Work-Life Balance

This Manager Found Work-Life Balance, Thanks to a Company That Prioritizes Its Employees' Mental Health

person wearing a black baseball cap and holding a dog
Tom McCabe, an engineering team manager at Squarespace.
| Courtesy of Squarespace

Growing up, Tom McCabe was sure of a few things: He loved making art (music, specifically) and his father’s career as a software engineer was less than appealing. But while he showed no interest in that career path, “it meant I was introduced to computers pretty early in my life,” he says.

In college, McCabe studied audio engineering, which combined his aptitude for technology with his passion for music. Upon graduating, “I went through jobs at a major recording studio, a publicity firm, and a booking agency,” he says. “Although I got to work for some of my heroes, none of these jobs made me happy for very long.”

During that time, he was supplementing his income with web development work, which he’d done for friends and employers for years. “I realized it was a creative outlet that I was actually good at. I could make stuff!” he says. He spent a few years doing music work during the day and by night, he upleveled his skills as a web developer. He worked on a variety of projects, but at the end of the day, Tom felt removed from the product decisions and desired more ownership.

So it’s no surprise that McCabe found a home at Squarespace, where he’s the engineering manager for the Web Performance team. “I’d always had my eye on the company because they were starting to become well-known around the same time I started building websites,” he says.

Here, McCabe shares how Squarespace supports the well-being of its employees, why he values his role within the employee resource group (ERG) focused on mental health, and his best advice for taking care of yourself.

What attracted you to work at Squarespace?

I’d heard great things about working there and how great the engineering culture was specifically. Plus, most friends and family with full-time businesses or side hustles used Squarespace. That connection was significant for me.

I had a full day of interviews and genuinely enjoyed the conversations I had. Everyone that interviewed me had been there multiple years (two are still here) and overall tenure seemed to be high. Our founder, Anthony, along with the rest of the senior leadership team, never had private offices. Instead, they each had a desk just like any other employee. Those two aspects spoke to me. There are plenty of places to work on good products and problems, but not a lot of places that have truly good culture. It was an easy decision at that point.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I manage an amazing team of engineers that focuses on the performance of our web-based products. Most of what I do is setting the team up for success, absorbing distractions, making connections internally and externally, and aligning our work with the larger goals of the company.

It’s been an extreme change for me as an introvert. I used to be able to wear headphones all day. And I’ve gone through at least a few phases of imposter syndrome. It’s put me out of my comfort zone almost every day since, but seeing each individual’s growth, setting goals together, and seeing them achieve those goals has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. I didn’t really want to give up coding, but now I feel like I have superpowers with an aggregate skill set that is greater than my own.

What are you working on right now that is exciting or inspiring you?

Everything my team works on gets me going. Right now, we are preparing for Google’s addition of performance factors to their SEO rankings this year.

I love the problem we’re trying to solve. It’s really difficult because everyone—from our designers to the customers building on our platform—has some hand in the performance of things that are built on Squarespace.

Our product is something that I really believe in, and helping millions of people who are trying to get their brand or business to the next level is a really unique opportunity that I feel lucky to have.

Tell us about the ERG focused around mental health that you’re involved in.

Mental Inclusivity and Neurodiversity at Squarespace (MINDS) is one of many ERGs at the company. It serves employees and allies with a connection to the neurodiverse community and/or an interest in mental wellness/health. MINDS has chapters across various regions that partner together on global initiatives. The work is employee-driven, but the company supports the ERGs through a dedicated budget and ample resources.

I was one of the original co-chairs of our NYC chapter of the MINDS ERG, which was started in December 2019 and had barely gotten off the ground when the pandemic hit. All of our original plans went right out of the window since they involved either being together in person or bringing outside people in.

Given the constraints, my co-chair and I jumped in first and gave others the confidence to say “this is me, too.” It’s a lot less stressful to be in the chorus than singing a solo. I have fewer reservations than many about being open about mental health. Still, it was a scary thing to do and I think it forced me to accept myself a little more, too. Everyone in the world kind of needed help and mental health got a cultural spotlight that it hasn’t had in the past. It’s one of the few silver linings I’ve taken away from 2020.

In 2021, we passed the torch to an enthusiastic member of the ERG to lead the group and we remain involved. As people start to be able to emerge and take stock of the mental and emotional damage we’ve endured, I expect we’ll be able to do a lot of good for our peers.

What other benefits does Squarespace offer employees that relate to mental health?

In addition to our stellar medical coverage, there are several services included with our benefits that support employees’ mental health such as the Headspace meditation app, Healthjoy benefits platform, Talkspace (online therapy), and, most recently, Ginger (on-demand mental healthcare). There’s also an Employee Assistance Program, which offers a wide variety of confidential assistance.

I’m impressed with Squarespace’s acknowledgement of mental health. I’ve never worked anywhere where people could have those conversations openly, much less having formal programs in place to support mental health. I feel like I can be unashamed of who I am and that goes a long way.

How did Squarespace support the well-being of its employees during the pandemic?

The support from the company and our executive leadership has been great. I don’t envy the folks who had to put plans in place to get all of us working remotely almost overnight, but they did an admirable job with an impossible situation. I don’t think many of us really skipped a beat after the first couple of weeks out of the office.

We’ve been constantly encouraged to take time off for ourselves. Family and personal life has been prioritized all year—whether it’s rest, parenting, caretaking, or getting tested and vaccinated. I haven’t heard of anyone who has not been urged to make these things their top priority.

There’s also been some refreshing openness from leadership. We have a director who has sent out very honest and vulnerable emails about once a month over the past year. For me, hearing that people one, two, and three levels up from you may be dealing with many of the same stresses made it feel like we weren’t all so far away from each other. It feels like a bunch of people, not digital pods, avatars, or titles.

One big thing that has kept me at Squarespace is the quality of people I get to work with. That really came through huge in the past year.

What impact does Squarespace’s support of employee mental health have on your work?

I’m naturally a workaholic, but I’ve been actively learning how to balance both parts of my life a little better. Being a workaholic is a very hard habit to break, but it’s become clear to me over the past few years how unhealthy it is for me.

My roles at digital agencies prior to Squarespace implicitly required this kind of lifestyle. Thinking through my list of projects, they all had lots of late and sleepless nights to hit deadlines and lots of days where I was holding it together with the thinnest of threads. From my first day here, I’ve felt that getting things right and carrying out a healthy work-life balance were more important to the company than how fast something could ship.

What advice do you have for others on taking care of themselves?

Just do it. No one can take care of you for you. I’ve certainly learned that the hard way. They can want you to, encourage you to, support you in doing it, but you need to make self-care your own priority.

I spent many years pushing myself to the limit mentally (and physically) in order to get ahead. In my past six years at Squarespace, I’ve never been asked to do that. It’s made me question whether that actually produced better results in the end. How much can you really get done when your tank is empty? What’s the relative quality of your work?

Someone once told me that the best way to be indispensable is to be someone other people want to work with. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how does it affect how you interact with others and how much they’d like to interact with you? This holds true outside of an office and applies to personal relationships as well.

Taking care of yourself can mean a lot of things: talking to someone, managing physical well-being, getting away, laughing, even putting on a outfit you feel great in (one of my favorite mood boosters). Start finding what that is, today. If you’re at your best inside, you’ll be at your best on the outside. It’s definitely something you have to put effort into, all the time, but you’re worth it. Put your energy into making yourself happy.

Updated 9/29/2021