A retrospective on Precis mental health month 2022
Natalie Ljungwaldh KimPeople Project Manager
During mental health awareness month, there’s no shortage of companies who communicate what they’re doing to support their employees. Internally, we have also tried to celebrate the event with month-long initiatives that reiterate our own focus on mental health. However, when it came to how we could externally communicate why and how this issue mattered to our brand it is very hard not to seem self-serving.
Therefore, in this article, I want to present a retrospective on mental health month at Precis. In the same way that we might analyse a client’s account activities, I will look at the challenges, opportunities and long-term focus for how Precis can become better at taking care of our colleagues’ mental health. Our hope is that those of you wanting to understand our business will get an accurate picture of what we’re doing in this area and those who might be interested in joining us, understand exactly why and how this is a focus for us.
I may be biased but I would say we do pretty well when it comes to company culture. Yet working in a fast-growing, client-facing business can present its challenges when it comes to the mental health of employees.
In a recent annual survey of all employees on the topic of mental health, stress, performance anxiety and burnout were reported as being the primary issues among those employees who reported struggling with their mental health over the past year. Many comments highlighted the fact that workplace mental health can fluctuate over periods, and also that poor workplace mental health spills over to private life. On the flip side, working with mental health presents a golden opportunity where workplace mental well-being will help our employees enjoy their private life even more.
One comment that particularly resonated with me was this:
“Mental health is such a personal matter, that I think an individual-based focus needs to be a possibility rather than joint company-wide seminars and presentations. Having both would be best, specifically the peer groups – I think when people share their perspectives and the psychological safety is high enough, that it can be very beneficial for all.”
The more I learn about mental health and well-being, the more I realise that there are almost an infinite number of tools, resources and solutions out there and also that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We could and would like to come together to talk about mental health, get educated on different areas within the topic and reduce stigma around mental illnesses. However, the real impact all boils down to individual employees finding the tools that work for them and applying them consistently, and especially during the periods they might be experiencing poor mental health.
Meanwhile, we cannot overlook the impact Precis work practices and norms have on our employee’s mental health, as illustrated in the quotes below:
“I think that Precis is supportive but there is [a] huge work overload for most of us, which is starting to wear several employees down, me included.”
“Another thing is that efficiency of working is talked about a lot. It stresses me out that [work is] always supposed to be so efficient. I am not always efficient, no matter how I structure my work.”
Therefore, how we work with mental health essentially is a dual prong approach:
- Equip our employees with the tools needed to safeguard their own mental health and create healthy boundaries in stressful work environments.
- Create long-term, sustainable work practices that can help reduce stress and improve our ways of working for all.
Mental health month 2022
For mental health month we set out to work on stage 1 of our plan: create the space and give the tools necessary so that all employees can prioritise their mental health.
What tools do we provide to begin with? Of course, as a data-driven company, we started from what our employees voiced as their wishes from Precis.
As a result of collective efforts, we came to this plan:
Retrospective on mental health month
Learning and improving is at our core. We collected feedback after the month to learn whether these initiatives had helped people and what we should focus on next. Overall, the responses were much more positive than I personally had anticipated, with many citing the emphasis on mental health month as a great way to open up to colleagues and managers on this topic.
“I enjoyed the mental health 1:1 with my team, getting to know my teammates’ relationship to mental health, and how it affects them at work and how I as a manager can support them in this area.”
“The mental health talk was also a great gateway to having an open conversation. I clearly felt during that talk but also [apart] from it that my managers care about me as a person and my wellbeing.”
“Even though the talks, yoga, and events were all very helpful, I loved the double impact these events had by giving us time to just step off from our work tasks, spend time on self-improvement and refocus our mindsets.”
“I’ve worked at some toxic places in the past and while I constantly tell my friends that Precis is a great place to work, initiatives like this continue to show me that management truly cares about their employees!“
On the other hand, engagement varied between individuals and teams, and employees requested Precis to follow through with initiatives in the long run.
“For it to not be a “next time”. But for this to be an ongoing thing that sees general focus as a whole. Which in turn would spread out different activities over a more spread out and random time. I think it would feel more genuine if it wasn’t a “mental health month”, but a “mental health company”
“More manager training and information prior to the month. It mainly consisted of a lot of self-help/-care content in the external sessions, but I think there’s also a big responsibility that lies with us in terms of a more top>down reflection and actions. i.e. mandatory training for all managers on mental health, and on hosting 1:1s on the topic.”
Personally, I felt that we all came together to create something engaging, fun and beautiful together. We shared many new experiences and learned more about each other in ways that we haven’t done before. I appreciated colleagues embracing all the initiatives, even those that may be new or even uncomfortable such as shaking meditation! Mental health month was a meaningful first step towards a more mentally healthy workplace.
Mental health in the long-run
What can you expect from Precis on mental health in the long-run? Our Head of People, Christopher Brixen had a few things to share on the topic of mental health to learn exactly what our priorities are for the year ahead.
“In the first instance, we would like mental health month to be the beginning of more open and trusting relationships between managers and employees. Even if we had the best approach to mental health at a company level, that doesn’t mean much unless employees can feel comfortable coming to their managers when they are struggling, or having a difficult relationship with their client. In the same sense, managers need to be able to spot the signs within their colleagues and have the tools and resources on hand to respond accordingly. Supporting a culture where it’s okay not to be okay is the way to get there.
Secondly, we believe a key contributing factor to stress and performance anxiety comes from an overall sense of isolation brought about during the last two years of a pandemic. Over 33% of our employees joined during the pandemic and it can be very difficult to start a new role and feel a sense of belonging without the natural rapport that comes from being around colleagues – and hopefully – friends. So in 2022, a clear focus for us is to help bring back that community feeling again, with office events, team days in the office every week and the launch of an annual company-wide all-day festival with the vision Together at last.
We wanted to celebrate mental health month and in the process make it clear to all colleagues that their mental health is important to us. We wanted it to be impossible to ignore that it was mental health month – whether you were working from home or from the office.
Christoffer LoteböGroup CEO Precis
Third is our commitment to ensuring we have clearer expectations for our managers and colleagues. Company-wide, we have a clear goal for the year and our aim is to have every initiative tie back to this overall goal. In our learning & development courses, we want to ensure each session is tailored to its audience – and overall cut back on the number of initiatives we run internally. We hire ambitious people who like to have an impact on the company that is part of the day-to-day life, but historically, we’ve had far too many of these initiatives that can sometimes detract from just getting the job done. It’s important for us to find a better balance between our initiatives and business as usual.”
In the following months, we hope to work on creating a culture and workplace that prioritises our mental health and the health of our colleagues first. The learnings we have taken from mental health month will be shared company-wide (and with new employees too). And when it comes to providing employees with the tools they need to protect their mental health, we hope to share knowledge on managing workloads, setting boundaries in client relationships and optimising usage of project management tools among many others.
This is the start of a long journey but we hope we can make significant progress by the next time we publish this article in 2023. Please keep us accountable.
And read our handbook to learn more about our work, culture and people.