On 10th October it is World Mental Health Day. Mental health and emotional wellbeing are moving up the agenda in terms of increased awareness and reduced stigma, but there is still further to go in the UK and worldwide. I have been reflecting on how we think about mental health here at Traverse – read on for a few key thoughts.
At Traverse, our latest business plan sets out two core driving forces behind our work: We are for social purpose and we are for employee wellbeing. As an employee-owned business, we all have a say in setting the priorities and direction for the organisation, and I am proud to work somewhere that places these two interrelated issues at heart of what we do.
So how does this focus on wellbeing actually play out?
We lay the groundwork
Flexible working gives us the freedom and autonomy to manage our work in line with our individual strengths, priorities, needs, and responsibilities. At Traverse this means we don’t all work 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. An ideal working day or week is likely to look very different from one person to another, or at one time of life compared to another. When people are trusted and empowered to manage their time and energy, they can work in a way that takes care of their mental health and enables them to perform at their best. Our culture is one of responsibility here at Traverse, so there is little danger of people “taking advantage” of a flexible working approach (which is often a concern for organisations who have yet to embrace this way of working).
We take action
There is now a proactive “Wellbeing working group” at Traverse – this group is still being embedded but, having crafted our terms of reference with input from all colleagues, we are now working to ensure that action is taken to support the mental health and wellbeing of us all. One example of this is that a small group of colleagues is in the process of becoming Mental Health First Aiders – an indicator that physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing are becoming recognised as being equally important, and that we are going above and beyond accepted best practice in having trained first aiders in the office.
We are reflective and open to learning
We are certainly not perfect – like most (all!) people and organisations we are a work in progress when it comes to supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing. We recently did some work with Mind, the mental health charity, designing and delivering a deliberative engagement workshop with people with lived experience of mental health problems, to inform Mind’s future strategy. We are experts in deliberative engagement and while we have experience of working with people who have lived experience of mental health problems, we were also keen to ensure that our practice was informed by and aligned with Mind’s expertise in this area. Working closely with our client we were able to learn from each other to deliver an event that was insightful, inclusive, and supportive. This learning is something we will also take forward in our work and in how we support each other as colleagues.
We are willing to be vulnerable
One of the activities we built into the design of the deliberative engagement workshop for Mind was a “diversity circle”. This is an activity used for trust-building, whereby people stand in a circle and step forward in response to a statement about their identity and experience if they find it to be true for them. In order for us to see what this feels like, we did the activity as a small group of facilitators prior to the event, revealing information about our feelings, insecurities, and experiences that we may not have shared with each other before. One of the important principles in this activity is that no-one should feel they have to step forward, even if the statement is true for them, and that there is value in simply being part of the circle and witnessing the diversity and shared experiences. In this way, it is a safe space for people to use in a way that feels comfortable for them. It was important to us to be vulnerable in this way rather than only asking the same of others.
World Mental Health Day provides a great opportunity to think about how we can have a positive impact on our own mental health as well as others. We would love to hear how others are taking mental health into account in their work – feel free to get in touch with your thoughts and reflections.