Startups are Now Pitching Mental Wellness Like a Perk

WRITTEN BY Aimee Groth

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Startup life isn’t for the faint of heart. In venture capitalist Paul Graham’s 2009 blog post, “What startups are really like,” his 19-point checklist includes: startups take over your life, you get no respect, it’s an emotional roller coaster, among other warnings. Sequoia Capital partner Jess Lee once observed that startup founders are always unhappy, for similar reasons.

While those cautions are directed at founders, working for a startup requires its own commitment to the lifestyle—which can take a real toll on one’s well-being. To attract talent, early-stage startups are now differentiating themselves by highlighting mental-wellness as a perk.

Located on South Street in downtown Boston, fashion tech startup Ministry of Supply (aka Ministry) provides the classic offerings of a venture-funded startup: free artisan coffee, a well-stocked kitchen, ample space for commuter bicycles, and headquarters in a central part of a major city. The five-year-old startup also made “empathy” one of its core values, which it takes seriously.

“If we want to be the brand of clothing that you want to wear to work,” co-founder Aman Advani explained, “we should also be the place that you want to work—and are able to follow your passions, work in a non-toxic environment, and balance comfort and growth.”

To do that, the company has experimented with flexible scheduling, compromising with “work from home” Wednesday mornings, and giving an employee their blessing to work from Europe for a while.