The last year has been tough for so many reasons: social isolation, uncertainty, grief, fear and confinement to name just a few.
But one positive from the pandemic is the growing conversation around mental health. It’s becoming widely recognised that we all have mental health and that we need to look after it, just like our physical health.
We think this can be especially true for those working in the not-for-profit and campaigning sectors. Every day we work on emotive causes and campaigns. We immerse ourselves in difficult and often traumatic issues.
At Forward Action, we have put in place a number of initiatives to promote mental wellbeing and normalise talking about it – here are our top eight tips on how to support your team.
1. Get some Headspace
It’s easy to get bogged down in your to-do list, emails, or Zoom schedule. Taking even three minutes to pause and reflect can make you more focussed and less frazzled.
Headspace is an app that makes meditation accessible – and there are hundreds of meditations on the platform to help with stress, self-esteem, sleep, and concentration.
Everyone at Forward Action gets their own Headspace subscription, and we have a weekly (optional) call where we do a ten minute guided meditation together. Everyone reports feeling more calm, centered and in control afterwards.
2. Create a mentor system
It’s important to have strong support networks for your team. We started a mentor system last year so that everyone has an additional support person, as well as their line manager and colleagues.
The time with your mentor can be used for whatever you want. For some, it’s completely work focussed; for others, it’s a mix of work and personal. The important thing is you have time set aside to talk about the issues that are affecting you in a safe, supportive environment.
3. Make a Wellness Action Plan
Wellness Action Plans are a way for you to support your own mental wellbeing at work, by considering potentially triggering situations and planning on how to cope with them.
There’s a section that invites you to consider potential warning signs that your mental health is deteriorating – for example changes in normal working patterns or withdrawing from colleagues.
It can be a helpful document for your line manager, mentor, or another colleague to know about so they can offer support in a way that’s helpful to you. Mind provides free Wellness Action Plans on their website.
4. Introduce Mental Health Days
Part of looking after your mental health is recognising the signs that things aren’t okay, and doing what you can to look after yourself.
We encourage team members to take mental health days – no questions asked – if they need one. Taking a day or two off at that point can be incredibly helpful for giving yourself some time and breathing space.
5. Understand your team’s work/life balance
Maintaining a good work/life balance is so important to wellness – that’s why we conduct a monthly work/life balance survey of the whole team to gather insights into how everyone feels about the previous month.
This allows us to measure month-to-month how the team is doing, and identify any patterns that indicate workload is getting in the way of people’s time outside of work. When we spot trends, we can rectify them – like by getting freelance capacity, or reprioritising work.
6. Make your hours truly flexible
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to the working day. Some people need strict start and finish times, while others prefer to have some leeway – some people work best in the morning, while others get going in the early evening.
We find the best approach is to have core hours that the team are encouraged to work if they can (10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm), but outside of that we give the team the flexibility to work when suits them.
7. Connect with socials and stand-ups
As a team that primarily works from home anyway, staying connected is something we have always had to work on. That’s why we have an active social calendar, and take it in turns to run events.
Socials could be a lunchtime chat, after-work games (Werewolf and Pictionary are team favourites), or even some more unconventional activities, like collaboratively drawing pictures using Google Drawings.
Alongside the “organised fun”, we also stay connected with a 15-20 minute check-in call for the whole team at the start of every day.
We spend most of the time answering an icebreaker question that the host comes up with. We must have done well over 1,000 of these by now – but discussing pet peeves or go-to karaoke songs is a fun way to start the day!
8. Dedicate time to talk about it
We want to encourage a working culture where talking about mental health is normalised and free of stigma.
That’s why we’ve started a monthly session for the team to come together and discuss mental health. We break into small groups and talk about our triggers and things we find helpful to cope. People can share as much or as little as they want, and team leaders can learn how best to support their teams.
We don’t think we’ve cracked the code on managing mental health in the workplace – but we’re committed to keep improving and learning. We’d love to hear what your organisation is doing, or if there’s an idea we’ve missed. Get in touch with us on Twitter or send us a note to email@example.com.
If you need immediate mental health support you can contact your GP, or any of these NHS-approved helplines.
Resources for Employers and Team Members: