Cisco looking to alleviate COVID stress with this unique perk

The tech company is encouraging all of its workers to take a collective day off to rest on May 22 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
By: | May 21, 2020 • 2 min read
(Photos by Dan Krauss/Newsmakers)

Cisco is telling its employees to take a collective mental health day in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tech company announced its initiative—‘A Day for Me’—encouraging all of its workers to take a day off to rest on May 22.

Acknowledging recent strains on mental health and emotional wellbeing nationwide amid COVID-19, Cisco EVP and Chief People Officer Fran Katsoudas sent an email to all employees announcing the initiative and encouraging employees to “feel good about unplugging from work to focus on their health and wellbeing.”

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“Our passion for our purpose, dedication to our teams, and desire to do what’s best for our customers and communities have resulted in us tackling intense challenges while balancing more priorities during this unusual time in our history. As the intensity raised, so did our commitment,” Katsoudas wrote in an email to employees that was shared with HRE.

“It might feel like there are so many reasons not to take a day off,” she wrote. “There are few places to go, people need us, and we enjoy our work. Our weeks and weekends are blurring together. Yet there is one reason to unplug: ourselves.”

For employees who cannot take May 22 off, the company is encouraging those workers to find an alternative day by the end of June.

Related: Is COVID-19 a turning point for workplace mental health?

Cisco says it has been prioritizing mental health initiatives since 2018, after the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Among its initiatives, the company provides an employee assistance program and offers mindfulness and resilience training.

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Amid COVID-19, Cisco also has been inviting experts to join employee check-in sessions to encourage conversations on mental health.

The company is one of many to focus more on mental health amid the pandemic. The uncertain environment has created a sense of urgency for employers to add or expand resources, as experts point out just how widespread mental health issues are and as employers begin to see the effects stress and anxiety have on their workforce. Some 53% of 256 employers surveyed by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions reported providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce because of the pandemic.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.