On Wednesday 28th October, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 1 of EventLAB 2020 Online. This year marked the first time this event was held virtually and focused on Sustainability, Workplace Culture & Leadership.
This panel discussion was all about how coronavirus has changed the way employees are supported, how perspectives have changed towards wellbeing this year and what the future holds for workplace wellbeing. We welcomed Nicole O’Callaghan, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Siren Training, Bretton Putter, Founder, CultureGene and Hire Space Head of Promotions, Benjamin Edmonds.
Early intervention is crucial
Part of Mental Health First Aid Training focusses on educating employers so they know how to support people from afar and are able to spot signs that their employees might be struggling. A tool called the burnout inventory could also be used by companies to assess how their employees are doing. The tool helps individuals look at the way they feel about their job and experiences at work to see if they are at risk of burnout.
Brett has found that it is important for managers to be able to have open conversations with employees; to share experiences, to build peer-group capabilities and a whole host of other actions to support their team. For example, some companies offer ‘mental health leave days’, making it more acceptable to have a day off for your mental health, not just when you’re physically sick. It’s also important to have the resources to be able to signpost employees towards getting the help that they need. This early intervention is crucial to stop people getting to burnout stage.
Mental wellbeing in the workplace is a whole organisational approach, and this should come from top-level management. However, it is also the responsibility of line managers as well as the individuals themselves, so it’s important to provide different levels of training for different levels of the company.
Brett adds that the behaviour of leadership teams will cascade down and set the norms for the whole company. So, if you don’t have leaders talking about wellbeing and demonstrating it, it makes it much harder to implement. For example, Brett advises CEOs not send emails after 6pm: in doing so you’re effectively setting the bar for how others will (or think they should) work, thus unintentionally contributing to potential burnout.
Maintaining a positive culture
We first need to understand what we’ve lost this year, such as proximity, immediate communication, ability to brainstorm, availability, structure and so on. This is now an opportunity to reset and redefine what was good about our culture and come back stronger. We don’t have the office as an anchor point for culture anymore, so instead, we should think of culture as the fundamental DNA of the company and build off it from there.
Nicole adds that there was a lot of great work towards improving mental health pre-pandemic, so we should integrate this back into our ‘new normal’ of culture. Things like introducing rituals, such as ‘walking to work’, or shutting down your computer at 5pm and going for a walk.
Work-life balance - better or worse?
Some people find their work-life balance has improved, such as those who work in the city. They don’t have to rush onto a packed train for an hour every day, and they find their mornings are much calmer and they have more time for themselves. On the other hand, some people are really missing the interaction with colleagues and even strangers throughout the day. Perhaps in the future, we’ll have a balance between the two work styles, as 2 or 3 days in the office would be beneficial for those who are struggling.
Top tips for great mental wellbeing
Brett uses something called ‘The Pomodoro Technique’, which is a timing system where you turn off all notifications and focus on a task for 25 minutes, have a 5-minute break, then repeat this four times before having a proper break. This allows you to focus but also enforces you to get much-needed breaks. Nicole uses a tool called Clockify, which logs hours and prevents overworking. She also recommends having a ‘happy hour’ every day - doing something for yourself and not feeling guilty about it.
There’s been a trend towards ‘resilience training’. How do you prevent that becoming an excuse for piling on more work?
There is a big trend for resilience training because it's important that we can deal with the inevitable stress of our day-to-day lives. Nicole believes preventing it from becoming an excuse for more work is down to how compassionate a workplace is. Leaders and managers need to have empathy, so if they’re asking you to be more resilient so you can take on more work, it’s maybe about having the resilience to actually push back and say no.
About The Speakers
Nicole O’Callaghan, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Siren Training
Nicole is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor (MHFA) for Siren Training, one of the leading training First Aid and Fire Safety Training Providers in the UK. Nicole provides MHFA England courses to corporates, communities and organisations.
Bretton Putter, Founder, CultureGene
Bretton Putter is an expert in company culture development, consulted by companies and leaders worldwide on how to design, build and develop a strong, functional company culture. He is the CEO of CultureGene a Culture Leadership Platform helping high-growth companies build strong, functional cultures.
Benjamin Edmonds, Head of Promotions, Hire Space
Benjamin has been working in the world of events for nearly a decade, working both as an event organiser and consultant for event venues. Now at Hire Space, he heads up a team of Account Managers working with unique event spaces, ensuring they are covid safe, and leads the commercial planning of EventLAB.
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