Supporting Mental Health at Work – Are We Doing Enough?

This week’s blog comes from Intellek HQ as Lisa Tucker talks about supporting Mental Health at work and asks: Are we doing enough?

October 4-10, 2020 was Mental Illness Awareness Week in America and so it felt appropriate to pause for a moment to consider everything we currently do as a UK company to support our employees in Britain and the US.  Intellek has always promoted an ethos of understanding and actively encourages its team to share mental health issues so that needs or anxieties may be taken into consideration. After all, robots we are not!  Rather worryingly a recent UK study found that around 50% of working days lost in worker absence were attributed to mental health.

As the working landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, this year we took the bold step of changing to permanent remote working and having taken the plunge, it has become increasingly important to look out for the wellbeing of our team members. Half of our employees live stateside, the other half in the UK and soon one of our co-workers and his family will be returning to live and work in Spain whilst continuing to work for Intellek.  Something that previously would not have been possible had we continued to insist on attendance at an office space in person.

Without that single bricks and mortar base to interact on a personal level we knew that it was going to be more challenging. Yes, ‘We have the technology!’ (as the makers of the Bionic Man would say!) to facilitate communication and we all know we can reach out to each other for help, but in reality, how many of us would make the conscious effort required to message or call a colleague if we were struggling emotionally or mentally or just needed to vent?  Such situations would just happen organically in the office, kitchen, or staff room. My guess is ‘not many’ … A mere slump of the shoulders, a droop in posture or general demeanour would normally elicit an inquiry of ‘Are you OK?’ from a colleague – well that just won’t be happening in the same way anymore!!

As well as supporting our fabulous CEO, Claire in my capacity as Personal Assistant, I am also a Complementary Therapist, meaning I work holistically to care for the health and wellbeing of my clients using massage, aromatherapy, and reflexology techniques.  And so, it was natural for me to take a harder look at whether we are doing enough as a company to support our employees ……

As a round-up, here are a few samples of some of our recent initiatives: –

Flexible-working – You will not find two Intellek employees working the same schedules and not just because they work in different time zones. Remote-working inevitably means that individuals are ‘up close and personal’ with their home life, which may involve caring for partners, home-schooling, noisy toddlers or shielding a vulnerable member of the family during this nutty time.  Or indeed, the total opposite may be true – you may be at home working alone and then isolation kicks in as opposed to dealing with distractions. Understanding the varying environments and difficulties your team faces is paramount and so to offer a flexible working pattern means they can work around these and focus work time in a more effective way.

The Buddy Scheme – As covered in previous blogs, onboarding remotely can be facilitated with technology, for example, by using Intellek’s Create and Deliver to provide HR documentation and training directly to the new hire, but in terms of human interaction what have we done?  The implementation of our Buddy Scheme means that any new employee is paired up with someone from outside their department to provide regular contact that is not directly related to their role or work and provides the opportunities for support and friendship from within the wider company. Regular phone calls and a friendly chat encourages friendships that might not otherwise be easy to forge.

The WIFLE – All our meetings start out with a WIFLE (what I feel like expressing) around the ‘virtual table’. This is generally not work-related and gives a sense of how each individual is currently feeling.

Cyber-Lunches – Following a survey completed by our team around working from home, the main concern raised was the lack of opportunity to interact socially and so the bi-monthly cyber-lunch was launched for anyone who wanted to join in. A range of topics/games are put forward to provide a focal point but with the reality that once started, the chat would take on a life of its own.

Other initiatives – Include increased emphasis on using our peer recognition platform Motivosity to give each other a virtual pat on the back. Homeworking checklists are carried out to ensure everyone has all they need to optimise their workstations and operate within health and safety guidelines. We perform regular surveys to measure engagement and wellbeing in addition to assessing training requirements via the Engagement Multiplier’s Benchmark Survey platform.

So, on Reflection …. I concluded that we do a heck of a lot …. but also, that we can always do more!  Our next steps will be to circulate a quarterly internal wellbeing blog from yours truly, homing in on the small things that can be done to improve mental health.  This will be jam-packed with tips for reducing stress and low mood; for fending off those winter blues and bugs with the help of essential oils and other complementary therapies. It will offer ways to practise mindfulness during the working day (which time out, by the way, will sharpen your focus for the day head) and maybe some ‘deskercise’ exercises as well as other small ways to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of Team Intellek!  Coronavirus …. You’d better watch out!!

Stay safe and stay healthy.