We aim to publish meaningful stories of perseverance amidst mental health struggles.
Somehow, in 2019, mental health still remains a taboo in most offices. Even in an office like ours at DesignMyNight, which is filled with Millennials and Gen Z.
However, rightly so, our mental health is slowly beginning to be treated like our physical health. We all have physical health, which can be both good and poor, and in the same vein we all have mental health.
I have personally had family experience with poor mental health, and how it can be all-consuming; but more importantly, how it can be worked on and improved. As co-founder of DesignMyNight, I wanted to bring this open culture to my Company too.
In a world where poor mental health seems to be at an all-time high; whether that be due to the 24/7 lives we now lead, social media, bottled up emotions or the plethora of other reasons, it was fundamental that my team felt that “struggling” was not a taboo.
As a founder you selfishly want your team fighting at full strength for the good of the company, and so whether it be a bad case of flu or struggling with anxiety, they should be dealt with the same way.
After all, employees have no trouble calling in sick, so why should that be the same for mental health concerns? From the off, my co-founder and I have been very open with the team about mental health, whether that be at team meetings, or in emails sent out to everyone… We wanted to show people that we “get it” and that we won’t think any less of anyone if they are struggling to cope; quite the opposite in fact – it shows great strength of character to admit you are finding it difficult and want to get help.
Fortunately, our new owners, The Access Group, also have a similar philosophy and have created a 24/7 helpline available for all. Not just employees, either, but also for their family and friends.
This shows a real understanding about the knock-on effects on one’s own mental health; you feel it if your loved ones are also struggling. We make sure this helpline is advertised to the team both with physical material in the social areas, as well as over emails. Again, this is another way to show that we are totally accepting of mental health as a company.
Work-life balance can also play a key role in promoting better mental health.
Whether you are struggling or not, if you are bogged down with work, or taking work home with you, I am fully aware of the stress-impact this can have. Work should not be the beginning and ending of our days. Before starting DesignMyNight, I worked at another company and would often take my laptop home with me to work at nights and on holidays… That’s not to say that this was ever encouraged there, but at the same time it wasn’t discouraged.
We actively tell the team not to work late or on their own time; and while we, as founders, may be emailing on weekends or evenings we do not want or expect a reply until office hours. I think it’s very important to explicitly tell the team this fact, as we are currently bred on the culture that if it looks like you are working harder/longer hours, then you are more productive. I think quite the opposite: if you cannot get your work done in office hours then you are either being unproductive in the day, or your workload is too large – which are both something we can remedy.
Office environment is also an important cog in the wheel. We want the team to feel comfortable and look forward to coming in. Sure, it’s “work”, but that “Sunday Night Dread” can be alleviated. We have a super large social area in proportion to the size of the office, filled with the generic “start-up” games such as ping pong, pool and table football; but we also have quite a few communal drinking and eating areas…
We are extremely lucky that a lot of the team have become legitimate friends and enjoy each other’s company, so having lunch together isn’t a chore but actually a chance to chat about non-work stuff. We also have a lot of nooks and private working areas (including a rooftop with Wi-Fi), so the team can take themselves away from their desk, whether this be a moment to themselves to have a breather or to work in a change of environment.
Being chained to your desk, staring at your screen all day, every day is not good for anyone’s mental or physical well-being.
We are also a dog-friendly office. This has been a huge win. We currently have 3 dogs regularly in the office. There are rules, of course. For instance, they have to be toilet trained and well behaved to be allowed in, so they aren’t disruptive, and the positive vibes and energy they provide to the team are palpable.
Finally, we have tried to work with local businesses in the areas of well-being to get special discounts for the team; this has been anything from yoga to massages… And this is simply another way to show the team that we do care about their total well-being, in and out of work.
In summary we have tried to focus on:
1) Breaking the taboo of mental health. It really is okay to be not okay, and to let us help.
2) Providing a tool that the team can call on for professional help, whatever the situation.
3) Creating a working mentality and environment to aid better mental well-being.
4) Providing activities outside of the workplace to promote total well-being.
The time is definitely now to speak up about mental health in the workplace. I would guess that everyone knows someone who is affected by some form of mental health issue, and because your job is where you spend most time, it’s fundamental that an environment of openness is created, not only for the employees, but also for the well-being of the Company too.