5 simple steps to help improve mental health in your office


2020 has had a huge impact on the human psyche. Now more than ever companies need to put some extra focus on looking after their people. Here are a few steps that can help.

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Standing in front of rows and rows of Christmas baubles in the supermarket a few weeks ago, Andy Williams’ “It’s the most wonderful time of the year...’, doing it’ best to get everyone into the festive season spirit, I found myself thinking, “is it really the most wonderful time of the year?. 

2020 has had a huge impact on the human psyche, and very few people, across the globe, have been left unscathed. From children having to learn how to read emotions behind facemasks, to the elderly who have endured the loneliness of isolation to save their own lives, and the reams of employees living in constant fear that they too might become another unemployed Covid casualty. The level of anxiety is almost palpable.

Generally, 1 in 6 Australian workers suffer from mental ill-health, and after a year like this, going into a festive season that feels like it’s had the jolly kicked out of it, I feel companies need to put some extra focus on looking after their people in the now.

Mental wellbeing has always been in the Because DNA. But now, more than ever, we recognise its importance, which is why the Because ANZ team recently did a ‘managing mental wellbeing in the workplace’ course via the Black Dog institute. It’s free training that’s offered as part of a NSW government mental-health initiative that they have committed a hefty $55m to. I personally found the training incredibly helpful, and given the only cost is your time, I would encourage all eligible workplaces to sign their employees up.

So, I wanted to share 5 steps from the wellbeing workshop that I found particularly useful. They’re small things that I think we can all do to look after ourselves and each other, which is why I wanted to share them with you.

1. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE.

Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. They can:

  • Help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth
  • Give you an opportunity to share positive experiences
  • Provide emotional support and allow you to support others

Achieving this in the workplace

Covid has allowed us to be a little more ‘creative’ with where and how we do work-related meetings. We’ve tried to have meetings walking in a nearby park, getting some fresh air in and increasing our step count (because of course with Covid in mind being outdoors is best). Despite it being hugely more enjoyable than a boardroom, being out of an office environment has allowed us to get to know each other and our clients a little better, which has helped us form stronger connections.

Everyone needs a breather during the day, so encourage staff to take the time to have lunch with a colleague via Zoom or in person (depending on your lock-down level). Reach out to a new member of the team to get to know them a bit better or, for Christmas this year, organise a virtual team event like Swamp Motel’s online detective thriller, Plymouth Point (the UK/CPT teams have this booked in for early Dec!).

2. GET MOVING.

Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. Evidence also shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • Raising your self-esteem
  • Helping you to set goals or challenges and achieve them
  • Causing chemical changes in your brain which can help to positively change your mood

Achieving this in the workplace

Inspired by the mental-wellbeing training, I initiated the Because Get Moving Challenge which put the spotlight on health and wellbeing during the month of November. It was run through MoveSpring, a clever little activity challenge platform app, and each of the 4-weeks had a different focus, namely: exercise, self-care, digital distractions and mindfulness. 

I put people across the different global offices into teams to create a bit of healthy competition across the agency (we have some very competitive people amongst us, ahem, Meredith…) and there were some great healthy-inspired prizes up for grabs.

The challenge got all of our Because offices moving whilst importantly also getting to know each other a little better at the same time. It was certainly a frequent talking point in the AUS/NZ office and was really just a fun thing to do as a team.

If arranging a challenge like this isn’t feasible at your office, why not look at at-home workouts that you could all get involved in as a team such as Zoom Yoga or Tai Chi for something a little different. Or set a team goal to achieve, like a 10km physical or virtual race, and set up a WhatsApp group for accountability and to motivate each other to train?

3. LEARN NEW SKILLS.

Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • Boosting self-confidence and raising self-esteem
  • Helping you to build a sense of purpose
  • Helping you to connect with others

Achieving this in the workplace

Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be as far reaching as getting a new qualification (unless you want it to be of course). There are so many awesome experiences you can do with your team that’ll teach you something new. At Because we did a pasta making Zoom session streamed live from Italy, and it was so much fun, we all loved the experience. Check out Airbnb experiences to find something that would suit your colleagues. Another option may be...each time we host a global company meeting we ask a few members of the team to share a bit about themselves, as finding out what ‘hidden’ skills and interests the members of your team have, means they can put on an informal Masterclass. You will all learn something new and of course you’ll get to know each other better so it‘s a win-win.

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4. GIVE TO OTHERS.

Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • Creating positive feelings and a sense of reward
  • Giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth
  • Helping you connect with other people

Achieving this in the workplace

At Because, we’re pretty big on giving back. Yes, it has been a tough year, but we also know how truly blessed we really are, and we are incredibly fortunate to be in a position to help others where we can. We’ve supported many CSR initiatives this year, from regularly donating food parcels, to collecting and distributing half a tonne of clothing when a local orphanage was gutted by fire, to computer equipment for families to aid homeschooling, to volunteering with the Salvation Army, to Christmas gifts for orphans, and multiple financial donations to various causes. We’ve also donated time to produce the Cancer Society’s ‘Walking Stars event and Meredith continues to mentor for The Trenches. This year CSR has been a tactical on-going endeavour - when folk have asked for our help we’ve got involved.

Giving back takes many forms, and a lot of the time it just requires a bit of thoughtfulness. Like making your team a cup of tea if you’re in the office, or sending a ‘thank you’ to a colleague who has gone out of the way for you. You could also volunteer as a team - this can be talking to people that are lonely on a call line or if you aren’t restricted to your home, help wrap presents for the vulnerable. Everyone doing what they can matters.

5. BE IN THE MOMENT.

Paying more attention to the present moment can:

  • Improve your mental wellbeing - including thoughts and feelings
  • Your body and the world around you

Achieving this in the workplace

These days being present in any situation (work or personal) is a challenge as most of us are slaves to our devices. Sad, but true. We have to be conscious about being in the moment and make a considerable effort to just stop sometime. Doing 5-minutes of mindfulness breathing every now and then can really help with this. Just sit still at your desk and breathe in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts, then repeat. It’s amazing how focusing on your breathing for just a few mins can relax your mind.

A very simple trick is simply to turn your device notifications off (or at least some of them). This will stop you from flittering mindlessly from one thing to the next, cluttering your brain with irrelevant updates. Actively listen to your colleagues and clients - this is being present - think about what they are saying and not about your next question or point is. And don’t sneakily look at your device / multi-task when on Zoom, stay in the moment.

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It’s been a longtough year for almost everyone. Letnot just be kind to each other, but also kind to ourselves. Let’s work together to keep mental wellbeing on the agenda in the work environment over the months ahead, and let’s all work together to create a culture where we support one another and find moments in our busy lives to focus on our own wellbeing. Breathe in. Breathe out. And repeat.