Reflecting on the impact of Mental Health Month: Cultivating a work culture of well-being
Natalie Ljungwaldh KimPeople Project Manager
Creating a work culture that promotes mental health and well-being is not something you do overnight. But what impact can it have if a whole company puts intense focus on the topic for a full month?
That was what we set to find out when we celebrated Precis mental health month in May 2022. It was intended as a loud, month-long reminder to pay attention to how we really feel at work, talk about mental (and physical) wellness, and take care of each other. We found that the intense focus can actually influence the culture quite a bit – That’s why we’re happy to be doing it again in June 2023.
Read on to hear what cultural changes we experienced and to learn what went well – and what we definitely aren’t repeating this year.
An invitation to talk about mental health
To provide some context, in 2022 we invited three guest speakers to discuss meditation, a mindful approach to stress, mental health, and illnesses. All employees at Precis also had the opportunity to participate in meditation sessions every Friday, complete weekly mental health challenges, and engage in mental health-themed one-on-one conversations with their managers.
Here is a brief summary of the results:
- The overall experience was rated 4 out of 5 by Precis employees.
- 74% of manager-coworker pairs had one-on-one conversations about mental health.
- More than 60% of all Precis employees participated in at least one company-wide session, with 22% joining four or more sessions.
It’s undeniable that this month-long campaign provided all of us at Precis with a reason to reflect on and openly discuss mental health at work. We wholeheartedly embraced the month by taking the time to acknowledge how we really feel, asking each other how they are really doing, and articulating what is needed to be happy, healthy and highly effective at work.
“I really appreciate the initiatives that have been taken during Mental Health Month, local training sessions, that both destigmatise and bring awareness to discuss and talk about our mental health. This highlights the importance of taking care of your psychological well-being, as well as your physical.”
“The mental health talk was also a great gateway to have an open conversation. I clearly felt during that talk that my managers cared about me as a person and my wellbeing.”
The above comments represent just a small portion of the appreciation expressed during and after the month. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Precis took a meaningful step towards becoming a destination for top tier talent by prioritising both high performance and well-being – which stands as one of our key long-term strategic priorities.
For 2023, the core intention remains the same: we want the month to be an unmissable invitation to talk about and care for our mental well-being.
Improvements and considerations for this year
What did we learn from our first Mental Health Month? A lot. Let us highlight three areas we received the most constructive feedback on and the subsequent changes we have intentionally made this year.
Reducing cognitive load with a mental health day
“The amount of sessions affects workload and becomes difficult to manage.”
The first lesson may seem obvious, but finding the right balance is the tricky part: too many initiatives promoting mental health can overwhelm people, which goes against our intentions.
Therefore, this year, instead of adding a new guest lecture session to address the feelings of overwhelm, we have chosen to have a mental health day. On this day, all employees will have a paid day off to disconnect from work and focus on activities (or non-activities) that support our mental well-being. Whether individuals spend the day in nature, digitally detoxing, or with friends and family, or simply doing nothing, is up to them. The only rules to follow are to avoid checking work email, Slack messages, or anything work-related. People are encouraged to tend to their own needs first before helping loved ones.
Additionally, we have reduced the number of sessions and activities at the workplace, and condensed communication pieces by planning and coordinating more thoroughly.
Increased visibility on senior management engagement
“I would wish there would be some type of encouragement from manager level to actually take part in the month as otherwise it’s like more work on top”
Explicit engagement from senior management is a crucial success factor for any company-wide initiative, and we have made intentional improvements in this regard. Our senior management team has been involved in Mental Health Month 2023 from the beginning, contributing to shaping key activities, providing input and guidance, and participating in a panel discussion.
The aim of the panel discussion is to allow Precis employees to learn about the personal mental health challenges and successes of senior managers and hear their thoughts on workplace mental health.
Throughout the month, our management team will be vocal sponsors of the initiative, encouraging everyone to participate in all the planned activities.
Something practical and long-term
“Maybe taking next steps, beyond just awareness into more practical things that will stick”
Having successfully raised awareness of workplace mental health in the first year, we are now poised to take practical and long-term steps, as many of our colleagues have requested.
Our guest lecturers will provide practical strategies and tools to manage uncertainty, navigate change, and establish a work structure that promotes better work-life balance. Our managers have been equipped with information to ensure that the outcomes of manager-co-worker mental health conversations are actionable and realistic.
In terms of long-term mental health initiatives, continuing the Mental Health Month itself is an obvious step in the right direction. We have also adopted different approaches to address organisational challenges that affect the mental health of our colleagues, such as workload. For example, we have started training our teams to set healthy boundaries and improve communication and meeting practices.
The key here is that as a company, we are aware of the mental health challenges faced by Precis employees and continuously seek new and improved solutions. Each step on this journey helps us identify how we can establish a way of working with mental health and well-being that aligns with the people and culture of Precis.
Company-wide commitment to well-being
At the end of the day, Precis is an agency. We partner with clients to deliver services. When our clients thrive, we thrive. However, the reverse is also true. But when we are at our best in terms of mental and physical health, we can truly enable our clients to thrive by delivering top-notch results and experiences.
As a company, we hold ourselves accountable to the commitment of creating a world-class workplace where both high performance and well-being are equally prioritised.
By dedicating a full month to intense focus on mental health and well-being, we have created a forum where vulnerability and openness are expressed by managers, through activities and guest lectures. Supported by our culture and the ongoing measures we take to support mental health throughout the year, this approach has proven to be an effective way to break down the boundaries that inevitably exist when it comes to fostering a culture of mental well-being.
If you want to learn more about Precis as a workplace, discover what our very first employees have to say about their Precis journey and hear from other employees on what it is like to work with us now.