This year Mental Health Awareness week is from 9 – 15 May. It’s a yearly event run by the Mental Health Foundation to help the UK work towards good mental health. 

This year’s theme is reducing loneliness so at dxw we’ll be running a series of internal social events either in person or virtually, and signposting people to events happening outside the company too. We’re also running some educational sessions on things like stress management. 

But we also wanted to use this week as a chance to talk about why mental health is important to us, and reflect on what we’ve been up to recently to better support employee wellbeing at dxw.  

Why is mental health important to us?

The number of people who are experiencing mental health difficulties is huge (and has increased as a result of the pandemic). One of dxw’s clients is Mind, who say that:

“Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England  and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week ”

From a business perspective, this has an impact on things like:

  • presenteeism (not being productive at work)
  • absenteeism (taking time off work)
  • retention (moving company or leaving work completely) 

On an individual level this can lead to problems including difficulties completing day to day tasks, reduced quality of life, loneliness and unemployment. And this can make existing mental health symptoms worse. 

As a minimum, we need to make sure that the work, culture and processes at dxw don’t cause mental health difficulties (if this is the case, we’re doing something wrong). Our aim is to ensure that our team have the right support for their own wellbeing, as well as being able to look out for others. This is especially important to us now we’re employee owned.

What have we been doing to better support employee wellbeing?

Last year dxw ran Makers Days to take some time away from client work and focus on internal projects that improve the way we do things. One of the actions was to create a group to focus on our wellbeing. 

 Over the last year we’ve:

  • Launched the wellbeing group which meets once a month using our dxw time (time allocated for non-client facing work) and collaborates on things asynchronously between meetings.
  • Pitched to the directors for funding to roll out Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to 10% of dxw, and Mental Health Awareness training to all line managers and delivery leads. 
  • Successfully rolled out the MHFA training to 10% of dxw, and are now half way through rolling out awareness training to line managers and delivery leads. 
  • Updated our Playbook so all our information and policies on wellbeing are in one place.

We hope that having MHFAs across dxw means that people who may not feel comfortable talking to their line managers or HR will have a safe space to discuss any difficulties they might be facing. It also means we have team colleagues who are trained to spot the signs of mental health problems and can signpost people to support.  

We also wanted to make sure that line managers and delivery leads are given training to help them feel more confident in supporting their team members who are going through difficult times. As well as giving them the tools they need to create an environment that promotes good mental health for everyone.  

What have we learned?

For anyone thinking of setting up something similar, we wanted to share what’s gone well, and the things we’d like to keep improving:

What went well:

  • working in an agile and user centred design way, like we would on any client project
  • working in a group with really motivated colleagues who have a strong connection to wellbeing and mental health 
  • having dedicated time to work on this (outside of client work, but within our normal working hours)
  • having support and buy in from senior leaders early on both in attendance at meetings and championing the work with other directors

What we’re working on now: 

  • we know there’s still a stigma around mental health and not everyone is as comfortable talking about it, and this means our Wellbeing Group isn’t as diverse as we’d like it to be. We’re looking into ways we can make it more accessible so that the wellbeing services we develop meet the needs of anyone who needs them. 

What’s next for the wellbeing group at dxw?

We’ll carry on raising awareness of how to contact our MHFAs and develop guidance on their role and responsibilities. We’ll also be creating support processes for MHFAs to help protect their wellbeing, and prevent any overload or burnout. 

We’ve recently pitched for more time to work on another internal wellbeing project. This has been championed by the directors again and we’ve been given some more dedicated time to work on a discovery project. We’ll be looking at how to identify where there are still be gaps in our wellbeing offering and come up with ways to improve it. 

My personal reflections

I’ve navigated my way through my own mental health over the years. So it’s been great to work on something that will hopefully improve the experience for others. It’s been really humbling to work with so many kind, open and empathetic folks who’ve worked together to move this project forward (in quite a short space of time). This project wouldn’t have been possible without Kath, Vee, Ellie, Morrighan, Becs and the rest of the Wellbeing Group! I’m really looking forward to seeing what this group will achieve in the future.

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