Why is mental health such an important topic? “Everybody has mental health to some degree. Being there and being able to help people is a core, fundamental part of every business’s responsibility.” Simon Rogerson, CEO and co-founder of Octopus Group
Mental health problems are more common than many of us realise. According to Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem on a yearly basis, meaning we are all likely to be affected, either directly or through someone we’re close to.
Workplace stress, something we all experience to a greater or lesser extent, is one factor that can have a massive impact on our mental health. For example, psychologist Jake Lovelock explains that after a long period of stress or worry, the mind can lose its ability to feel joy, making it harder to break negative patterns of thought.
Fortunately, there are plenty of services available to help us stay in a good place mentally. At Octopus, we partner with a number of specialist organisations in order to support the mental health of our employees.
Introducing The Anchor
We created The Anchor, the Octopus home for all things wellness, to ensure everyone working in our business can get help when it comes to their mental health. Currently, the services we partner with are:
- Sanctus, the mental health gym who offer in-work coaching sessions
- Shout, a 24/7 crisis support service accessed by text
- Headspace, an app full of meditation sessions
- Cognacity, who run workshops on topics such as handling stress at work and dealing with burnout
- Parent Cloud, an online service supporting new and expecting parents
- Our Employee Assistance Programme, run by MetLife, which provides triage service over the phone for anyone struggling with issues ranging from financial stress to addiction.
Everyone experiences mental health differently. Therefore, it’s vital we offer options so our employees can choose the services that best suits their needs at any given time. For example, Headspace is great for a long-term view on mental health, and can help tackle issues such as anxiety and depression over time. Shout is perfect for real-time crisis support, when you just need someone to talk to. And Sanctus can provide guidance on a whole range of problems or even just provide a sympathetic ear, without you even needing to leave the office.
World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day is a great time to remind ourselves how important it is to look after our own mental wellbeing, and remind everyone working at Octopus that there is plenty of help available. Because of this, it was the perfect time to unveil The Anchor.
On 10 October, we transformed a section of the Octopus office into a no-work zone, encouraging everyone to take some time out and think about their mental health. Members of the Octopus team could visit to take part in mindful colouring, chill out with a magazine, and chat to our wellness partners. We also ran a packed schedule of wellness activities and informative talks throughout the day.
10 o’clock: Terrarium making
We started World Mental Health Day with terrarium making. Studies have shown that having plants around can help improve mood, reduce stress and reduce fatigue, so we wanted to supply as many Octopus people as possible with plants for their desks. Plus, taking time to think creatively when building the terrariums provided a good mental break from the workday. Data Scientist Alex was really pleased with his new ecological desk ornament, saying, “it’s great to bring a little greenery into the office. Really helps you relax.”
11 o’clock: Wellness talks
Next up, we had talks from two of our wellness partners, Cognacity and Sanctus. Jake and Evie from Cognacity visited to talk about burnout, informing us that intense periods of stress can be as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. They passed on tips for managing stress levels, including encouraging everyone to make time to have fun on a regular basis so as not to neglect our need for joy.
Sanctus then held a panel session discussing mental health in general, as well as telling us what to expect during a Sanctus coaching session. Andrew from Octopus Renewables told us how much he enjoyed the atmosphere of the talk, saying, “I liked how open the forum was and I liked how they gave specific examples on different issues they have dealt with in the past (whilst remaining confidential).”
We also ran several 10-minute Headspace meditation sessions. Meditation has been proven to increase awareness, bring clarity to the mind, and increase our sense of calm. Using Headspace, specifically, has benefits that include reducing anxiety and depression.
Over the course of the day, more than 50 members of the Octopus team took time out to meditate, many of whom hadn’t tried the exercise before. “The meditation session was a great way to get away from your desk and unwind,” said Sam from our PR team, a first-time meditator. He added, “I left feeling relaxed and recharged, ready to get back to work.”
1 o’clock: Massage
Finally, we offered 15-minute neck and shoulder massages to melt away any built-up tension. As well as the physical benefits of massage, receiving a treatment of this kind can soothe mental discomfort such as anxiety and depression, as well as give you some much needed time away from your desk. Antoinette from Octopus Investments said of her massage, “it was just what I needed. That 15-minute timeout was brilliant – cleared my mind for the afternoon.”
Sorry, there are no pictures of the massages in action. We didn’t want to ruin the relaxing mood.
The future of mental health
We’re pleased that we are currently able to provide mental health support for those who need it at Octopus. We can still do better though, so are making it our mission to deepen the conversation surrounding mental health and continue to develop our partners within The Anchor.
If you need some support, watch our video of Octopus people sharing their tops tips for dealing with periods of mental disquiet. Or, if you’d like to know more about The Anchor and what Octopus do to help our employees, you can watch this video.