Aaliyah Asadi, a Senior Team Lead of Internal Content, first wanted to work for Squarespace because of the community support she saw there — through employee resource groups, benefits and the culture as a whole.
As “someone who exists in an intersectional space,” Asadi says she’s always considered it of utmost importance to ensure she and those around her don’t have to compartmentalize who they are or be afraid to advocate for themselves.
In her 10 months since joining Squarespace, against the backdrop of COVID-19 and civil unrest, having space for fellowship and activism at work has only become more imperative to her well-being. So, too, have company resources around mental and physical health.
Recently, she shared how she’s been taking care of her mental health, how Squarespace has supported her, and her best advice for womxn who are struggling mentally right now.
What is your role at Squarespace and how long have you been in your current role?
I’ve been a Senior Team Lead of Internal Content with Squarespace for 10 months.
What employee resource group(s) are you involved with?
As someone who exists in an intersectional space, I’m a member of several employee resource groups, including BASS (Black @ Squarespace), Queerspace-PDX, MINDS (Mental Inclusivity and Neurodiversity @ Squarespace) and Unity-At. Joining these groups has allowed me to find and offer support to impacted communities while nurturing the many aspects of who I am through fellowship and activism.
What inspired you to get involved with this group? What have you gained since joining?
Being in a place of intersectionality, I constantly seek to make space for my coworkers to bring their whole selves into the workplace. Having been required to compartmentalize who I am to fit into a world defined by others, I know how draining and difficult that can be. I’m invested in actions that minimize the risk of that happening to anyone else. Joining these ERGs helped me not only be true to who I am in the workplace, but it also allowed me to help others do the same.
I’ve always been proactive in my care for others. When I arrived at Squarespace and heard about the various ERGs, as a leader, I knew it would be a great opportunity to offer support and mentorship to marginalized groups. At Squarespace, an ERG’s goal is to create a safe environment for its members. I wanted to support that internally safe space and help expand it beyond the immediate group and into the greater Squarespace community. Members of our ERGs should feel welcome in all spaces, and it was important to me to help nurture that. Being a member of these organizations created an avenue to build that culture for others and, as a result, myself.
It’s been an especially challenging year for many people. What are some ways you have been taking care of your mental health both at work and outside of work?
To be honest, it’s been a challenge. This year has been really hard for so many reasons. But it starts with understanding the value of your mental health and making a commitment to prioritize it. Every day, I aim to show up and support my team and coworkers, but I can’t do that if I don’t show that same care for myself. I encourage my team to take action when they need support, take time off when they need it and advocate for themselves to create better balance. So, just as I do with them, I offer the same compassion and grace in my own space. I talk to my team openly about prioritizing mental health, I take time off work when I need it and I eliminate clutter in my workspace.
I’m blessed to have a very funny partner who also thinks I’m funny, so laughter has been a truly restorative energy in our home. We find ways to make each other laugh out loud while we work, cook, dance and play games. And on harder days when humor is hard to muster, we respect the weight of that and instead share our silence or voice our fears. Speaking about and owning our struggles has become a radical form of self-care, but it’s essential that we release that, either through listening, sharing or prayer. I also make time for solo things that center me and bring joy, such as reading, writing and art.
Physical well-being has also been incredibly important. In addition to choosing healthy foods and going hiking, I’ve invested in air purifiers, ergonomic equipment and a treadmill. Balancing mental exercises with physical actions has really helped me take a holistic approach to self-care. I’m incorporating more balancing self-care tactics such as yoga, meditation and journaling. Ultimately, I try to listen to my mind and body when monitoring and managing my mental health. When they ask for something, I make time for whatever that need is. And when all else fails, I put on a record and sing to the plants and the cat.
In addition to the ERG, does your company offer any events, programs, or benefits to support employees’ mental health? Any that you have participated in?
I’ve only been with the company for 10 months and most of that time was during quarantine. However, I’ve witnessed company-wide and small group actions towards mental health consistently. Even the office design is thoughtfully organized to maximize creativity while protecting the individual’s mental space. When we are able to work in-person, in each office, there are quiet spaces, focus rooms, music rooms and even a video game room in Portland to encourage employees to take mental breaks. The company further supports that with flexible time-off, employee assistance programs and mental health benefits.
Still, the care for employee mental health goes beyond buildings and benefits. Activities around mental health are a regular occurrence at Squarespace, ranging from training on mental health best practices to yoga classes. Since COVID, we’ve expanded that support to reduce emotional fatigue and encourage employee work-life balance through flexible schedules for caregivers, virtual self-care events, online activities for children and additional remote outings.
What is your advice for womxn who may be struggling with their mental health?
Navigating 2020 has been incredibly difficult for so many reasons. It’s improbable that anyone can witness all of the losses and struggles of this year while in a space of isolation and not be impacted. So I encourage womxn, and anyone else struggling with their mental health, to seek help, either through self-care or the support of a professional. I recommend everyone identify activities that nurture them, implement techniques designed to help ground them, or even just turn off the news and opt for cocktail hour over Zoom with friends. Walking and yoga are also great, no-equipment-needed mental health activities. But don’t get discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t help. Offer yourself grace to find what works for you. If you’re still struggling to find balance, leverage the employee assistance program (EAP) or a trusted person in your life. And remember, you’re not alone.
My years in leadership have taught me how critical it is to support and encourage the prioritization of mental health in others. I’ve witnessed the impact mental health can have on all aspects of the individual’s life. And I know it is essential that you proactively take steps to support yourself, including seeking help from friends, peers, leaders or trusted professionals. We all have a duty to check-in with ourselves, care for ourselves and put our health first.
Without your health, including mental health, everything else falters. Removing the stigma and shame associated with mental health through advocacy is key to my role in leadership, and my role as a member of this community. One-in-five Americans are impacted by mental health issues. You are not alone. You don’t have to figure it out on your own either. There are resources out there, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), that can help you find support. So I guess my advice to anyone struggling with mental health is to be your own advocate, unapologetically so.
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