Employee Engagement

All Hands: How Mindfulness Helps Calm Put Its People First

July 18, 2022
November 7, 2023
Lattice Team

In the age of the Great Resignation, workers around the world are prioritizing themselves and their well-being. They’re walking away from burnout and insensitive bosses and saying no to unrealistic expectations and nonexistent work-life balance. In the process, they’re creating the lives they want and leaving the positions that prevent them from doing that.

Scott Domann
and his team at meditation and mental wellness app Calm are well aware of the current landscape. As Chief People Officer, he’s passionate about fostering a culture of care that aligns with the company mission. The leadership team at Calm works hard to foster a supportive environment internally, where their company values aren’t just words on a page. From intentional titles to supportive policies, mindful practices are everywhere at Calm. And their commitment to building a caring culture strengthens both the people and the business’s output.

Calm is one of the most popular apps for meditation and mental wellness. While they’ve achieved success in the mental health market, their mission is much bigger: To make the world a happier and healthier place. And that starts within their company.

In a recent episode of Lattice’s All Hands podcast, host Katelin Holloway talked to Domann about bringing company values to life, the structure that creates team support, and how mindfulness makes everyone better.

How Calm Embodies Its Values

For any company, a breach in integrity also means a breach in trust — with your employees and your consumers. That’s why it’s crucial that your vision and values align with who you are as an organization at every level.

Culture, values, all those things — [they] have to be more than nice words on a page,” said Domann. And the team at Calm puts its money where its mouth is, making sure the company’s values surface in all aspects of operations. Here’s how Calm brings its values to life at every level of the business.

1. Recruiting, Hiring, and Onboarding

Domann pointed out that people are intuitive, and they notice when a company’s behavior doesn’t match what they say their values are. So Calm starts talking about its values during the recruiting process.

Many applicants and employees begin their experience with the company as a Calm consumer. So when they apply for a position, they expect the company’s values to be mirrored internally as well. 

“Through a recruiting process, we'll talk through scenario-based questions [like], ‘How do you live these values? How would you like these values to be lived?’” said Domann. “[That’s] in addition to being able to be successful in your actual functional job.”

Once employees are hired, they go through a detailed onboarding experience, which is particularly important for a remote company like Calm, Domann explained. Every Monday, any Calm employee, company-wide, is invited to join the “Welcome to Calm” session for new hires. The 40 to 60 employees who typically attend offer an encouraging connection point for new employees, making them truly feel welcomed.

2. Management

Connection to your manager is another important aspect of living company values. Calm uses an approach called the “Mindful Manager,” which aims to redefine what manager effectiveness means. Rather than just focusing on the job itself, the company places a high priority on ensuring that managers connect with their teams and create a supportive environment for them to work in. For managers, true connection goes beyond the obligatory “How’s it going?” to a “How are you really doing?” mindset that expresses care and personal investment

Domann noted that managers also oversee the building of their teams. From writing job descriptions to creating a bank of interview questions, managers are expected to take ownership of the hiring process. 

“We really focus on a manager as a single point of success and failure,” Domann explained. “People will leave managers. And we want to make sure that from the outset, [employees] have that connection with [their] manager.”

3. Communicating Change

Organizational change is inevitable. But the team at Calm does everything they can to keep employees informed and empowered. 

“We tend to have a very defined cadence: If we're going to make an announcement we tell our managers,” Domann said. The company also posts FAQs and hosts Q&As for employees to ask live questions as they need. This exchange of ideas and information is essential, especially in the remote environment, he explained.

Calm prioritizes honesty, transparency, and communication to give its employees all the information they need. In turn, employees feel more connected to the company values and culture — and see those values actually being implemented.

The Structure Behind the Support

For other organizations seeking to lead mindfully, Domann recommended listening to your employees, first and foremost. Ask employees what is important to them, how they work best, and where they’re working to understand the different employee types, he advised. This is especially important because at each organization, employee priorities may vary.

“What I would recommend for Calm may not actually work for every environment,” Domann noted. “But what will work for every environment is to ask the questions and make sure you're listening. And then keep asking and keep listening.”

Calm has implemented a variety of policies and practices to support its people. For example, Zoom-free Fridays twice a month help balance the needs of the business with the mental health and wellness of employees. And the organization builds company-wide mental health days into the calendar and offers a flexible “take time as you need it” PTO policy

Assessment is also an important part of checking in with employees consistently. The company checks in with employees twice a year through an engagement survey, diligently tracks new hires’ progress, and collects exit interview data to determine if they’re missing any important insights. All of these strategies are designed to drive engagement and retention of their employee base, so staff members feel seen, heard, and valued.

How Mindfulness Improves Output

The mindful approach at Calm doesn’t just make for happier employees; it also improves the business output. Calm’s internal research found that employees want more mental health resources at work. This is undeniable for any organization. And mental health is health, stressed Domann.

“Regardless of the type of job, productivity will decrease when you're not engaging in people's overall mental wellness and their mental health at work,” he cautioned.

Companies need to be cognizant that their employees are gauging their own levels of happiness and engagement constantly. And organizations that don’t consider and contribute positively to these factors will continue to lose their workforce.

“The more fulfilled people are at work, the more productive they'll be,” said Domann. “The more engaged they are, the less likely they are to leave.”

Supporting His Own Team

As the leader of a People team, Domann knows firsthand how easy it can be to burn out. So much of the work Human Resources does entails giving to others, meaning HR and People leaders are often depleted and working from an empty tank.

Domann encourages everyone on his team and across the HR world to find their people and form a community of HR and People leaders. “Make sure that you have someone you can take a deep breath with and say, ‘Today, I'm actually not okay,’” he advised. If you feel like you’re solving a problem on your own, ask for support or advice from a trusted colleague. But know, above all, that you’re not alone. 

“Whenever you need support, there are people out there [who] will support you so that you don't feel as though you're just giving when your tank is empty,” Domann said.

As leaders, remember to acknowledge your people, and give credit where credit is due. Not receiving credit for your work, Domann pointed out, is incredibly demotivating. 

Bottom line: Listen to your employees and understand what’s important to them. This will show how much you value them, and it’s the first step in creating a mindful, supportive work environment that will greatly benefit your business and its people.

This article is based on an episode of Lattice’s All Hands podcast, in which host Katelin Holloway talks with CEOs, founders, and a wide range of People leaders about why People success is business success. To learn more about Domann’s approach to holistic mindfulness at Calm, listen to the full episode here.