'Reset days' boost staff well-being at Google

Ms Atikah Amalina Zaini says the “reset days” have been important at a time when Covid-19 disruptions have worsened her existing mental health conditions.
Ms Atikah Amalina Zaini says the “reset days” have been important at a time when Covid-19 disruptions have worsened her existing mental health conditions. PHOTO: GOOGLE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - At Google Singapore, Ms Atikah Amalina Zaini, 31, has taken eight extra days off since the pandemic began, as part of the company's worldwide effort to help employees avoid burnout.

Known as global "reset days", these paid holidays are among a slew of workplace policies introduced by Google to look after its employees' well-being.

Ms Atikah, who has bipolar disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), told The Straits Times that such enforced breaks have helped her see resting throughout the year as key to resilience and well-being.

This has been important for her mental health at a time when disruptions due to Covid-19 have made her anxiety and mood swings more pronounced, said the channels diversity programme manager, adding that she has returned to taking medication.

The company was also pivotal in helping her restart therapy for her conditions in 2019, she noted.

In an article on Google's blog, she wrote: "Because of my PTSD, situations like one-on-one meetings in enclosed spaces could be panic-inducing.

"Thankfully, I trusted my manager enough to share this, and she was incredibly supportive."

With the help of her manager, Ms Atikah got to know about the multinational corporation's mental health resources, which has led to more than two years of therapy with a specialist under the firm's insurance coverage.

She said: "While I have seen mental health professionals in the past, I had stopped due to the financial cost of private practice, as well as the difficulty in getting timely interventions in the public health route."

Ms Atikah now writes and speaks about mental health as a member of Blue Dot, the firm's global peer support network and mental health awareness group.

Mr Roman Matla, director of Asia-Pacific diversity and employee engagement at Google, told ST that this is one of many initiatives the company has to de-stigmatise mental ill health in the workplace and foster a more open and connected community through allyship, peer support and training.

More initiatives to normalise mental health concerns and build resilience have also been introduced as the world navigates uncertainty caused by Covid-19, he said.

Virtual meditation, yoga and mindfulness classes, for instance, were started to help employees maintain mental well-being, he added.