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Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Maintaining a focus on wellbeing and mental health at 383, in lockdown and beyond

People always talk about ‘balance’ in life. Work/life balance. Balanced diet. Screen time. Exercise. During lockdown, more than ever, we are focused 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. The theme for 2020 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 fourteen weeks ago. The nation united with the idea that we should stop judging people, stop making assumptions, be more understanding, and that maybe, just maybe, that acts of kindness can boost your own morale, as well as the people 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 who are struggling now more than ever. In the words of Mark Rowland, Chief Exec of Mental Health Awareness Week, ‘Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity.’

Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity

Mark Rowland,

Chief Executive, Mental Health Awareness Week

Here at 383, we are committed to the mental and physical health of our team. 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 encourages us all to take care of each other.

I believe that we would do this for our 383 family members outside of a diarised week in May, but we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week each year as a commitment to the importance of being there for one another. In previous years we have had visits and advice from counsellors and psychotherapists, taken walks together as a whole company, nurtured our green fingers with some gardening, and spent lunch hours doing arts and crafts in our den.

The week 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?!

We take mental health and wellbeing very seriously at a leadership level at 383, and it features in our business health scorecard and our weekly leadership meetings. This year, we singled out mental health as one of our quarterly focus areas for the company to ensure we were doing everything we could for our people, building on the wellbeing measures we already had in place, and I was excited to take on leading this project.

After speaking to lots of experts and advisors, it was great to hear that we were already ahead of lots of companies in what we had in place and covered a lot of the recommended areas. We were doing the right things, it seemed. But then, 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. The ones who were actually benefiting from our efforts, and the ones who thought we were off track. They’d be the first to tell me if team yoga or adding cushions to the sofas was 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 where we could do more, and a reassuring number of people who thought 383 was already more supportive than other companies they had worked at. All good so far.

It was interesting that additional requests could be split into three categories:

  1. We already offer that, but people weren’t aware – the information was hidden in the depths of a handbook or onboarding pack.
  2. Nice idea, but not something we could do right now – either because of budgets, resources, or feasibility (moving our offices to be next door to an individual’s house for commuting purposes, for example, didn’t seem like the right thing to do for the good of everyone else…!)
  3. Actually, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it!

As a result, we’ve communicated better, added to our benefits, and changed ways of working to better suit what our people need and what’s been asked of us. We’re proud that our team can see that 383 supports mental health and wellbeing, and that 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?

When it comes to wellbeing, there’s a lot of really simple things we’ve got in place.

We have a real focus on learning and development, with access to training internally and externally. In our fortnightly breakfast sessions, 383ers share their knowledge and expertise, sometimes showcasing a 383 project they’ve worked on, sometimes something totally unrelated to work. And then there’s our product conference, Canvas, which we host every year in Birmingham to learn from amazing product people.

Our social schedule is pretty lively, ranging from lunchtime walks, to book (aka wine & cheese…) club, to 5aside football, to ‘pub’ quizzes, to quarterly company activities, to our annual Christmas weekender where we explore a different city each year. Honestly, we just enjoy each other’s company.

We also have lots of benefits on offer to help people look after themselves, with healthcare, cycle scheme, and better-than-statutory paternity & maternity pay. We also get an extra day of annual leave for our birthdays, because nobody wants to be at work on their birthday.

We have a happiness crew who meet regularly to represent their teams and raise any issues, big or small, as well as regular employee surveys to check in on all sorts of issues and check how everyone is feeling.

On Slack, we have a positive news channel where we can share good news and try to counteract the ever-present negativity in the media. We have a weekly mindfulness challenge.

Every Friday, we get together at 4pm to share what’s happened in the past week across the company, from project updates to personal good news. We also share high fives – little shouts outs to people who’ve done an awesome job, gone above and beyond, or just made us smile during the week.

Lockdown and beyond

Part of the reason we are able to support each other is our solid recruitment process, where we really make sure we hire people who share our values. People who care about each other, support each other, push us to be the best we can be, and support us in the moments we’re far from it. I’ve written about 383-ers before and I believe in them now more than ever.

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 okay to not always be okay.

Mental Health Awareness Week has come at the perfect time as we struggle through lockdown and the peaks and troughs in our feelings towards today’s world. What happens 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 of whether that is a desk, a client’s office, or a garden chair in the sunshine. We’ve managed to continue with the majority of our ways of working, swapping out laser quest for team quizzes, moving book club online, and ensuring our internal communications 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 and food. 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.

As we wrap up this week, another week in lockdown, for all the frustrations I have around what’s out of my control, I am forever grateful that I am in it with like-minded 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.

Like the sound of working at 383? We’re always looking for superstars to join our team. View our open roles here and drop us your CV.

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