Last week (9-15 May) was Mental Health Awareness Week, and was founded 21 years ago by The Mental Health Foundation. The theme for this year is ‘loneliness’.
The Mental Health Foundation says: “One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution. After all, we’re all different! But, the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. Some people are also at higher risk of feeling lonely than others.
At Talking Medicines, the mental health and happiness of our team is extremely important to us. We know there is always more that we can be doing, but here are a few suggestions of things that we do together as a team, that might be helpful.
Flares and Shout Abouts
We use the ‘Trickle’ App platform as an anonymous way for team members to raise any concerns, issues or worries about anything in the company or about how they are feeling. It alerts the right people to be able to respond, and offer to reach out to help where we can. (It’s also great for giving high fives and shouts out to great team members, winning ideas, and general fun)
Mental Health Sessions
We look externally to bring in experts for informal team talks with subjects such as Anxiety, Depression, and Psychological Safety. We set aside time in the diary, and give everyone the opportunity to take part. Everyone attends, everyone shares as much or as little as they want to, and everyone benefits. There is so much help and resource that can be found out there.
Water Cooler Moments
Zoom isn’t just for meetings! We are all ‘hybrid’ workers these days, and that sometimes means that those coffee catchups about the school-run, water-cooler discussions about telly, or football, and getting to know each other as people and not just workers, sometimes gets missed. These moments count, and make us feel connected, and not alone. So we’ve created a Water Cooler hangout zoom meet twice a week in the diary where anyone can drop in and chat about anything – apart from work!
One of the most important things that we can combat loneliness, is to get together, whenever we can. It’s been a long hard couple of years, but we try to meet together in person, for our ‘Town Hall’ sessions. Sure it’s a time to get to update on company culture, progress, product direction etc, but more importantly it’s a time to get to know each other, to ‘check in’, and to share time and a common sense of camaraderie. (and a drink or two, responsibly of course!) Our Town Halls last 2 days, with at least half a day dedicated to fun activities and enjoying each other’s company (let’s just not call it ‘Teambuilding’ !!). This time round, we are going to walk up Connick Hill, have a picnic overlooking Loch Lomond, enjoy the Scottish sunshine (!) before dinner, drinks and socialising in a local restaurant. It’s valuable quality time, well spent.
With the new hybrid way of working, many of our team working from a distance to HQ, and following several bouts of lockdown, it’s important that we get together, at least once a week, on zoom to enjoy being a team. At Friday Fun we share three highlights of our week – maybe a great call with a new customer, a new discovery amongst our data, or celebrating the arrival of a birthday, anniversary or a new puppy at home. (Buffy, the apple of Adrian’s eye).
Ellie Halliday, our Compliance, Legislation and ‘Chief Fun Officer’, ensures that everyone is relaxed and ready for the weekend, by capably hosting fun, games and online quizzes that we all take part in before we go. It’s a core part of our culture, a core part of who we are, and another great way to touch base, and make sure that even if we can’t physically be together, we can share fun, laughter and each other’s company. Highlight of Last Year was the Alternative Office Olympic Games – the synchronised chair swimming event was hotly contested…!!
Of course, the most important three words in mental health are – ‘Are You Ok’? It’s not always easy, and we can all make excuses, but we do try, as a team to just check in on each other now and then. Not in a formal way, we have appraisals, line managers and reviews for that. But just from time to time, it’s good to surprise a colleague and just say hi. Just check in. And not just if they maybe haven’t been their usual selves on a meeting call, or not responded to an email. People are good at hiding loneliness, or anxiety – and we need to do more.
I hope you will find some of these things that we do together to reduce loneliness, and keep the team together at Talking Medicines useful. What changes will you implement, to help reduce loneliness, and build a sense of community, beyond ‘work’ in your organisation?
To find our more about Mental Health Awareness Week, and for practical steps that you can take if you, or someone you know, may be feeling lonely, take a look at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
Written by Dr Scott Crae, Founder
Image source Shutterstock: Item ID: 1588320151