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Evolve Security's Focus on Employees' Mental Health

Spend a few minutes with Evolve Security’s Director of People Operations Sarah Thomas, and you’ll know that she definitely cares about “the human element of cybersecurity.” When she interviews job candidates for positions at Evolve and Evolve Academy, she often hears their concerns about burnout, lack of communication, and lack of recognition for the enormous amount of responsibility they have had in previous jobs. Here are some of her thoughts about the measures she has put in place to address mental health at our organization in consultation with Evolve’s leadership team.

Q: What’s the Difference Between “Human Resources” and “People Operations”?

The fact that we use the term “People Operations” for my department is pretty telling of the kind of culture that we are creating at Evolve. As a start-up, we are always working to make sure our employees understand that they are playing an active role in building a great company and appreciated for doing so!

When it comes to thinking about our people, I certainly consider them more than just as “resources.” They are complex, multi-faceted individuals who have a lot going on in their lives in addition to their work. That’s why you won’t find me using the term “work-life balance” because I just don’t think a perfect balance is something we can truly achieve for long. To keep the focus real and on our employees’ well-being, I prefer thinking about “work-life symbiosis” instead.

Actively taking care of our client’s important cybersecurity needs, helping students create new careers and working to build a company is stressful work! That is why we’ve created policies and processes to ensure that our people can take time off and really disconnect. These guiding principles help integrate good mental health into our overall working environment.

Q: So how do you create “work-life symbiosis” at Evolve?

For starters, we’ve enacted a flexible time off policy. This is common in start-ups and tech. However, often employees feel that they are not able to use their time off because there is no one else to take over their responsibilities. They feel guilty leaving others to pick up the slack or feel like they must “pay” with extra work when they return.  

So, in addition to our unlimited, flexible PTO, we have created a robust holiday program in which the entire company closes for a week in the summer and another in winter, and we extended some holiday weekends from three to four days. Everyone plans to get their work done in advance and they know they are going to get time off without having to ask. This takes away the fear or guilt. Everyone is off at the same time, and no one feels bad about taking time for their personal lives and talking about it when they return!

We believe that really getting away from work is important for good mental health. In addition to the time off policies, we also offer an incentive of financial reimbursement for personal travel expenses once per year. I am confident that these policies are helping to enable work-life symbiosis and I really appreciate how Evolve’s leadership team has embraced these programs and set the example.

Q: In Cybersecurity there are a lot of emergencies. How do you deal with these situations when your employees are taking time away from work?

We have strong relationships with our clients so that our time out of the office is something that they have come to expect. But of course, there are times when work cannot stop. If our employees must work through our holiday closures, we encourage them to find other time to take off and ensure they are off at least 80 hours per year.  

The best way to help with mental health is to set expectations and manage performance. When our staff members are away from the office, we expect effective communication with out-of-office plans to identify who can make key decisions while they are gone.  

Q: What other “traditional” employee benefits help with your employees’ health and wellness?

We cover a portion of our employee health care benefits, and we have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for mental health, legal, or financial counseling. We also cover 100% of the premium for short and long-term disability. In addition to our Maternity and Paternity Leave plan, another unique benefit we offer is four weeks of Family Leave (two paid) for employees who may need to take time to care for a parent or other family member.

As for everyday flexibility, most employees have the option to work from home in consultation with their managers and other team members.

We also believe that planning for the future is important, so we encourage our employees to assess their professional growth annually, and we offer a continuing education stipend to help them achieve their goals.

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Thanks to Sarah for providing this overview of how Evolve is focused on employees’ overall well-being. If you are a cybersecurity professional who is ready to make a change, check out our Career options or get in touch. You may just be the next great member of the Evolve Security team.


Thanks to Eve Gutmann, freelance writer, for contributing to this blog.