Taking care of our team’s mental health

Written by Rachael B. - February 1, 2023

In January, we won an award from employee mental health organisation Spill. This award celebrates that we are in the top 25 out of 600+ companies that use Spill to support employee well-being. 

In the Top 25 companies for enthusiasm, excitement, focus, low anxiousness and low stress
Spill is in over 600 companies so being in the top 25 is no small feat! Especially for so many positive feelings.

Being in the top 5% of companies for having happy employees might seem like an odd thing to win an award for but, as we’ve said before, our team’s well-being is paramount. That’s why we’re so proud to be recognised by Spill, as it shows that the support we offer here at Wholegrain Digital is well worth the investment, and we want to shout about it so others can see how we get these results!

The team gets ready to travel together for a trip to Antwerp

We signed up to Spill in June in 2022 as part of our efforts to ensure we’re looking after our brilliant team. We’ve been focusing on culture and engagement throughout the team and an essential ingredient of a great culture is that people feel happy and well. We’ve always been conscious of the importance of promoting employee well-being and when we heard about Spill, we had to learn more as it sounded too good to be true (it’s not. It really is as awesome as it sounds)!

What is Spill?

Spill’s mission is to make professional mental-health support more accessible. Registered with the BACP, the UK’s leading counselling body, they offer counselling and therapy sessions, mental health training for managers and regular check-ins on how your team is feeling, so that you can spot issues and offer immediate support. 

Bound by the BACP code of conduct, all data is supplied anonymously and conversations between employees and their counsellor or therapist are covered by client confidentiality. This means that Spill offers a safe space for both employers and employees to explore their feelings and manage their mental health – making for a happier, healthier workplace all round!

Therapy for everybody

I’ve been having therapy on and off for years, since my mum passed in 2007 when I started having grief counselling. I then continued on an ongoing personal development/growth journey, learning about and gaining qualifications in various therapeutic interventions myself, and having 1:1 therapy and supervision with counsellors and therapists fairly regularly over the years. Sometimes – especially during more challenging personal periods – it has been prohibitively expensive and I’ve had to take breaks from therapy. Having access to a Spill therapist every month makes a huge difference to how I feel about myself and my life, and this in turn makes me feel happier, and therefore more productive at work. I realise that this is a huge privilege and I wish everyone could have access to this sort of support.

Seeing how much it has benefitted me, and many of my peers, I personally think everybody should try therapy, at least once. Having a safe space in which to explore and grow is a privilege many don’t have access to, and can make a massive difference not just to our own lives but also to the lives of those we come into contact with, which of course includes our work colleagues! So ensuring your team has easy access to therapy benefits both them, and you as an employer. 

Before we launched Spill at Wholegrain Digital, some team members openly talked about therapy they were having, or wanted to have, while others may have been fighting their own battles in silence, feeling less able to share such vulnerabilities with colleagues. We all process our struggles in different ways, and that’s ok. What doesn’t feel ok is that some people are able to access therapy whenever they need it, and others cannot. By partnering with Spill, we made it easy for everyone in the team to access this sort of support. Thanks to a Slack integration, professional mental health support and/or training is only ever a few clicks away.

Taking the team’s emotional temperature

One of Spill’s integrations that we particularly love here at Wholegrain, is the weekly check-in. Every week we have a team call, and before the call, team members can check-in – anonymously or not – and share how they’re feeling. The options are displayed as weather icons along a scale, from ‘Terrible’ to ‘Great’. Some days there are emojis representing different emotions, and you can choose as many as you wish, and sometimes Spill invites us to take a quiz to assess the risk of burnout. All of these are optional, we can choose not to check in at all if we’d prefer not to.

What I find interesting is that most of us do check-in, and many of the team do not choose to be anonymous. I find it a great way to see how others are doing, and adjust my communication with them accordingly. Especially as a team member who currently works almost exclusively remotely, it really reminds me of the importance of checking in and truly connecting with each other on a human level. 

Outlook – Sunny with a chance of showers

Based on the aggregate data from these weekly check-ins, Spill ranks companies annually, according to how they index across various emotions. Having just partnered with Spill in June, our data covers half of the year, and puts us in the Top 25 Companies for feelings of low anxiousness, low stress, focus, enthusiasm and excitement. There is no way of us knowing whether these feelings are a result of having access to Spill, but certainly we wouldn’t have known this without the regular check-ins! 

Of course, having access to Spill doesn’t automatically make us all happy all of the time, but when any one of us is hit by one of life’s ‘rainy days’, whether personal or professional, having immediate access to professional support can make a huge difference to how quickly we can respond, and how fully we are able to recover. 

Team day sitting together in a pub

Here’s what our team coach, Chris, has to say about the difference it makes:

“I enjoy completing the weekly Spill check-in before our Tuesday team call. It’s a chance for me to stop and pause, to share my internal state with the rest of the team, and to see how others are doing. Spill collates data so you can see how your own mood stacks up across time. Initially I was surprised that so many of the team were willing to share their emotional state along with their name – now this has been normalised and we no longer feel the need to be confidential.

Sharing our emotional landscape regularly and publicly is building a culture of trust and support. As Rachael has mentioned above; if we know how each of us are doing internally we can adjust our communication and expectations around that person. 

We’re also seeing a destigmatisation of mental health challenges at work. It’s something that we’re becoming more comfortable about talking about as a team. In the past year or two, as I’m sure in most teams, some of us have gone through some pretty major life-upheavals or moments of crisis. Knowing that work is a safe and supportive environment, whatever the weather, really helps through these challenging moments.

I’d highly recommend using Spill, or a similar service, because mental health affects us all and enabling more easy and frequent conversations on this topic is always a good thing.” 

If you’d like to learn more about how Spill can help support your team’s mental health needs, we recommend heading over to their website to book a demonstration, as this is the best way to see how it works in practice.