How Verizon Media’s CEO, Guru Gowrappan Is Making Mental Health Both an Internal and an External Priority

Guru headshot

As a global leader in media and communications with brands like Yahoo, HuffPost and TechCrunch, Verizon Media transforms how people stay informed and entertained, communicate and transact. In recent years the company has shown its commitment to raising awareness about mental health both internally, through supporting its own staff, and externally through its content and charitable donations. Support for this agenda has come right from the top with Verizon Media’s CEO, Guru Gowrappan, being a vocal advocate of the company’s commitment.

Internal Commitment

The company has recognised the importance of building an organisational culture that celebrates and supports diversity and inclusion amongst its workforce. In 2016 Verizon Media created its first Employee Resource Group (ERG) for staff with mental health or neurodiverse experiences as a place where employees could connect with and support one another. The ERG has since grown to support 250 staff across 26 chapters.

Since then, under Gowrappan’s leadership, the company has gone on to explore a variety of other mental health programmes and activities including expert panels for World Suicide Prevention Day, a fireside chat with employees, storytelling of personal experiences by employees.

External Commitment

Externally Verizon has not shied away from addressing mental health as a significant social topic, and they’ve been especially vocal since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis earlier this year. In April this year Verizon Media announced the launch of Yahoo Life, a site dedicated to providing wellbeing education, news and resources to readers. The content ranges from mental health to fitness to parenting, as well as tips from experts on how to stay healthy mentally, physically and emotionally.

And in May 2020 Verizon launched an event series, on Yahoo, called ‘Reset Your Mindset’. Through personal stories shared by public thought leaders, the 2-day event addressed how holistic wellness can transform our experience in many facets of life and the crucial tie between physical and mental health.

“The issue of mental health and wellness has never been more urgent,” said Verizon Media CEO, Gowrappan about the event series.

“Whether you are a parent, an employee, an athlete or a business leader, everyone is dealing with similar issues on mental, emotional and physical wellness. We are all in this together. Verizon Media is in a unique position to leverage our platform to connect all of those conversations, share good practices and facilitate insights from some of the leading influencers across business and entertainment.”

Other ways the media giant has shown their commitment to supporting the health of the global community at large is through launching external partnerships with organisations like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and through a recent donation of $10 million in advertising inventory to support mental and public health response efforts, to raise awareness and mobilize resources to address COVID-19.

Ongoing Leadership Commitment

We know that in order to create and sustain a mentally healthy workplace, senior leadership must be authentically committed to embedding support across an organisation. To ensure that his senior leadership team was equipped with strategies to support the mental wellbeing of their teams, at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020 Guru Gowrappan held an executive-level training session. Led by Mind Share Partners, the session included such topics as:

  • Understanding mental health and its impact in the workplace
  • The unique role of leaders in catalyzing and sustaining a culture for mental health across the organisation
  • Activities to define initial goals and create a shared commitment for leaders to implement moving forward

Gowrappan said after the session on Twitter,

“In hindsight, the training came at a crucial moment—before life as we know it was transformed by #COVID19. Supporting yourself, your teams, your friends, and your family is essential for all of us to get through this together.”

On COVID-19 & Learning From One Another

When asked about supporting the mental health of Verizon Media employees over the past six months of the health pandemic and about the importance of sharing this best practice, Guru Gowrappan told Make a Difference News,

“The mental health and wellbeing of Verizon Media’s workforce was already a priority for our organization prior to the arrival of COVID-19. Having support infrastructure in place pre-pandemic has made it easier for us to respond and adapt the care we’re offering our employees, but we still face unknowns and challenges. It’s more important than ever for leaders to share and learn from one another as we have no precedent to follow in these uncertain times.”

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As one of America’s most progressive CEO’s addressing the topic of mental health both internally and externally, we’re proud to announce that Guru Gowrappan will be part of a keynote panel at Make a Difference Summit US in association with Mind Share Partners.  Learn more about Verizon’s strategy to support staff mental health and wellbeing–as well as the stories of many other leading employers–by attending our digital US summit. It takes place on Thursday October 15th from 9.30-5.30pm EST.

Our sister digital events are also coming up: Workplace Wellbeing by Design UK which will take place September 14-18th; MAD World Summit UK, which will take place on October 8th and Make a Difference Summit Asia will take place November 11th.



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