Equinix Global Head of Wellbeing Benefits Excellence

Bekki Early loves her job. As Global Wellness Program Manager for Equinix, a platform that provides digital infrastructure for internet platforms like YouTube and Facebook, she lives, breathes and shares the benefits of wellness and self-care. each day.

“I care about this so much. I like to tell people that I found my dream job at 35,” says Early. “I was reading the books and pushing my friends and my partner about all these health and wellness issues, and now I have a willing audience – and more than that, people who appreciate it.”

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Early started at Equinix as a social media and employer brand program manager, and has since transitioned into HR, leading their wellness benefits. Throughout the pandemic, Early introduced a number of programs that helped employees prioritize their physical and mental health, and his efforts produced a sea change in the culture of the organization.

“This is a global company and it felt like the pretense and the walls were coming down [during COVID]”, she says. “We are on a mission to create a workplace where employees feel safe, they belong and they matter.”

Early shared how she revamped the company’s wellness programs, boosted engagement in their EAP, and turned to her own employees to champion the benefits of a healthy workplace.

You didn’t start in HR when you joined Equinix, and now you’re spearheading their health and wellness efforts. What was this evolution for you?
I fell into talent acquisition after spending five years abroad traveling and teaching English. I have lived in the Czech Republic, Spain, China, Japan, Korea and Israel. I became very good at understanding people’s nuances and reading between the lines. Also, wellness is just one of my personal passions – I’m a marathon runner and love athletics, sport and health, so when I saw this space I knew I could make a dent.

I joined Equinix in 2014 and at the time we had 3,000 employees. Our VP of Talent wanted to quadruple the size of the company over the next few years. So while I was trying to get people to come, I was like, “What are we doing for welfare?” And it was literally nothing. I started listening to the whispers of a few people who were doing things related to wellness, committees that were formed of employees who also recognized that we did not have a wellness program. And in 2017, the chief of staff created a part-time position related to community impact, and I led that pillar of wellbeing. In 2021, this became a full-time role.

This transition coincided with the pandemic. How have you helped employees prioritize their well-being during this time?
Honestly, it felt like a 180 because the programs we had in place weren’t serving our population of employees in the new pandemic normal. All in-person stuff has been shut down. People weren’t taking time for their well-being – their days were getting longer and they were more consecutive meetings.

So we flexed and tried something new, which was our wellness breaks. These are 15-minute micro-breaks to take the time to take care of yourself. Mindfulness Mondays, Transformation Tuesdays, a movement break on Wednesdays. We did a group gratitude practice called Gratitude Thursdays. Foodie Fridays were really about nutrition and family meal planning. We did these mini-breaks four times a day, so whenever you could attend, it gave them a network and inspired them to connect with our offerings. We’re two and a half years in, and people are like, don’t take that away.

People were sharing really personal experiences in these groups – how did that change the culture at Equinix?
I’m on a mission to make business more human. And for me, it was like, it was gone. People show up, they cry. People bring their whole being to work. We’re creating these coral reefs where people know it’s a safe space to go. We have team members all over the world expanding this reef and making it bigger and bigger and promoting it so all the fish know about it.

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You’ve revamped employee participation in your EAP provided by Virgin Pulse, which serves your global workforce. How did you highlight these benefits?
How to make an EAP cool? I started doing kind of a road trip, visiting teams that had raised a red flag about their people not doing well, and promoting the program there. I shared, here’s everything it does, and here’s what I’ve personally used it for. I have a strained relationship with an extended family member. I used it for that. We moved, I had to find daycare for my daughter, we needed a tax specialist for a living will and a trust. So I just clarified that whenever you have a problem that’s too big for you to solve on your own, the next step should call EAP because they will have a resource. Immediately after that, we saw participation in the program skyrocket to the point that we are now 17% above average business volume.

When working with such a large workforce, do you ever get overwhelmed by the number of needs your programs need to meet?
The Global EAP is amazing because it’s customized to provide local resources. We have a culture of expression and escalation at Equinix – I’m constantly on the mic to say, if the benefits don’t meet your needs, please speak up – and we also have a network of champions with a local well to be in each of our global communities.

As a leader, how do you take care of yourself and lead by example when it comes to prioritizing wellness in your own life?
I have a number of rituals and personal practices – I make sure I get the amount of sleep I need. I have a gratitude journal and a five-year review. I drink a lot of water. I have fitness trackers. I do all things. And then I model this behavior to others — people see me working during working hours. I support people who take their PTO and I do the same for me. If you follow or watch Bekki Early, she lives this through and through. If you see me working during a lunch hour, please call me!

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Richard V. Johnson