Starbucks rolls out more mental health benefits for workers; workers have other suggestions

Illustration for article titled Starbucks rolls out more mental health benefits for workers; workers have other suggestions
Photo: Razvan (iStock)

It’s a new year—a new decade!—at Starbucks, and in order to get with the times, the coffee chain is not only rolling out a new series of drinks made with non-dairy milk but also mental health benefits for its workers, or “partners” in Starbucks corporatespeak.


In a press release on Monday, Starbucks proudly touted its mental health initiatives, which include online forums, partnerships with organizations to promote World Kindness Day and Veterans Day, and training sessions “tackling topics like loneliness, vulnerability, courage, and the power of small acts and conversation to strengthen human connection.” And now, as one of its employee benefits, it is offering free subscriptions to the meditation app Headspace.

Some partners are happy about this and told Twitter that they have already logged into Headspace. Others, however, think that Starbucks could be offering more practical help than a meditation app. Business Insider interviewed a few of them who explained that a lot of their mental stress comes from Starbucks itself, which has cut back on staffing hours, leaving them to work longer shifts with fewer people and with no increase in pay. More than 23,000 people have signed a petition called “Starbucks, Lack of Labor is Killing Morale.”

“Starbucks is a high stress job and from personal experience, it does affect your mental well being,” one said. Another added, “Many Starbucks workers are housing and food insecure and there have been recent petitions to get Starbucks to raise wages nationwide that have been ignored by the company. We didn’t ask for a meditation app, we want to be able to pay our rent.” A third said they suspected that the Headspace announcement was just a PR move to make Starbucks look good.

A Starbucks spokesman told Business Insider that managers and partners would be working together to create more manageable work schedules for everyone and that the company has responded to partners who raised concerns through official Starbucks channels.

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.



This is the trend everywhere: don’t pay your workers enough to pay their bills, much less allow them to buy food. Or offer a wage that is $1-2 more than the wages in your area, but cut hours so everyone is part-time and still has to struggle. My last employer paid terribly, but gave the store manager petty cash go to Walmart on a regular basis to stock the break room with cheap food. Problem is, all the manager would buy was junk. Hot Pockets, ramen, Pop Tarts, candy. The occasional bunch of bananas would show up, but if you weren’t there the day they were brought in, you were out of luck. We requested, as a staff, that more money be put toward bottled water and less toward junk food, only to be told they weren’t allowed to buy more than one case per month. It would be gone in a day.

Most of the staff were women in their 40s and up, and almost none of us could tolerate eating that junk more than once a week, not because we’re dieting, but because shitty food takes a toll on your energy levels and eventually, your health. They would rather ply employees with shiny, sugary things than give us the dignity of being able to go to a store and make our own choices like adults.

There were also lots of “contests” all the damn time that we had to pay attention to (that usually had nothing to do with the job), and the winner was always “rewarded” with a gift card - to our store, so the tiny bit of money laid out went right back into the company.

These companies are making billions, and they don’t give a rat’s ass that some employees were functionally homeless, living in cars or couch surfing, and they don’t care if we die. They’ll just hire another disposable person.