Blog
24.05.2022
Marie-Kristin Barkei

Mental Health Awareness Month – How we strengthen our employees' mental health

The topic of mental health has rightly gained a lot of attention in recent years and there is an urgent need for rethinking. What can employers do and what are we doing at PIABO to strengthen the mental health of our employees? Our former team ambassador Marie-Kristin Barkei has summarized some tips and best practices.

 

Where people used to say "Tough it out!" and therapy was something to be ashamed of, a rethinking is now taking place and awareness of how to strengthen mental health is constantly on the rise. That is not surprising, since according to the DAK Health Report, the number of absence days at work due to mental illness increased by 56 percent from 2010 to 2020. Employers need to be more aware of this than ever before and stand by their employees in case of an emergency. And even better is to prevent this emergency from occurring in the first place. Prevention is key. 

 

Bye bye, 9 to 5

When do you work best? I have my prime time before 11 a.m. and after 5 p.m., i.e. when all channels are as quiet as possible and I can finally concentrate without constant pinging noises. Of course, this doesn't fit into the classic 9 to 5 model, but it doesn't have to. Why should it? As long as tasks are done diligently by the deadline, it doesn't matter to the agency or the client WHEN exactly I get them done. Productivity, motivation and concentration are something that tends to be lost through compulsion. Or have you ever been able to focus well because someone dictated that you had to be productive EXACTLY NOW? Me neither. A long walk in the morning to get back to work refreshed sounds a lot more sensible. 

At PIABO, we are free to use our office at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin – our remote colleagues have hubs at their respective locations throughout Germany – or to work from home. We also make it possible to work from other European countries for up to three months per calendar year. Someone can concentrate better while in Scotland? Well, off you go! Visiting remote colleagues in Barcelona or Munich? No problem! A change of scenery often helps you develop fresh ideas and recharge your batteries. And if you're not in the mood for hustle and bustle, just stay at home and use the home office equipment provided by the agency and make yourself comfortable. 

Working when and where you want may not sound like the great revolution in our modern and agile working world. But maintaining your own autonomy and being able to manage your time as it suits you, thereby creating more time for yourself, makes a huge difference. Many employees and job seekers are increasingly focusing on the work environment. Giving employees the chance to work when and where it suits them best is becoming a selection criterion for many talented people. 

 

Not only when, but also where we want

The logical conclusion is, of course, that as a rule (which exceptions prove, of course) it makes no difference where we work. At least since the Corona pandemic forced us to make ourselves comfortable within our own four walls, every agency and every company should have gotten used to working across different locations. What worked during that time will likely continue to work in the future.

At PIABO, we are free to use our office at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin – our remote colleagues have hubs at their respective locations throughout Germany – or to work from home. We also make it possible to work from other European countries for up to three months per calendar year. Someone can concentrate better while in Scotland? Well, off you go! Visiting remote colleagues in Barcelona or Munich? No problem! A change of scenery often helps you develop fresh ideas and recharge your batteries. And if you're not in the mood for hustle and bustle, just stay at home and use the home office equipment provided by the agency and make yourself comfortable. 

Working when and where you want may not sound like the great revolution in our modern and agile working world. But maintaining your own autonomy and being able to manage your time as it suits you, thereby creating more time for yourself, makes a huge difference. Many employees and job seekers are increasingly focusing on the work environment. Giving employees the chance to work when and where it suits them best is becoming a selection criterion for many talented people. 

 

PIABO Workation: Bella Italia

Speaking of remote work: In March and April of this year, a total of 30 PIABOs went on a joint workation to Italy. The new work location was a baroque finca near Rome. The team spirit among employees is just as important as their own autonomy. This factor should not be underestimated for the satisfaction and mental wellbeing of employees! Agencies in particular thrive on the interpersonal component, the feeling of working together and being able to rely on each other, of having the right contact person for every challenge. The Workation in Italy was intended to strengthen precisely this team feeling again after two years of pandemic – and it did so successfully!

 

nilo.health – Talks, Meditation, Workshops

A very concrete option in terms of mental health available to us at PIABO is nilo.health. At nilo.health, a whole range of solutions is available to support us with our individual health. nilo.tools, for example, contains exercises and tools such as relaxation exercises or tasks for reflection. nilo.programs helps to deal with specific topics and issues, such as self-esteem or procrastination, in several modules. nilo.roundtables offer group sessions with psychologists, coaches and trainers. Particularly helpful are nilo.sessions. Here you have the opportunity to meet your very own nilo.expert, who all have a degree in psychology and know exactly what they are doing – even if you sometimes don't know it yourself. 

The sessions with the nilo.experts are extremely valuable and provide employees with a space to discuss any topic, whether it's about work or personal life. Because as important as it is for employers to develop mental health awareness and know 

 

Team Ambassador – From the team and for the team

Since 2020, we at PIABO have also created the role of Team Ambassador. What may sound very serious, is in a way similar to a class representative. With this trusted person, the team has the opportunity to address both suggestions for improvement in terms of process optimization or collaboration, as well as larger challenges. The ambassador then discusses these topics at a monthly lunch with our COO Daniela Harzer, after which solutions and next steps are jointly developed. The whole process remains anonymous and offers employees another opportunity to express their wishes and feedback.

Creating formats in which topics of any kind can be addressed strengthens both team spirit and the feeling of being taken seriously by the management. Finally, there is accountability on all sides to ensure that these topics are pursued further and do not fizzle out. 

At this point, it should and could be noted that it should also be possible for employees to address issues directly and not just anonymously. Of course, this option is always available. However, the possibility of expressing one's opinion anonymously can also have a liberating effect and cause significantly less stress for some people. 

 

Feedback culture & learning to say no

Same old story: A new client onboarding is taking place , the client team has to be staffed and suddenly you're working on an account that might not suit you thematically. Neither employees nor clients benefit from this and in the long run frustration grows and motivation is lost. The good thing is: it can be avoided.

When staffing, care should be taken to ensure that the topics and the contact persons are a fit for the team. And even more important, there should always be the possibility to say no without feeling bad about it or having to justify it. Sometimes the topic doesn't fit, maybe the team doesn't fit, maybe the perceived workload is already so high that another client can't be worked in. There are numerous reasons. In the end it is the working culture that ensures that all employees feel empowered to say no when needed.

If we don't enjoy our work, we won't perform at the level the client deserves. And we won't have the career we deserve. 

 

Mental Health Awareness – Continuous Learning

Mental health is an extremely complex topic. Each individual deals with stress, strain, personal and professional issues differently. Accordingly, there is no panacea, no one-size-fits-all solution. It's about learning together and being aware that we're all on the same page. Because at the end of the day, we are all just human beings. 

 

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