Encouraging Connection in Isolation – Safeguarding Mental Health

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    Mental health is super important at the best of times, but even more so at the worst of times. It’s hard to argue that we are currently going through one of the worst times in recent history, with extended isolation and a lot of uncertainty in many areas (financially, industrially, familial, emotional, etc.), our collective mental health has taken a severe hit.

    In organisations that are still treading water in these tumultuous times, it is clear that employee wellbeing is getting a lot of attention with articles, studies, and renewed conversations circulating all industries, including the insights industry. One of the bigger studies was conducted by the research agency, Opinium, who partnered with the Market Research Society (MRS) to gain vital insight into mental health and how lockdown in the pandemic has impacted everyone in the market research industry.

    Tweet from FlexMR Tweet This
    With each individual experiencing the pandemic differently, it's tricky to know the right initiatives to put in place. Simply fostering connection is a good way to start.

    Out of those surveyed, 37% responded saying that their mental health has improved, while a third of respondents stated that it has declined. With each individual insight professional going through their own unique experience in the pandemic, it’s going to be tricky for companies to navigate what initiatives and mental health measures to put in place to provide help and stability to everyone at the same level, but it is a necessary consideration.

    Here at FlexMR, we’ve taken a variety of steps to make sure our staff are healthy, mentally and physically, in their wellbeing while we’re all working from home with virtual events and hangouts to keep us closer while we’re all apart.

    FlexMR Wellbeing Activities

    Mental health and employee wellbeing has always been a priority at FlexMR; our initiative were created with a focus on engaging everyone in organisation-wide events on a voluntary basis, to better connect us all and break down departmental silos. These events included: Quarterly ‘Bake Off’ competitions, monthly wellness walks, Secret Santa just before the holidays, Christmas Jumper Day (with Save the Children).

    Each of these activities allowed us to relax and have a bit more social fun around the office and outside of it, and helped us feel a bit closer together even while we were working in the same building. Of course, with an open plan office, there is a lot of company-wide conversation that occurs, general chatter, and many brew rounds that encourage everyone to interact with others outside of their team as well!

    After COVID-19 struck, we all turned to remote working to keep each other safe. This provided a myriad of fresh challenges that we all had to get used to, including but not limited to: getting used to remote working (some of us for the first time), isolation, and the psychological impacts of the sudden change in circumstance and subsequent adaption.

    Now to redouble efforts to keep us all connected just as much as before, we initiated and adapted a range of organisation-wide events, the most common and popular of which are:

    Virtual Brew Rounds

    This is something we started doing right at the start of lockdown to recreate the brew rounds that we’d have in the office, taking a picture of our cups of teas and snacks at a certain time and sharing it on a firm-wide group chat to feel more connected to each other on a daily basis.

    A Friday Firm-Wide Quiz

    This particular event occurs on a weekly basis, with all at FlexMR working on the day sorted into random teams so we can all keep in touch outside of our departments on a regular basis. This has done wonders for morale, and provides a great chance for everyone to chat together on one call when the results and winners are announced.

    The Now-Virtual FlexMR Bake Off Events

    These quarterly events were a big hit before the pandemic and were a great hit with everyone (who doesn’t like a bit of cake at the end of the day?), so we arranged for these events to continue on virtually. Each contestant submits a homemade entry to the organiser in the form of a series of photos, who then posts those photos for all to vote on.

    Weekly Wellness Walks

    Adapted from the Monthly Wellness Walks, each Wednesday at a time convenient to each employee, everyone is encouraged to take some time away from their desk to take a stroll wherever they please. They are encouraged to take pictures and share their journey with the rest of the company if they want so we can all join the fun.

    Continuous Water Cooler Chat

    We still have instant communication in the form of Slack, with multiple channels for different types of chat: General, Random, Department-specific, individual, etc. The Random chat is where most of the water-cooler or kitchen chatter happens, with updates from people being posted there, random musings and interesting discussions emanating and perpetuating the connection we share.

    Tweet from FlexMR Tweet This
    In aid of #WorldMentalHealthDay, we've shared some of our own tactics that we implement at FlexMR to help keep us healthy, and keep us closer together while we’re all apart.

    More Ideas for Connection and Wellbeing

    Some of the more seasonal activities we’re planning are a pumpkin carving competition and a virtual Christmas Jumper Day! But there are many seasonal activities that could be adapted for remote working depending on the tools you use, one of the activities I’m currently working out is how we could possibly do an easter egg hunt!

    Of course, there are a lot of other ways for us to keep in contact when working from home, and taking inspiration from other businesses can help too:

    • Hosting virtual happy hours
    • Virtual exercise classes
    • Involving the families (for those who have kids and work from home)
    • Virtual brew rounds and coffee breaks
    • Create a book club
    • Virtual team-building exercises

    Taking the time to consider how to best support your staff through connection will allow your organisation to come together no matter how far apart they are physically, fostering friendships and relationships that work to support us all during the good times and the tough. Instead of just over a third of insight professionals thriving, we can boost the mental health of everyone in our industry.

    Gulf in Client Agenct Relationships

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