaint has been with Betches for two years. In that time, she’s helped the company navigate its new post-pandemic reality. That includes implementing the company’s remote-work policy, as well as helping the growing employee force settle into an entirely new office space should they want to come in.

Implementing such policies might not have been possible without the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work was at once a necessity to keep workers safe and healthy, as well as proof that companies can thrive with a remote-first workforce. An estimated nine out of 10 companies are now reverting back to pre-pandemic in-office policies, but that flies in the face of what workers want: One survey found that 51% of employees want remote-first workplace arrangements, and an additional 45% are happy with hybrid work.

“It’s possible to really engage and do things outside of just being in this commercial space,” said Toussaint. “I notice a lot of employees are now expressing that they prefer to work remotely or even on a hybrid schedule. If they are able to give the same productivity when working from home, what’s the issue? In this workforce climate, it’s so important to be flexible.”

Through it all, flexibility is central to Toussaint’s work. And sure, at Betches Media, sometimes her work involves putting an employee on a performance improvement plan if they need it, as well as having tough conversations with management about what staff members are clamoring for.

But even doing these things allows for growth, Toussaint says, both at the individual and organizational level. She and her team regularly engage with employee surveys, which helps them identify areas where the company can do better by its employees.

“As HR professionals, we always need to think about being innovative with employee engagement and wellness and supporting senior leadership and managers on advocating for their team’s needs,” she says. “This is where HR comes in to really bridge the gap from top to bottom. It allows us to express different ways to drive morale and engagement. If your employees feel supported and are excited about work, then morale is high and so is revenue. If morale is low, then it can possibly show in the decrease in revenue, high turnover, and other issues.”

Allowing each group to dig into those focuses makes for happier and more engaged workforces, Toussaint says. On days when there’s in-office programming or special events at Betches, seats are entirely filled, and off-site events are spaces where people can bond with their coworkers without the stress of a deadline looming over their heads.

But when someone needs to take a mental health day, or even an extended leave of absence, Toussaint is also the first advocate for them to do so. She walked the walk when she went on maternity leave, because, as she told her team and fellow coworkers, “This company is always going to be here. And at the end of the day, I need to focus on my recovery and family because they come before my career.”

The US doesn’t offer any mandatory paid parental leave, and only 27% of workers in the country have access to such options. Frequently, taking time off can feel foreign to workers, because in many cases, it is — almost as if they’re worried there’s a catch, and they might not get paid for it after all.

“People need to learn how to separate themselves from work, which is key for mental health,” Toussaint said. “And that's something that I'm continuing to do, and most importantly encourage my team and coworkers to do as well. It’s sad to say, but if you leave a company, your role will be filled by someone else, which is why it’s critical to separate the personal from the professional and focus on your well-being.”

As Betches Media continues to grow — to an estimated 70 to 80 employees by the end of 2024, to Toussaint’s eye — so too will the company’s support systems for its team members. That includes potentially adding certain employee assistance programs, as well as making sure the hiring process is equitable, inclusive, and most importantly, human.

“There's not a lot of Black and brown professionals in the entertainment space, and if we're speaking about having a voice, we need to have those diverse perspectives,” says Toussaint. Making the hiring process welcoming for interviewees, and especially Black and brown people looking to join the company, also pays off in dividends, she says: “Even if we don't end up moving forward with them, they always thank me for being real with them. That is everything in itself. And a lot of candidates that I've interviewed could say that they've had such a great experience just connecting with me and learning more about the company.”

Through it all, Toussaint stresses listening to employees when they tell their managers and HR teams what they need.

“Sometimes you’ve really got to take a step back and be human first,” says Toussaint. “Coming out of the pandemic, learning that people have families, livelihoods, and various stressors, you have to be able to be flexible and understanding of that. You’ve got to listen to the constructive feedback people are sharing and make changes because if you don't, companies will continue to move backward in a progressive workforce and unfortunately will lose people in the process.”