Cloudflare TV

Mental Health Resources

Presented by Kevin Klapak, Kelley Welsh, Otto Imken, Janet Van Huysse, Andrew Fitch
Originally aired on 

As the pandemic continues, it's crucial to support each other and the mental health of our employees. Join Cloudflare's Head of People and Mindflare (our mental health employee resource group) in conversation about the importance of mental health and how companies can support their employees during this challenging time.


Transcript (Beta)

Welcome, everybody. It's time to talk about mental health. Let's talk about mental health support, mental health resources and what we do for mental health here at Cloudflare.

I'm Andrew Fitch. I work in community and inclusion at Cloudflare.

And my biggest thing that I love to do is support employee resource groups.

And MindFlare is one of our employee resource groups. We'll get more into that in just a moment.

But let's start with introductions, everybody. Who are these people here in front of you?

Why are they here? What are we going to talk to you about?

So let's get it kicked off with introductions. So if everybody would be willing to just introduce yourself and maybe just share one thing that makes you most passionate about mental health support, like what brought you here today?

Let's start with Kevin, Kelley, Janet, Otto.

Cool. My name is Kevin. I'm on the support team as a product specialist.

And I created MindFlare a couple of years ago. And the reason this is important to me is mental health is definitely in my family.

It's definitely a genetic factor, as well as it's something that I've struggled with in the past and even during this pandemic.

So I wanted to kind of create a community to help others, essentially.

Hi, everyone.

I'm Kelley. I'm on the learning and development team with Andrew. I'm one of the co-leaders of MindFlare.

And I think for me, mental health is just such an important topic to talk about because it's usually not talked about, but it's sort of the foundation.

Like you can be successful and have so many other things.

And if mental health, that piece isn't there, it's sort of all for nothing. And it's just something that people really suffer in silence about.

So I was really excited to be able to start talking about it more at Cloudflare and bring resources to everyone at the company.

Hi, I'm Janet. I'm the head of people at Cloudflare and so grateful that MindFlare is a part of life at Cloudflare.

I have this adage that all business decisions are people decisions because it's people doing your business.

And so really having all the people, our people at Cloudflare, to feel healthy and happy so they can live happy lives and do their best work for us is something that's really important to us.

I really have been grateful for MindFlare and the resources that they've brought to the company and that we'll be able to talk about today.

Hey everybody, I'm Otto. I'm the head of the support team at Cloudflare.

I think MindFlare is important for a lot of reasons. Personally, I have a history of mental health issues in my family, both sides of my family, as I'm sure most families do, but also work reasons as well.

Support and working in tech in general can be stressful.

And so we try and be really conscious and mindful about supporting each other on the team.

So lots of different reasons. And Otto, you're the executive sponsor.

And I'm the executive sponsor of MindFlare. Yes, yes. Andrew and Kevin reached out and wanted to work together.

So I was really happy and excited to join.

So thanks for inviting me. Thanks for joining. Thank you everyone for the introductions here.

I realize this was partly covered in your introductions already, but our first line of questioning here is just why are mental health resources and support so important right now?

Janet, would you mind kicking off the discussion in this area?

I actually think kind of pulling back, I can talk about this in the intro.

It's really about the whole person. And I loved how Kelly talked about how these things can be invisible a lot of times.

And I think COVID has really shed a bright light on a number of challenges and issues that we face as here in the US, as people, as workers.

And so I'm appreciative.

I think actually we can turn this into a real positive that COVID has brought out so much conversation around mental health that hopefully it's destigmatized this in a pretty meaningful way, both within the workplace and outside the workplace.

And so yeah, definitely now feels like a time to be spending a lot of focus on mental health because there are so many challenges that folks have as we navigate the pandemic.

So it feels very much like a right now kind of a topic. Yeah, I was just going to second that.

I think the biggest problem around mental health is it is a silent kind of disease in a sense.

My personal experience is I learned to isolate.

So the pandemic just kind of made that a little worse. So yeah, just making, talking essentially is I think the silver lining here, I think really just being more open and being able to see that everyone has issues that they have to, that they struggle with.

And so everyone's similar in that way. Yeah, definitely with the pandemic, working from home kind of suddenly on March 13th or whenever it was a year and a half ago.

Some people have been working from home for years and have a system about it and are very smart about it.

But a lot of us were just kind of thrust into don't come to the office, go figure something out at home.

And so we figured something out and we've been very successful business-wise dealing with it.

But individually, everybody's had to cope in different ways with your children sitting next to you trying to study or your partner sitting across from you and talking on the phone and not being surrounded by all your coworkers and trying to figure out how to navigate that.

So it's been something everyone's had to deal with, at least at Cloudflare.

Yeah, I think I can pound that with, sorry, Kelly, I don't want you to go next, but on top of that is fear and uncertainty and misinformation.

And there's just a lot of stress, I think, around it in addition to just like what's going on at home.

Yeah, that's exactly what I was going to say.

There's just like anything you're dealing with, like normal life problems, there's also this base level of just constant anxiety around like, is my family safe?

Am I safe? What's happening in the world? So many different issues coming up.

So it's dealing with all the normal things you have to deal with compounded because you're stuck at home.

And then just like your base level of anxiety is so much higher than normal.

Yeah, thanks for chiming in about this, folks.

A follow-up to this question, too, and I'm speaking about around the world. Cloudflare is a global company.

We have different offices, different countries that we serve, and a broad variety of people with different backgrounds that we serve, too.

And so how have you felt, like I realized that mental health affects different communities differently, and the pandemic has affected different communities differently.

So what are some ways that we've been thinking about that with MindFlare or with Cloudflare about serving people from different regions and different backgrounds?

I can take this one. I guess like we want to, we have a lot of other ERGs at Cloudflare, and we definitely want to do collaborations with them.

So like we have AfroFlare, and they do like the Black History Month. And so we wanted to do like kind of like, is there any mental health awareness around that community?

And we want to kind of scale that out to different groups as well. I don't know if Kelly has anything else to add to that.

Yeah, I was going to mention that, too, like we have, you know, Parents ERG and just a bunch of other ERGs that could really, I mean, I don't think any ERG would benefit from mental health resources, but there's a few that sort of stand out.

And so partnerships there has been really exciting, and all of our ERGs are global.

So we, you know, have meetings that are good for our folks in the U.S.

and Europe, and also for folks who are in our Singapore office or over there in Asia and Australia.

So every ERG is global. So partnering with them and putting on our own events is a way to reach.

We have other, we have the MindFlare Ambassadors that kind of sit under like me and Kelly, in a sense, and like they're in the UK, and we're trying to get more people involved in Singapore.

So it's definitely on our mind to get more global. Actually, yeah, I'm glad that you brought up Singapore, Kevin.

I was kind of curious to hear from you.

And Lado, you have a global team, too. I'm curious to know, I think there are cultures where talking about mental health is a little bit easier, and it's more part of the conversation than other parts of the world.

And sometimes I feel like could the pandemic be a catalyst to normalize that conversation in parts of the world?

I'm just curious if Lado, either from your team or Kevin and Kelly from MindFlare, if you've seen that kind of engagement in parts of the world that typically shy away from conversations around mental health.

Yeah, definitely. That's really the right way to look at this is this pandemic as an opportunity for us to be able to talk openly and encourage people who wouldn't normally be talking openly.

Yeah, our support team is completely global, 24-7. We have people in 15 different countries.

And yeah, I mean, some cultures do stigmatize talking about this more than others.

And so we as a team and as a company want to be there and be open and set an example that it's OK to talk about, that we have resources and we want to make sure that people know about them.

One thing I thought was really exciting a couple of weeks ago, this group here, we did our beer meeting, which is our kind of internal weekly all hands meeting at Cloudflare where different people present about products or services or ERGs.

And immediately after we talked about MindFlare for five minutes, the whole company, there were five, 10, 20 people reaching out to each one of us going, oh, my gosh, I'm so glad to hear about this.

I really want to join. I want to find out more about it. And so just getting that out there is so important that if you get a response within like five minutes of someone going, yes, this touches me, that means that it's really important.

And it's an ongoing thing. You got to kind of iteratively keep talking about it to make people more comfortable because everyone thinks about these issues.

So it's really just getting out and talking about them is really helpful. Yeah.

Sorry, just normalizing it as a company and having executives talk about it.

This being a thing that as a company we talk about is a really good strategy to make it easier for folks to bring it up or talk to their manager or reach out about.

And then we also at MindFlare and just as a company have a lot of resources, which we'll go into in a minute, but that you can just use on your own.

So if you're still nervous, if you still don't want to necessarily talk to someone, there are things that you can access without having to put yourself out there until you're hopefully sitting comfortable talking about it more.

Yeah, I actually do feel, sorry, Tony, I'm going to cut you off.

I do actually feel a responsibility as a leader to make sure that I am modeling what I want people to feel and do themselves.

And so, yeah, ironically or coincidentally, a week ahead of the time that we presented the All Hands, like I took a mental health day because I was just not able to get through the day.

And I let my boss know that I was taking a mental health day and I let my team know I was taking a mental health day.

Didn't try to pretend it was anything other than what it was.

And I feel like as a leader at a company, it's really important to do that.

I think that's a good point. I think it's important to say, I'm taking a mental health day.

Because a lot of times, especially me in the past, it's like I'm taking a sick day and not even just hiding away and not really saying that this is more of a mental issue.

I'm not really sick.

Same with me, Kevin. And so I wonder, is that the difference that COVID has made, that I now just call it for what it is?

Yeah, just think of that. Maybe we should make it a drop down and we have software to show your absences.

Maybe that should be one.

Maybe it is. Maybe that should be one of the options in the software we use.

All right, workday team. Are you listening, folks? We have work to ask of you.

Normalize it. Thanks for chiming in about all that, folks. Now, I wish I had started counting at the beginning with a little clicker or something like that.

We've probably heard the word MindFlare, I don't know, 25, 30, 40 times already.

What is MindFlare? Let's talk a little bit about our employee resource group.

So starting off with Kevin and anybody else who would be willing to contribute, what is MindFlare?

How did it start? And what's it all about? Essentially, MindFlare is the ERG at Cloudflare that I initially kicked off and then got some more help along the way with Kelly taking on a co-lead position.

But essentially, our goal or my goal is to just make mental health more normalized, like we've been talking about.

I'm a six foot seven giant, but people might not really know what's going on in between my ears.

I was very trained growing up to be like, don't let people inside, don't let people know what's actually happening.

So that was my goal is just normalize this and use this pain and suffering that I've gone through in my past and get some good out of it, essentially.

I don't know if Kelly had anything she wanted to add.

I mean, I didn't start it. I got to just come in when it was already started.

So Kevin started it and the start date got pushed up a little bit because COVID, it was so on everyone's minds.

So it started, it was great.

There were some resources. And then I think pretty quickly, there was a group of core people who were excited about it.

So we got our global ambassadors, our co-leads, different people who are coming to meet meetings, thinking about what we should do.

We did a few activities and some programming for mental health awareness month, a lot of things like that.

So yeah, I was very happy to see that Kevin had started it because I just think it was so timely and so important.

Thanks for stepping forward, Kelly. Oh, go ahead, Otto.

I was just going to introduce you anyway. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I was going to say, and for people external to Cloudflare, the employee resource groups, ERGs like MindFlare kind of naturally progressed to what are people interested in MindFlare?

And so mindfulness and meditation and having guest speakers come and talk and like Kevin and Kelly mentioned earlier, interfacing with the other teams like AfroFlare, NativeFlare, LatinFlare with the crossovers.

So they just kind of naturally expand to we need a weekly meditation group, or I know about mindfulness, but what can I do 10 minutes a day to be more mindful in my job and in my life?

And so it allows people to kind of come together and talk about those things.

And so it's really beautiful to see how it kind of organically grows like, yes, me too.

Me too. I'm interested in that. And so we're really looking forward to continue to expand it.

So again, like I said, the meeting a couple of weeks ago was really exciting to get people standing up and wanting to get involved.

Yeah. Looking forward, I would love to get some mental health experts on a regular basis to come and talk to us about different topics, what things are going on.

The pandemic's been going on for, I don't even know anymore, 18 months.

So people must be doing studies and learning about how to deal with it better and have tips and tricks for us.

And I know we've talked about this a bunch of different things we can do personally, but it'd be good to bring in people from other groups.

We've done that with other ERGs where we'll meet with other tech companies or other non -tech companies and kind of interface with them and share ideas and get together.

So it's exciting to think about expanding this.

Definitely. Yeah. Thanks. So Otto, you're the executive advocate for this group.

Janet, you're the executive advocate for every single ERG in a way.

What is executive advocacy for employee race groups and how are you folks involved?

I can say real quickly. Yeah. I think it's just like I think Kelly mentioned, it's really important for someone like me to be standing up and saying that this is an important thing.

And it's not a group of employees who decided to do this and they're not sponsored by the company.

We are. And we think it's as important as anything else that we're doing to have people stand up and talk about their interests and support those things.

So to have a diverse company where there's lots of different types of people interacting and feeling comfortable you know, putting in their opinion and talking about what's important makes a better company, makes better employees, makes everyone happier.

So it's important for me to get involved, for Janet, for all of us to get involved so that it's acceptable as opposed to something where I had an idea, we did something for a month and then it kind of petered out and it wasn't celebrated.

So I'm really happy to be here and I'm really amazed and excited at all the ERGs that we have at Cloudflare.

You probably know how many, it's supposed to be dozens.

And it's really fantastic. I mean, I've never been at a company like this that really celebrates everyone's diversity.

Yeah. I don't know what you think, Janet.

Yeah. I think the other fact, the point that you brought up there at the end about we want this to be sustainable, right?

We do want this to endure over time, I think is a really critical part of it.

And then I think the other thing for me as a people leader is you really, I think, have a responsibility to listen to voices from groups that are marginalized or underrepresented in tech.

And you really have to be deliberate about that. Because if you think about it, if you are just waiting for like the majority of the voices or what you're hearing in the general employee survey or whatever, the voices from underrepresented groups are going to be drowned out because they're by definition underrepresented.

And so I just have a hypothesis and believe deeply that if you make the workplace better for employees from marginalized groups or groups that are underrepresented, you're going to make work life better for everybody.

And as a people leader, I feel a big responsibility to make sure that I'm close to those voices and hearing those voices.

Because if you don't make the effort, they're just going to get drowned out.

And I don't think that's going to make for a good workplace for anybody.

Yeah. And as a people manager, I think it's the most important part of my job.

I do lots of things throughout the day. But our team, Kevin and I have 130 people on our support team globally.

And taking care of them is the most important thing.

I'm not going to be able to make customers happy if our customer support team is not happy.

And I'm not going to have a happy customer support team if I treat them all the same and they're all cogs in a machine.

They're not. They're amazingly different people from 25 different countries with very different skills and attitudes.

And it's really amazing. And when you listen to them and take ideas from them and collaborate, it's a much, much stronger team.

To talk specifically about support, it's a hard job. And we've reached the point where Cloudflare is so complex, nobody can know anything.

So you can't have that hero who is on a pedestal who can solve all the problems.

And we all know that.

We all need each other. And so we're constantly talking in Zoom all day long.

We're helping each other. We're asking questions. And you have to feel vulnerable.

You have to feel comfortable doing that. You have to be empathetic. And that's what I try and encourage on our team.

And the more they feel that, the more comfortable they are supporting each other, the less anxious hopefully they are.

It's like, I've got to solve this customer problem by myself or else I'm going to get fired.

It's not the way we talk about things at all. We're a big team of people.

These are hard problems. I'm here to help. If I can't find the answer, I'm going to go ask Kevin and he's going to ask somebody else to find the answer.

And the more you can encourage that dependency, that collaboration between each other, that understanding, the better.

And it's really beautiful to watch when we have people from all different countries, all different cultures, like sitting in a Zoom and going, I've got this customer.

Can you help me? And they go, yes, hand it over to me and I'll help you.

And it's supporting the support team. Yeah.

This is a great discussion so far. Thank you so much, everyone, for contributing so much.

Let's talk about isolation and ways to counter isolation. Kelly, would you mind speaking about some ways that we're starting to do that?

Yeah. I mean, I think at the beginning of the pandemic, there wasn't really much of an option.

We all kind of had to stay inside and there were virtual events and things like that.

But as things in many countries are getting a little easier, people are getting vaccinated, we're able to go out a little bit more and we're starting to see how detrimental isolation can be.

Kevin was mentioning how hard it was for him to be, I mean, I think I would venture to say everyone, it's been hard to some degree to be isolated and stuck inside your house or apartment.

And a lot of people are, you know, we're in big cities.

A lot of people are alone in a small apartment and being that isolated just is so hard for your mental health.

So we have a lot different opportunities that we've been promoting inside Cloudflare for getting to connect with your other employees, your friends at work in a way that's not just how are we working together at a team meeting.

One of the big ones, which we've sort of talked about already, is our ERGs, our employee resource groups.

We have a ton of them. They all do a lot of really great events, whether it's weekly or monthly meetings or, you know, different sort of cultural events that come as certain, you know, heritage months or things start.

But we're also doing more in-person things. You were just talking about this week, Prideflare is doing an in-person gathering in San Francisco, which is so exciting.

So there's so many ERGs, there's bound to be something that's interesting to most people.

So we really encourage people to take advantage of the ERG events.

And then we started doing something over the summer called summer socials, where different executives in offices would lead all sorts of different events.

They were all outdoors, and it was a pretty sort of safe way for people to sometimes meet team members they'd never met, or sometimes people started and hadn't met anyone.

Yeah, new hires were able to meet people for the first time, which was really exciting.

And we're going to continue those.

It won't be summer, obviously, but we're going to continue having those socials where possible.

There was just such good feedback. I went to a few myself, it was really fun.

So doing things like that, just encouraging employees to meet new people at their company, and just to get out and connect with people is a really great way.

And then we've had our MindFlare meetings. Initially, it was sort of planning and what we should do, and we sort of repurpose them just to connection spaces, where folks can come, ask questions, but chat and just have a semi -structured place where they can get to know people and hear about resources if they're interested in that.

Then we do have a variety of clubs at Klaffler. We have Book Club, which I easily say it's the best, even though I'm very biased, and just a bunch of other employee-led clubs where people just gather together, I think usually still on Zoom, but it could be in person if folks are able to make that happen and talk about something they're interested in or do an activity together.

So just taking and making those options available to people and then people making sure to take advantage of them, I think is just so helpful to combating isolation and making sure they're connecting, because we're humans.

We're wired for connection. We've got to have it.

So we're really excited to have those opportunities open to folks.

Thanks. And next question's for Janet. What other resources do we provide to employees?

Janet, could you kick off that discussion? Feel free to contribute, everyone, of course.

Yeah, yeah. I'll get us started. So we have an employee assistance program that can connect folks to help.

We've been a happy customer of Ginger, which does more kind of coaching and the bridge between the moment that you're in now and going to a psychologist or a therapist.

And so that's been a really great resource for us as well.

And I think Kelly's, the summer socials ended up being a bit of a surprising benefit because it had been so long since we saw each other in person.

And a lot of new hires that had never met a co-worker in real life.

And I love how much we've heard the word connection. You're kind of counting the number of times we've heard MindFlare.

I think that connection is really important.

Because virtually, I think we do a good job. And I think a lot of places do.

The connection to your direct team, connection to your cross -functional partners, folks you rely on to get your job done.

But establishing connections beyond those groups are super important.

And I think that's a big role that MindFlare and the other ERGs have played, especially through the pandemic, is just being able to be yet another way that people can connect and find like -minded people across the company who you wouldn't come in contact with because they're not part of your kind of daily work life.

Being able to support that has been really important as well.

And we also on the MindFlare side, we have a bunch of resources people can engage with.

Some just like recorded guided meditations or some meditation apps that we recommend that folks can just engage with whenever they want and use whenever they want.

So it's a really low barrier to entry way for people.

Just sharing like YouTube kind of clips as well or just anything around the pandemic and how to calm some of our anxieties, I guess.

I think a big part, and I think Janet mentioned this earlier, was just like a lot of misinformation.

Like how do you make sense of what's going on even?

So we're trying to just share resources around that as well on our wiki space.

That is one of the things too, yeah, that MindFlare has just done an extraordinary job is obviously the group meditations and the workshops and the kind of in-person or virtual events that are available, but also just a lot of like just-in-time content when someone just needs to learn more or needs to reach out to someone.

That MindFlare is out there and available for folks who feel like, okay, they've experienced what I'm feeling right now.

Yeah, with MindFlare, I've and just socially isolating for so long.

I see it in a bunch of people where it takes a little bit of practice to get back into socializing people and that involves talking and remembering how social interactions work.

And so that's really useful.

And you can see people kind of light up and the summer socials were amazing.

And I saw that multiple times where people would just light up and start gushing and let me tell you about this and I need to tell someone about this and it's really cool to see to kind of be there for each other.

Yeah. Definitely. We're down to about two minutes left.

In the last two minutes, let's just each take 20 seconds if we could and say one tip that we engage and that we use to maintain our mental wellness.

I'll just start with a cup of chamomile tea before bed and also comfortable bedding to get a good night's sleep.

Let's go Kevin, Kelly, Janet, Otto, please.

I've been getting out for walks more and just kind of I write my thoughts down on paper.

Getting them out of my head is probably like helped quite a bit. Just distancing yourself from thought helps a lot, I think.

Yeah, I think just getting a little bit more use of habits around some of these things.

So anything that makes you feel better, do it for two minutes every day.

And then that consistency will just help because instead of getting grandiose about what you need to do.

So just anything that makes you feel better, do it for two minutes.

I love that, Kelly. Thank you.

I get up early. I'm a morning person. So to have quiet time in the morning alone with my cup of coffee before my three children get up and start the rush to school madness definitely brings me peace.

And like Kevin, I'm trying to just get out away from the computer a little bit during the day, even if it's just for a walk around the block.

I'm really trying to prioritize that. Yeah, I'll second what Janet said and what everyone else said.

Music is one thing. I will look up and I'll notice I've been typing away and it's completely quiet for like hours and hours.

And then you definitely feel a little isolated. And I put on some music and go, I love all types of music.

And so as soon as I do it, I'm like, why wasn't I doing this all day long?

And then also getting out of the house and walking on the block or riding a bike and getting some exercise.

And you forget, everybody knows it.

But once you do it for 20 minutes, you go, oh, I get those endorphins flowing or however it works.

And you start feeling a little more normal.

So music and get a little exercise. Definitely. Perfect. Thank you for all the tips and tricks, everyone.

Thank you for contributing to this conversation.

And thank you so much for all forming MindFlare, creating a better experience for all employees too, and supporting mental health at this company.

We'll all keep up the good work.

It sounds like we already have some action items too.

And I'm going to start listening to more music. Thank you for attending and listening, everyone.