This year’s focus for Mental Health Awareness Week is stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation website, research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.
I’m a huge advocate for promoting mental health and wellbeing within my company. I don’t believe there is a single person in the world that hasn’t experienced stress in some form or another.
Many already know my story, but for those who don’t, I founded my business back in 2009, just me, sat at my kitchen table. I can say with certainty that growing a business is not for the faint hearted. Ask any business leader, growing a business from the ground up, is a stressful and challenging journey. There are highs and there are lows.
I have always strived to be an ambassador for mental health awareness in my company. I am acutely aware that working in a busy and fast-paced environment can lead to stress. I understand it is important to identify, discuss and manage stress both in yourself and to recognise this in your employees and I make sure that my senior managers do too. I do this because I care. That is one of our core values at Quality Context. We care about our clients and want to be responsive and ensure they are delighted with our service but we also want to nurture our team and help them develop. Richard Branson said: “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” I couldn’t agree with this more.
Looking after our people means promoting health and wellbeing. In doing this we champion practices to encourage healthy behaviours. We provide free fruit, allow time out from the hustle and bustle of working for a busy company to step back and be part of something bigger and support important CSR activities. We make sure we hold regular 1-1s, appraisals and team away days. We have an open door policy where everyone will be listened to by senior management. Through talking we can make things better.
I want every single person at Quality Context to know that they are important. My Senior Team and I work hard to ensure our office environment is a pleasant place to work, that we foster an inclusive culture, that workloads are manageable and that our staff are not harbouring unhealthy levels of stress.
Managing stress is a tricky subject and everyone deals with stress differently. I am not perfect and I know there will always be a level of stress involved in my life but I now have the tools in place to help me manage this effectively. Sadly, this is not the case for many people who do not know how to, or have the tools they need, to manage stress.
There are hundreds of books out there sharing advice, tips and tricks. For me personally, a friend once bought me an amazing book (Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman) which was phenomenal. I also see an Ecotherapist, Hayley Gillard, who works as a life coach and wellbeing consultant (http://www.hayleygillard.com/). I have one to one pilates sessions to free up to tension in my entire upper body, but as well as freeing up my tightness, they also started to free up my mind too. I try to find space to breathe, to focus and relax. I try to look after my physical health, to eat well, drink water and manage my time. All of which can be a challenge when growing a business means you can easily work 60/70 hours a week without realising.
I’m both lucky and happy to have found what works for me. That is why this week at Quality Context I am launching taster sessions in pilates, yoga and mindfulness (The Kindfulness Effect). I’m very proud of my employees and want to help them grow and develop. By holding these taster sessions I am hoping they will help those wanting to get involved to experience something new. To step back from their busy roles and to try something different. I said to my team, if you try something different, you never know, it might change your life – it certainly did for me.