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How to Improve Employee Mental Health

Cassandra Rose, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

While men­tal health — right­ful­ly — became a larg­er part of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, some com­pa­nies have let it fade into the back­ground as the pan­dem­ic subsides.

One of the indi­vid­u­als fight­ing to keep a prop­er place for men­tal health in her orga­ni­za­tion is Jes­si­ca Maruc­ci, VP of Peo­ple and Places at Cat­a­lyst Soft­ware. Jes­si­ca recent­ly sat down with host Cas­san­dra Rose on The Brag­Wor­thy Cul­ture Pod­cast for an in-depth con­ver­sa­tion on men­tal health in the workplace.

Cat­a­lyst offers a world-class cus­tomer suc­cess plat­form (CSP) that inte­grates with the tools orga­ni­za­tions are already using to pro­vide a sin­gle, cen­tral­ized view of cus­tomer data. This allows cus­tomer suc­cess man­agers to proac­tive­ly take the prop­er actions to pre­vent churn, like receiv­ing auto­mat­ed alerts when a cus­tomer is not using cer­tain fea­tures crit­i­cal to their success.

Not Her First Startup

Jes­si­ca isn’t new to star­tups. Indeed, Cat­a­lyst is her fourth. Reflect­ing between projects, she real­ized that the ​‘build­ing’ was the real joy for her and that’s why she was so excit­ed to join Cat­a­lyst and be part of that build­ing process. She joined as employ­ee num­ber 18 and there are now near­ly 100 on the team.

She believes the ear­li­est stages of a start­up pro­vide peo­ple with an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do their best work with­out distractions.

Dis­trac­tions can creep in through the most unex­pect­ed ways:

  • Not know­ing what it means to get pro­mot­ed — or how to get promoted.
  • Not hav­ing clar­i­ty on a career path.
  • Fail­ing to get feed­back from those man­ag­ing you.

Jes­si­ca doesn’t want her team mem­bers dis­tract­ed, so she tries to pre-empt those dis­trac­tions by offer­ing the following:

  • Clar­i­ty on a growth tra­jec­to­ry with­in the com­pa­ny, includ­ing paths to pos­si­ble promotions.
  • Per­son­al devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties to help deep­en com­pe­tence in a cur­rent field while cross-train­ing in others.
  • Can­did con­ver­sa­tions with man­age­ment about what suc­cess looks like in their job role.

That can­dor should also extend to senior lead­er­ship. The more employ­ees feel gen­uine­ly heard by lead­er­ship, the more they will invest in their own growth with­in the company.

Not Meant to Be Remote

When Jes­si­ca came to Cat­a­lyst she had no vision of remote work. In fact, Cat­a­lyst was focused on being a New York-based firm. Parts of that vision includ­ed hold­ing reg­u­lar events in the com­pa­ny space and becom­ing an epi­cen­ter for tech and SaaS in New York. Six months into her role, the pan­dem­ic hit.

Despite its pre­vi­ous com­mit­ment to being a loca­tion-based busi­ness, Cat­a­lyst went remote ear­ly — about a week before many of its peers. The shift was so suc­cess­ful it took man­age­ment by sur­prise. In fact, they noticed that peo­ple were com­mu­ni­cat­ing bet­ter and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty was up.

The prac­tice of the com­pa­ny-wide ​“vir­tu­al hap­py hour” may have thank­ful­ly passed, but there is not yet sta­bil­i­ty on the oth­er side of the pan­dem­ic. Some com­pa­nies have gone back to the office. Oth­ers have stayed remote. While oth­ers are exper­i­ment­ing with the hybrid mod­el. Jes­si­ca encour­ages exper­i­men­ta­tion in accor­dance with the pre­vail­ing winds and pref­er­ences in the mar­ket­place. ​“Rec­og­nize that what peo­ple want and what they need is dif­fer­ent today than it was six months ago, and six months lat­er it may be dif­fer­ent again,” she says.

On the hir­ing side, Jes­si­ca doesn’t need any encour­age­ment. In her last com­pa­ny, she worked in a hybrid sys­tem (“before hybrid was cool”). This gave her a roadmap for nav­i­gat­ing issues that didn’t yet have a blueprint.


Cat­a­lyst uses an inte­gra­tion that puts employ­ee ​‘shoutouts’ into Slack. These shoutouts offer praise, of course. But they also pro­vide a moment in which the actions and atti­tudes of these top team mem­bers are con­tex­tu­al­ized with­in the company’s cul­ture. Every quar­ter an MVP is picked from those who have received shoutouts.

This prac­tice is now embed­ded in the orga­ni­za­tion. Jes­si­ca recalls a sit­u­a­tion in which a cus­tomer had a spe­cif­ic need that required the help and input of mul­ti­ple teams. Those teams put their heads togeth­er and helped fig­ure things out. Sub­se­quent­ly, they gave shoutouts to each oth­er, with no prompting.

Mental Health Days

Just as Cat­a­lyst moved from loca­tion-based to remote, it has also evolved from hav­ing no men­tal health ben­e­fits to a com­pa­ny with a focus on the men­tal health of its employ­ees. Cat­a­lyst tries to encour­age its team mem­bers to take advan­tage of the men­tal health days and weeks pro­vid­ed in their ben­e­fits pack­age but it doesn’t tell them how to use that time.

Think­ing about men­tal health wasn’t just new for the lead­er­ship team at Cat­a­lyst, it was new for employ­ees too. Giv­en that there was nowhere to ​“go on vaca­tion” dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, peo­ple were hoard­ing their vaca­tion days and work­ing more. This led to faster burnout.

Men­tal health days mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. For some, it can mean tun­ing out com­plete­ly — no work, no emails. Jes­si­ca likes to use some of her days for self-care, includ­ing man­i­cures and pedi­cures, but she also loves Inbox Zero so she’ll use some of her time to knock out some emails. She tries to con­vey to her team that there is no right way to take men­tal health days, it’s just impor­tant to take them.

Some orga­ni­za­tions have rolled back or elim­i­nat­ed men­tal health ben­e­fits. Jes­si­ca believes this is a mis­take. She’s seen her peo­ple thrive as a result of being able to take time to recharge, remov­ing this ben­e­fit would be harm­ful to her team.

Check Out the Full Episode

Learn more about Jes­si­ca, Cat­a­lyst, and the val­ue of men­tal well-being by lis­ten­ing to our full inter­view on Apple or Spo­ti­fy.

Look­ing to build your own Brag­Wor­thy Cul­ture? Fringe can help. Fringe is the num­ber one lifestyle ben­e­fits mar­ket­place. Give your peo­ple the pow­er of choice and save a ton of admin­is­tra­tive headaches by con­sol­i­dat­ing exist­ing ven­dors and pro­grams into a sim­ple, auto­mat­ed plat­form. Talk to our team to get started.

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