World Mental Health Day: Be Empathetic, Be #human

As we continue to try to find our feet and adapt to new ways of working and living, I don’t think I’m the only one who has a hard time keeping track of things, especially during these times.

Today is World Mental Health Day.

And regardless of where we are in the world and how we might consider a person’s sense of self, it is obvious that we live in unusual times. It seems like an understatement to say that taking care of our mental health is really important.

The global theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Mental health in an unequal world.” For me, it’s about recognizing that people around the world have very different and in some cases uneven experiences in balancing their mental health, including access to help and support.

As such, it is very important that we consider our words and actions when we are in contact with our clients, partners and, most importantly, with each other, with empathy.

Our workforce is diverse, with more than 3,600 employees spread across more than 20 cities around the world. So at Xero we have to consider the complexity that this brings, but that’s also what gives us uniqueness and different perspectives. And these ‘differences’ can have an impact on our mental health, even before a global pandemic is considered.

How we ‘work’ has changed

I know that COVID-19 and adjusting to working remotely has been really difficult for some of our people, particularly those who live alone, in a shared house, or who have young children to care for, juggling homeschooling with remote work. As a single working mom, I certainly understand the act of juggling!

But it has also given some of us a chance to rethink the way we work. Many of our people are thriving while working from home. They are thankful for having more time at home with the family, not having to commute to the office, and more time for deep-focus work, away from the distractions of the office.

Preparing our people for success while working remotely has been a major focus for our People Experience team for the past 18 months. With this in mind, we have implemented some new initiatives to help our people meet these challenges.

Encourage greater flexibility

We are proud of our Xero offices around the world, which are designed to be engaging and collaborative. But while many of our offices are temporarily closed due to lockdowns, we are committed to ensuring that our people who work remotely are supported.

Our workplace experience team is available to offer remote home workstation assessments to keep employees safe and injury free while working from home.

COVID-19 and its associated stresses mean that at times, an employee may not have adequate headspace to do their job well. Our people can take a wellness leave for any reason related to mental health, not just physical health.

Build up your better day!

While working remotely can certainly have its benefits, we are seeing and hearing life’s boundaries between work and home blur and erode. We want to empower our people to take control and communicate their own limits.

That is why we recently launched the “Build your best day” workshops internally. These workshops teach our people to create good habits, take time for deep work, and create a space between work and home to relax. Our staff leaders are also encouraged to connect with their teams to ensure they understand how their teams are responding to this new way of working.

Choose your own career adventure

The COVID-19 pandemic provided us with an opportunity to rethink the way we work and how we attract top talent.

After doing a lot of research on how to better support our people, we recently launched our ‘choose your own professional adventure” flexible work policy, which gives people in our product and technology teams the opportunity to work where they do best – at home, in the office, or a combination of both.

We know that we bring out the best in our people when they work how and where they like, so we are very excited about this new initiative that gives employees and potential employees the power to choose their preferred work environment. This is the first step in a broader approach to which our employees are already reacting positively.

As we look ahead to the next 12 months, I sincerely hope that the challenges many of us are currently facing are alleviated and that we can bring some of the few positives brought on by the pandemic with us to our ‘new normal’. In the meantime, on World Mental Health Day this Sunday, October 10, take a moment to take care of yourself.

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