Staying stable in a crazy world

Maintaining a focus on wellbeing during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond

Happy Friday everyone!


Another week done. Another one wondering ‘how long will this go on? Can I survive another week of this crazy imbalance?’ and hopefully a little bit of ‘we’ve got this – we know what we’re doing now, and I might even like it…’

Now more than ever, we are focussed on how we create balance to ensure our homes stay as just that, and not just an office that we go to sleep in at the end of the day.

People alway talk about ‘balance’ in life. Work/life balance. Balanced diet. % of your day of screen time. Don’t over exercise. Lols. Never worried about the last one… but you get the gist. Now more than ever, we are focussed on how we create balance to ensure our homes stay as just that, and not just an office that we go to sleep in at the end of the day. 

Mental Health Awareness Week brings all this to the fore, and it seems like a perfectly placed week this year. 2020 theme is ‘kindness’, something that was discussed in great detail back in February when the death of Caroline Flack hit the news. Hard to believe that was just 14 weeks ago. But the nation united with the idea that we should stop judging people, stop making assumptions, to just be more understanding and that maybe, just maybe, we get more gratification behind making people smile, doing good things for one another and that acts of kindness boost your morale, and others around you. 

We’ve seen this in flurries over recent weeks as the state of the nation has encouraged us to do good things for others – food shops for vulnerable family members, checking in on neighbours, making masks and food parcels for those who need them, clapping outside our homes every week and going above and beyond for people with lockdown birthdays or who are struggling now more than ever. No wonder this theme has carried on into MHAW 2020 as, in the words of Mark Rowland, Chief Exec of MHAW states,kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity’.

Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity

Here at 383, we are committed to the mental and physical health of our team and to ensure we look after each other. This week empowers people to talk about things they may normally be uncomfortable with, encourages people to reach out and be open about things that make them happy or sad, and give a set focus on an issue so important to so many people.

I believe that we would do this for our 383 family members outside of a diarised week in May, but we are sure to be part of MHAW each year as a commitment to the importance of being there for one another. In previous years we have had visits and advice from counselors and psychotherapists, taken walks together as a whole company, got our green fingers at the ready with gardening, spent lunch hours doing arts and crafts in our den and other such activities. These weeks usually culminate in a visit from an ice-cream van because, let’s be honest who isn’t happy when devouring a 99 Flake with extra sauce?! 

Outside of our designated week, we take mental health and wellbeing very seriously at Leadership level at 383, with it also featuring in our scorecard of business health. The topic features in our weekly Leadership meetings, and we even took it on as a company quarterly rock to ensure we were doing everything we could for our people, and adding more to the wellbeing measures we already had in place. 

I was happy to take on the task of being confident we were leading the way in the wellbeing of our team, and spoke to a variety of external parties to make sure we were not missing a trick. I was both frustrated and delighted by the general response of ‘you’re head and shoulders above the rest in what you do for your team. You don’t need to worry about adding to your arsenal – you cover all the areas we recommend already.’ This was great to hear. We were doing the right things. But how would I report back on all the wonderful new things we now supported off the back of the business rock? It then occurred to me I was asking the wrong people. The only audience I wanted to hear from to see if we were succeeding were our people. Those who actually benefited from our ‘perks’ or who thought we were off track. They’d be the first to tell me that by forcing team yoga or adding cushions to the sofas was not actually beneficial to anyone. 

So we utilised our internal feedback system and I asked people what they thought. The response was amazing – so many ideas on things people had seen elsewhere, areas we could look after the team more and a barrage of ‘you don’t need to do anything – 383 rock and is the most supportive company I’ve ever worked in!’ All good so far. 

It was interesting that the suggested additional requests were also split into 3 areas:

  1. We already offered these things, but people weren’t aware (maybe hidden in the depths of a handbook or onboarding pack)
  2. Nice idea, but we can’t do that right now. Some because of budgets or resources to manage the schemes, or because moving our offices to be next door to an individual’s house for commuting purposes didn’t seem to be the right thing to do for the good of everyone else!
  3. Actually, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it!

So we’ve communicated more, added to our benefits and ways of working to suit what our people need and what’s been asked of us. And we’re proud to have people constantly tell us that 383 clearly support mental health and wellbeing, that the things we have in place are well received, and that it’s clear this is a long-term initiative, not just a burst of activity at any given point in time.  

So what are some of the things we do?

Simple things really. The regular access to coffees, teas, biscuits and pick‘n mix jars. The fortnightly breakfasts as we watch a 383er share knowledge on a subject matter close to them. And all the other access to training we have both internally, and externally. 

The annual weekender where we go away in December for an exploratory visit to a European city (not going to lie, we often don’t see much more than the bars and leisure offerings!) The quarterly outings to Flight Club, Ghetto Golf, laser quest etc to bond / compete with each other. Our monthly book/wine & cheese clubs, weekly football games, and sporadic bake-offs and socials well, just because we enjoy each other’s company. 

Our birthdays off, our birthday gifts and cards signed by all. Our healthcare cover, cycle schemes, better-than-statutory paternity & maternity. Our company walks in the sun, our Happiness crew who represent us and sweat the small stuff, so we don’t have to. Our ‘positive news’ slack channels and Monday Mindfulness Challenges for people who want to escape the ever-present negativity in the media. And for those who take on their own positive challenges like sticking mystery post-it notes round the office regularly telling us how awesome we are.

Our ongoing feedback channels outside of Happiness crew, including monthly NPS, regular 1-2-1s run in an open, honest and trusted way. A true safe space. Our Friday high-fives where we commend each other for running awesome workshops with clients or for hosting breakfast sessions, or for simply making us smile when we needed a boost. And for OfficeVibes allowing us to track how people feel on all levels at any given time. 

Running a solid recruiting process helps, which is the key enabler to us having such amazing people in the 383 team. People who care about each other, support each other, push us to be the best we can be, whilst giving us a hug when we’re far from it. I’ve written about 383-ers before and I believe in them now more than ever. 

What do you do when you remove the ‘perks’ like optional working from home, football and walks and, let’s be honest our favourite - the pick n’ mix jars?

These people have kept me going in the last few weeks. Despite not seeing their faces in the flesh, they’ve been popping up on my screen making me smile, cheering me up and telling me it’s OK to not always be OK. 

Lockdown has seen a huge extension in our ethos to look after people’s mental health, and Mental Health Awareness Week has come at the perfect time as we have peaks and troughs in our feelings towards today’s world. What do you do when you remove the ‘perks’ like optional working from home, football and walks and, let’s be honest our favourite – the pick n’ mix jars? Luckily our baseline was set well before lockdown to make sure people are happy and flourish in their environment, regardless if it’s their desk, the client offices or a garden chair in the sunshine. We’ve managed to continue with the majority of our ways of working, but have swapped out laser quest for team quizzes, maintained book club meetups to keep our minds focussed and have ensured our internal communications pieces are more regular and informative to answer the many questions about office working and next steps. 

Mental Health Awareness Week has seen a flurry of engagement across our comms channels. We’ve had daily tasks of people sharing their favourite poems, holiday memories, gardens, books, food and even our body parts! We’ve showcased our creativity in the form of sculptures, photography, cross-stitch, lego and for the unfortunate ones, haircuts we’ve inflicted on our children! We’ve shared photos of the outside world to ensure people are getting fresh air, exercise and our daily dose of Vitamin D. And we’ve spent time connecting with those in the business we don’t get to see now we’re not in the office, but miss and just want to chat. 

So as we wrap up this week, yet another week and another Groundhog day, for all the frustrations I have around what’s out of my control, I am forever grateful that I am in it with likeminded people. Colleagues who look out for each other, friends who go out of their way for the benefit of others, and people who just know that kindness is the only way we’ll all get through this.