Yes it’s #WorldMentalHealthDay again and we’re all jumping on that bandwagon to raise awareness… But hasn’t this message kind of kicked in now?

As a society we are increasingly aware of mental health – our own, and that of those around us. Mental health issues are increasingly destigmatised, with a fair few footballers and celebrities having openly discussed their own challenges in the last year.

I for one would like to see a move from awareness to action – yes our mental health matters, but what can we do to improve our own and support those around us?

Let’s face it, many of us spend a great deal of our lives at work, and with our colleagues, but workplaces are traditionally seen as a place where we just shouldn’t really talk about that kind of thing.

Moving from awareness to action

At Zest, we believe it’s incredibly important that we support each other at work – that we understand every one of us has personal issues, and that some point, and more frequently for many of us, we need that bit of understanding and care from our colleagues.

Mental health at work doesn’t just come from counselling when things get bad, although it’s important to have that support in place.

It begins at the core of a business, the respect, care and support you show your colleagues on an everyday basis.

It’s about being human and understanding the impact of your words and behaviour on those around you.

It’s about understanding we function better as a team, and that if one part of that team needs support it’s for the good of us all that we give it.

It’s about admitting that we can never all be operating at 100% at work. That some days are just a bit poo, or we’re a bit grumpy. That some days our kids are off sick, or our personal relationships aren’t going too well.

Being human matters to us above all

Being human is something we take very seriously at Zest.

We’re invested a lot of time into how we relate and respond to each other in the business. We’ve made sure we’ve learnt about each other, as humans, both inside and outside the work environment. And we build real relationships with our clients to understand not just their business goals, but their personal motivations, and how we can interact with them better to make them happier.

As a result, and without really intending to, we’ve established a code of behaviour and a set of policies and benefits that supports mental wellbeing in the workplace. It feels like a much more robust and rounded approach to have rather than just focusing on a few key things like a four-day week or remote working, as it connects directly to the core reasoning behind those benefits.

Our mental health manifesto

So there it is, our Mini-Mental-Health-Manifesto. One day we might actually get round to turning this into a formal policy.

  • We give our staff the freedom to work their way, understanding we’re not all alike.
  • We believe that all our staff should be able to voice their concerns at anytime to anyone – and for that to be listened to and valued.
  • We provide free counselling support for those who feel they need professional support.
  • We provide free access for our staff to Calm, a mindfulness app.
  • We welcome children (preferably belonging to us) and pets into the office.
  • We understand that family and other relationships are so much more important to our lives than anything that can happen in the workplace.
  • We encourage team social and sporting activities, understanding the value that can bring to mental wellbeing.
  • We take quarterly team psychological training sessions, to better understand each others’ personality types and communication preferences in different scenarios.
  • We encourage compassionate leave and sick leave, as much as is needed. Without questions, just love and support.

Above all, as business leaders, we realise it’s important to lead from example and be open about our own lives and experiences, understanding that in turn gives our employees the sense of freedom to do likewise.