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Masawa Minute 48

Will employers roll back mental wellness benefits? | Protect founders’ mental health | + More!

This is the Masawa Minute — mental wellness, social impact, and impact investing snippets from what we’ve read the last two weeks + where you can get active.

In this week’s newsletter, we return the focus on mental health in the workplace, touching upon the problems and opportunities for improvement. We hope you learn something new and have a good week!

Masawa Thoughts

We’ve recently seen an uptick in the number of startups looking to address workplace wellness + we’ve heard from a few corporate benefits people that they’re becoming overwhelmed with the options and service providers.

One thing is clear: many of the B2B startups miss the huge opportunity for systemic improvement by only offering bandaid solutions that don’t work on the root causes or help to enable the organization to truly transform. A mental health day or a week off doesn’t help much if you then go back to the same shitty work environment.

People are the most important asset in an organization, don’t forget it!


Good Nights, Better Days — Sleep’s Relationship to Mental Health

Sleep is essential for all of us, though many tend to disregard it. It often comes as a result of demanding jobs, lack of work-life balance, as well as stress, and leads to detrimental effects on our mental health. If you’d like to know more about how you could improve your sleep, quality of life and learn more about the precise relationship between sleep and mental health, tune into the pre-recorded webinar on November 9th with Dr. John Winkelman, MD, Ph.D. and start sleeping better.

What we’re reading…

🍓 Nektarios Liolios on founder mental health

We often talk about the prevalence of mental health challenges in the world of entrepreneurship, as well as the lack of attention this issue receives. This time, instead of us talking about it once again, we share a TwentyThirty interview with Nektarios Liolios — a dear friend of Masawa, the co-founder of The Future Farm, and a dedicated advocate for healthier entrepreneurship, among other things.

Mental health-related issues affect 72% of entrepreneurs, either directly or through their families. Entrepreneurs also are at higher risk of being diagnosed with various mental health disorders. We won’t be able to move away from the problem unless we address an important part of the equation that’s not talked about enough — the role that venture capitalists play in the wellbeing of entrepreneurs. That’s what Nektarios and The Future Farm are working towards by bringing people together, building relationships, and catalyzing systemic change in how entrepreneur wellness is understood and addressed.

Nektarios Liolios: “Mental health issues are prevalent in founders’ lives”

📱 Employers plan for reduction in mental health benefits

a black man with white hair sitting in front of a laptop, wearing headphones, laughing

While 89% of C-suite and HR leaders consider providing employees with mental health support to be important, 60% plan to return to their pre-pandemic mental health strategy soon. Jeris Stueland, expert associate partner at McKinsey & Co. believes, however, that rolling back on current resources doesn’t mean the companies are looking to take away mental health coverage in general. Instead, she thinks, they are trying to find a way to transition into a long-term plan that still meets employees’ needs and is more sustainable.

Despite rising costs, the return on investment in mental health resources remains to be high. The benefits include improvements in employee retention, morale, productivity, as well as reduced physical healthcare costs. Therefore, cutting investment in mental health is likely to result in pushing the costs elsewhere. Ongoing innovation in the mental health industry also helps to keep the costs down while improving accessibility. Next to that, during the pandemic the stigma surrounding mental health has significantly decreased — people are opening up about their mental wellbeing in ways they hadn’t before. These changes are creating a new normal that won’t disappear post-pandemic — and that can hopefully mean a better way forward for us all.

Mental health resources for employees may evaporate post-pandemic

💰 How to fundraise without sacrificing your mental health

In the first half of 2021, VC funding went up 95% — it’s been a great year in that regard. Unfortunately, financial success doesn’t result in a healthier ecosystem. If anything, the processes have become less diligent and a smaller number of companies are seeing a larger amount of funding, with “mega-rounds” becoming more common. And worst of all, these larger rounds, accompanied by bigger pressure and more responsibilities, are often paid for with the founders’ mental and physical health. How can founders prevent that from happening?

One of the most important pieces of advice is to pace yourself. Taking too much money too fast raises the bar very high and leaves you little time to get to a place where you need to be to justify the round and ensure the success of the next one. Instead, think about the company you want to build, the growth you want to achieve, and a realistic timeline — then go from there to figure out how much money you need to get there and hit the milestones along the way. Add another 20–30% to that number as a cushion and stick to raising exactly that amount. Read the article for more tips and remember — if you don’t tend to your mental health first, how the hell are you going to lead a successful company?

Founders, Don’t Let Fundraising Mess Up Your Mental Health. Here’s How.

🧘‍♂️ Small businesses struggle to catch up on workplace wellness

a mostly empty open-plan office with three people sitting at the table in the middle

Businesses and their teams don’t always agree on whether they have sufficient resources to support employee mental health — it turns out that small business leaders perceive the commitment to workplace wellness as bigger than their employers feel is the case. The research, led by Cigna + Oscar, revealed that 77% of respondents at the owner and decision-maker level stated their company cares about the mental wellbeing of employees, while 64% of workers actually felt that way. Moreover, only 53% of employees who identify as people of color thought that their mental health is considered in their workplace.

One way to create more equitable environments and safe spaces for bringing up mental health concerns is for leaders to start behaving in line with their stated values. Speaking openly about their own mental health, encouraging the team to take days off to tend to themselves, checking in with employees has a much higher potential for success in creating a safe atmosphere than just sharing a link to a website. Next to that, it’s important to remove cost barriers to offering the workers comprehensive health insurance plans that include mental health resources. While for small businesses it may feel like a lot, investing in a thriving team will be more than worth it in the end.

Workplace culture has made strides in mental-health support — but small businesses need to catch up, survey reveals

🍦Why employees don’t participate in wellbeing programs?

Speaking of workplace wellness programs, not everyone that has access to them actively uses them. In fact, only 23% of employees, out of 87% to whom such an option was provided, reported doing so. And this doesn’t only apply to mental wellness — physical and financial wellbeing programs see very similar rates of engagement. It’s important to understand why that is and apply some strategies that can help the teams make the most of the offered programs.

The number one step in improving participation is to be clear about what is offered and how people can benefit from it. Many employees are simply not aware of the wellbeing programs available to them as well as unsure about their own wellbeing needs. Other common barriers to utilizing wellbeing programs include stigma surrounding seeking help and apathy, as well as the time and effort required to participate. It’s clear that offering the programs isn’t enough — HR leaders must proactively address these obstacles in order to obtain the benefits of investing in employee wellbeing and see the company thrive.

How to Get Employees to (Actually) Participate in Well-Being Programs




Masawa is the world’s first mental wellness impact fund, committed to shifting the established paradigms of investment and mental health support. We invest in founders innovating mental wellness and work with them to maximize impact, organizational health, and financial returns.

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We are the mental wellness impact fund. We invest in companies innovating mental wellness and help them succeed through impact & organizational health support.

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