By David Ross

Launched in 2012 by former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, Headspace is the app credited with bringing mindfulness to the masses. 

The coronavirus pandemic has seen demand rocket for its range of products with a more than tenfold increase since March. The company has also shown its caring credentials by offering key workers, such as NHS staff free access to its services. 

Alice Nathoo, head of brand experiences and social impact at Headspace is one of the key speakers at this year’s Impact Summit online on May 20. This annual event, which brings together the brightest and most creative business minds from around the world to exchange ideas and offer advice, is normally held in Glasgow, but this year by necessity is being held online.

Here Alice outlines how Headspace is reacting to COVID-19 and why brands should be supporting those most in need in times such as these.

Q) How did you become involved with Headspace?
I first worked with Rich & Andy, the Headspace co-founders, in London over ten years ago. My background is in brand, content & digital marketing and I led a small team working with them on their first website. I turned them down for a job actually, but luckily for me they asked me again five years ago, and I’ve worked at Headspace here at the Santa Monica HQ ever since.  

Q) Has the pandemic resulted in a spike in demand for your range of sessions? If so, can you identify in which areas or even which demographic is seeking most help in these times?
Since mid-March, as news of the global health crisis steadily increased, we saw a tenfold increase in users starting our stressed meditation and a twelvefold increase in users starting our reframing anxiety at-home workout.

Q) What does your research tell you about the emotional state of the world at the moment?

Q) Is the current crisis the perfect opportunity for companies to take stock and put in place measures to support health and wellbeing?
I think this is certainly not a situation any of us would have wished for – but given it’s where we are, we can take it as an opportunity to do some reflection about what matters most on a personal level and on a company level. Caring for people’s mental health and wellbeing has always been part of Headspace’s DNA as a company, and we’re actually finding that many companies are moving in that direction. We offer Headspace for Work as an enterprise  solution for businesses, and after COVID, we saw a more than 400% increase in inbound requests from companies seeking support for their employees’ mental health after COVID-19 gained traction in mid-March. 
Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 54% of all lost work days in the UK from 2018-19.  

Q) The pandemic is likely to transform the way we work with many of us now working from home for the foreseeable future. How will this shape your thinking?
Since the world has collectively moved to a remote workforce seemingly overnight, I’ve just had to pivot to being flexible and carving out time to really walk the talk here by taking time to take care of my mind. It’s an incredibly challenging time. 
So I’ve had to reset expectations with myself about boundaries between work-life and home-life, especially as I’ve got kids at home and lines between work and leisure and child care have all blurred together. We will also see a completely different work environment moving forward.  

Q) It’s 10 years since Headspace launched and since then it has become the leading mindfulness app in the market. Where do you see the business at the end of this decade?
The market is interesting because it feels like the last five to six years have been all about “unbundling” in a sense that people wanted specific brands or products to be dedicated to a very specific purpose. Over the next five to 10 years, we expect to see more of a movement back to bundling – toward creating a holistic product and service. 
We think that mindfulness should encompass all areas of life, not just when one is sitting down to meditate. We need to meet people where they are – with mindfulness resources that they can access anytime, whether they’re at home, at work or wherever they might be. 
We want to create a global mindful living platform that can serve consumers, enterprises and healthcare systems with the tools they need to lead healthy and happy lives.

Q) Can you tell us about the free services Headspace is offering key workers during the pandemic?
It became obvious we should extend Headspace for free to those who risked their lives on a daily basis, for us.
We’ve made Headspace Plus free for all US nurses and healthcare providers working in a public health setting and also partnered with the NHS to provide all 1.2 million employees with free subscriptions as well.
Headspace for Educators is our flagship social impact program, offering free access to all K-12 teachers, administrators and supporting staff in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.  
And for business we’ve shared Headspace for Work tools and resources (previously made available only to clients and customers) including content, tips, and a tailored tool kit to help teams all over the world navigate the uncertainty and take care of their minds.

Q) What message will you be bringing to Impact Summit next week?
I’ll be discussing how mission-driven companies can authentically show up and support those who most need it in times of crisis. We’ll cover how Headspace has adjusted as a company in light of COVID-19 and also discuss how brands can balance business needs with purpose-driven social impact. 

To see the full schedule of Impact Summit keynotes and the  virtual exhibitor marketplace, go to