Last week was Mental Health Week. While we believe we don’t need a “week” to talk about it, we feel anything that gets people talking about this most important of issues is a good thing.
Typically agency life doesn’t lend itself that well to supporting mental health. Studios can be a stressful place to be: with people under pressure to work late, miss out on family life, and taking a break is a sign of weakness.
Over the eight years we’ve been in business, we’ve developed some principles to make sure people are looked after here, that they feel cared for and that we value their lives as a whole.
If you think mental health isn’t a concern in your company, you’re wrong. In fact, not overtly questioning your processes, environment and culture in terms of how they can impact your team’s mental wellbeing will only serve to perpetuate anxieties and stress, and in turn, if this is your priority, impact overall productivity… then profit.
Companies who treat their employees with the same level of respect, care and compassion as they would show to their friends and family will ultimately run much more successful businesses, than those who hold on to an outdated belief that succeeding in business is all about being tough.
Here are some ways to make sure working in this industry supports all-round mental wellbeing, we hope they offer some inspiration for a different way to work:
Let people say no to things they’re not comfortable with
If Go Ape or paint balling isn’t your cup of tea, sit it out. Team days are meant to be fun, and that’s for everyone. So there’s never any pressure for anyone to join in if it’s not for them.
Work on the projects you believe in
If one of the team isn’t comfortable with working on a project - for religious or political reasons for instance – this should be freely expressed and the company should adapt their workload to make sure they’re not.
Work how you want to
Some of us work best with music on, others like to find a quiet space and sit alone. For most, it’s dependent on the job they’re on, the mood they’re in and what else is going on in the studio. We’ve various spaces from which we can work – the studio being the liveliest, the sofas and meeting rooms downstairs offering an escape.
Switch off for a few minutes
The work we do can sometimes be complex, and can require challenging intellectual problem solving. For this, the best solution isn’t always to be sat, concentrating hard, staring at their screen. On the contrary, a break can refresh the brain and actually help us produce brilliant work. Sometimes a break can make all the difference to mindset, and when you go back up to the studio, your focus is all the better for it.
For some, working early and clocking off at four can mean they miss rush hour, and make that gym session they feel better for doing. For others starting later can mean making the morning school run, and feeling like the juggling is that little bit easier. Ensuring our team live a fulfilled life, with as little stress as possible in balancing all aspects of that, we feel helps support mental health.
Work from home option
Letting people work from home is something that is becoming more and more widely accepted. This has many benefits, not least for the team’s mental wellbeing. The stigma surrounding mental health, means that bosses tend not to take seriously sometimes that feeling most people get from time to time, when they just, quite honestly, can’t face being with people. And the option for people to have the flexibility to work from home when needed gives them this.
Let the team own the environment
At JH, we want people to feel at home, so we let them make the choices. We regularly send out surveys to get everyone’s opinion and the Office Working Group make decisions on everything from studio furniture to team building ideas.
Sick days are OK
Your health matters more than anything else. Imagine telling your boss you need to have a mental health sick day. How would they react? Sadly, an educated guess would suggest that well over 50% would show a huge lack of empathy. And why so? It’d seem that still today, in 2017, we’re not taking mental health as seriously as we do physical. It’s time for companies to be realistic, and understand that in promoting a culture of openness and honesty around these issues, means in fact going some way to helping people find a way out of them.
Ask questions, whatever they are
Create a strong ever-learning ethos here. We believe there’s no such thing as a silly question: peer mentoring works very well in most cases, and is all about learning from each other's skillset and expertise. This passionate about what we do, and as keen to teach as we are to learn, so there’s an environment where the team isn’t scared to ask, or afraid to make a mistake, we’re all always improving in our work.
In honesty, there’s been no set “how to improve mental health” guidelines here, we feel it comes from the heart. It makes sense: not just in business terms, in human ones too – if indeed there’s a distinction.
Phoebe Haig is marketing manager at JH, a Magento eCommerce agency.