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Mental health and remote work at Human Made

Liz Allen Liz Allen

Just under 6 months ago in October 2020 Human Made celebrated World Mental Health Day which was arguably the most important one yet with the global COVID-19 pandemic changing our lives and daily routines and bringing with it a set of new challenges. Although we found strength in our remote-first structure & culture, it has not been an easy year.

From juggling childcare and homeschooling, living with the pressures of living on your own, concern for elderly or unwell family members, or the worries over job security, the pandemic has required us to adapt quickly to our new way of living while navigating these challenges with little warning. As employees, whether we’ve continued working or have been furloughed we have been faced with a variety of challenges that have had a knock on effect to our mental health.

Additionally, for those of us with mental health conditions, this has been an even more challenging time as we feel the effects of social isolation, while some of us have developed new mental health issues as a result of the pressures of the pandemic.

While the economic effects of the pandemic will be felt around the world visibly; for example, as we watch our loved ones lose their jobs and/or see companies close their doors, the subsequent effects on mental health will be felt but not necessarily seen.

This is why prioritising mental health has become even more important and so this year we wanted to take some positive steps at Human Made so that we can support each other and open up the conversation around mental health.

As a company we committed to supporting our humans with the launch of

  • A Mental Wellbeing Policy
  • Support for Line Managers through Managers Guidance to Mental Wellbeing

Last month, we shared the Human Made Mental Health and Wellness Policy which we’ve been working on over the past few months. As an extension to the policy we have released an internal Guide for Line Managers on Supporting Mental Wellbeing. We will be further helping our line managers by providing training on how to support their reports and colleagues with their mental wellbeing or concerns over the coming months. 

We’ve learnt some key lessons over the past year – read on to discover more information on our learnings and why mental health initiatives in the workplace are so important.

Why is Mental Health Important?

The World Health Organisation describes mental health as:

‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’

CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey Report 2020 found that three-fifths of organisations had seen an increase in reported common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, among employees in the past 12 months.  Additionally The Centre for Mental Health reports that up to 20% of the UK population, i.e. 10 million people will need mental health support as a result of the pandemic. 

20% of the UK population (10 million people) will need mental health support as a result of the pandemic

The Centre for Mental Health

The pandemic has added other pressures and challenges to peoples lives as we get to grips with the impact of social isolation, the fear and uncertainty about the risk of infection, while at the same time supporting our loved ones with job losses or ultimately the death of those close to us.  Additionally, parents are having to juggle caring responsibilities with work, while those living on their own are feeling more pronounced effects of loneliness due to social distancing rules.

As a result, increasing awareness of mental health has become even more important as it can help break the silence, stigma and misunderstanding about mental health and start to build a more open and inclusive company culture. 

In addition to creating a more supportive environment, mental health support can help in reducing ‘presenteeism’ (reduced productivity at work), absence and staff turnover. In the UK alone, mental ill health costs UK employers £26 billion per year due to sickness absence, presenteeism and replacing staff who have left their jobs because of mental ill health. 

How we Support Mental Health at Human Made

There are a variety of ways that employers can support their employees’ mental health.  At Human Made we have various tools and methods that we encourage our humans to use in order to support their mental wellbeing.  

  1. Talk to someone: We know that telling someone that you’re living with a mental health issue can be a difficult step to take but we encourage our humans to talk and when they’re ready to do so we are here to listen.  We are currently lining up some training for our line managers so that they can better support their team.  We’re also launching the Mental Wellbeing Champion Scheme later in the year which will give employees an alternative to their line manager to discuss concerns and seek support.
  2. Challenge the stigma: While discussing mental health can be a sensitive subject for some, for others talking openly about the challenges they have faced can ease the burden somewhat as we seek comfort in each other’s shared experiences. Therefore, we encourage our humans who feel comfortable to share their experiences to do so, so that we can start opening up conversation and challenge the stigma attached to mental health issues through our dedicated Slack channel #healthy-minds for ongoing discussion.
  3. Monitor wellbeing: we currently conduct weekly Pulse Surveys so that we can monitor our colleagues wellbeing 
  4. Provide independent advice: we provide free access to an Employee Assistance Programme which provides confidential and impartial financial, wellbeing and other  support;
  5. Provide access to support: We provide access to counselling for humans struggling with mental health or occupational health. 
  6. Help managers better support their reports:– We will be working with an external training organisation to provide mental health training to managers and leaders so that they feel confident and competent to have conversations with staff about sensitive issues like mental health and be able to signpost to specialist sources of support if necessary. 
  7. Share resources:- our handbook details a range of support options available to our humans 

Demonstrating Commitment to Mental Health

It’s important to make a demonstrable commitment to supporting the wellbeing of employees and in doing so we at Human Made ensure that our Managers are making a conscious effort to support their team.  Here are a few actionable ways that we encourage our line managers to support their reports:

  1. Communicate well and as often as possible;
  2. Understand work pressures fluctuate on a daily basis and put in place ways to help your team manage those pressures;
  3. Make sure there are appropriate resources for you and your team to do your job, ensuring workloads are realistic and manageable;
  4. Discuss, listen, react and follow up on any signs of anxiety, harassment or bullying through the appropriate policy;
  5. Look for patterns of behaviour or absence that might suggest there is a bigger issue that needs to be discussed;
  6. Remind your reports if they don’t seem to be taking enough holiday or are not taking holiday at regular intervals across the year;
  7. Monitor overtime and holidays and encourage your team to take breaks when appropriate;
  8. Be conscious of your reports’ personal circumstances and offer additional support where appropriate. Someone’s personal circumstances may make them vulnerable at times to pressures at work, make sure to discuss those circumstances where you are comfortable doing so and plan how you can manage them best.

Positive Steps to Mental Wellness

Just like our physical health, there are positive steps that we can all take to ensure that we’re fuelling our bodies and minds in the best way.  To round up this post, we’ve listed some of them below:

  • Take good care of your body – exercise regularly and eat healthily.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – try to get as much sleep as you need.
  • Take time to unwind– make sure you’re spreading your holiday days throughout the holiday year so that you’re getting regular breaks and recharging your batteries.
  • Be logical – plan realistic and achievable goals each day.
  • Be mindful  – take a breath and consider the bigger picture.
  • Develop a positive mindset – focus on all the great things you’ve achieved (however small they may seem).
  • Focus on what’s important to you – do more of what you enjoy and surround yourself with those that make you feel good. 
  • Reach out for support – beyond your line manager/others, there are lots of support options available to you. We’ve set out some contact details below.

For more information and support options here are some global organisations working hard to support mental health: