30 Jan 2019

How we manage mental health

We take mental health seriously at Monzo. We want to support the people who work here (we call them Monzonauts) and make talking about mental health a part of everyday life.

We’re working to create a safe and supportive environment for everyone. We still have work to do, but this is the progress we’ve made so far.

We all struggle with mental health sometimes

Our physical health and our mental health are linked; the two don’t exist in isolation. It’s just that many of us don’t think about mental health on a day to day basis. Lots of people weigh themselves on the bathroom scales and inspect their skin in the mirror, but it’s rarer to take stock of our mental state each day.

We’re all affected by mental health. Our mental health influences our performance at work every day, and that’s normal. We employ nearly 700 people now. So it’s important that Monzo is a place where people feel they can talk about mental health freely and without being judged.

First we created a space for people to talk

In February 2018 we created a Slack channel exclusively for the topic of mental health. (Slack is an instant messaging platform we use to communicate internally). We made the channel public, meaning any of our 680 Monzonauts could join the discussion. To begin with, people mainly used it for sharing mental health studies and support sources. But once they saw it was a safe and supportive forum, they started sharing their daily thoughts and things they were struggling with.

Today, it’s a hugely popular channel (and we have thousands of channels). There are 348 members who post new messages nearly every day. Members reply to posts with supportive messages and remind people that what they’re feeling is normal, and they’re not alone.

We put mental health first aid boxes around the office

Our next step was to create mental health first aid boxes.

We asked Monzonauts what things they struggle with during the working day (like their mood, focus, stress) that they could self-soothe given the right tools. They told us that stress, bad moods, anxiety and cognitive distortions were some of the things they suffered with. Simply put, cognitive distortions are ways our minds convince us of something that isn’t true, and which can impact our mental wellbeing. Like polarised thinking, where you only see things in black and white. For example, you might only see things as failures or successes.

With this information we added these things to our first aid boxes:

  • Colouring books
  • Walking routes outside the office
  • Playlists with calming music
  • Where to find Monzo office dogs (puppy therapy is a thing)
  • Gratitude cards you can write in and give to someone

Each of these things help distract you and let you take ownership of your wellbeing.

We’re training Monzonauts to be mental health first aiders

Just like with physical first aid, there are times when we need help from others. Going for a short stroll won’t solve all of our problems. We might need reassurance from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Someone who’s trained to spot warning signs and help us bounce back.

Initially we organised for one person to be trained as a mental health first aid instructor. That person then went on to train 45 others to be mental health first aiders. They’re not counsellors, but they’re on-hand if anyone needs them and can find professional help for people if they want it.

In the next few months we’ll be starting to offer voluntary mental health awareness courses. It’s great that we have 45 mental health first aiders, but it’s important that we offer the entire team the chance to learn more about mental health.

We’re making mental health part of our culture

We wanted to create and maintain a positive mental health environment. If we do this well, there’s a good chance that Monzonauts won’t need the safeguards we’ve spoken about quite as often.

We started by thinking about our employee benefits. We set flexible working hours, promoted walking meetings to get people out of the office, created different types of workspaces in our office and continued to be a dog friendly office.

We decided to give everyone at Monzo a discounted subscription to the meditation app Headspace and Spill, an app that lets you chat to a counsellor on a daily basis. We also selected a private healthcare provider that offers CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) sessions as part of its cover.

It’s okay to… Be wrong. Cry. Say you don’t know.
Have a tough day. Ask for help. Fail. Take a mental
health day. Have a different opinion. Take a break
when you need it.
It’s great to… Ask questions. Put your hand up
when you make mistakes. Go home. Be ambitious.
Go for a walk to clear your head. Switch off
completely during holidays. Work from home or a
coffee shop some days. Give away your Legos.
Please… Be kind. Be helpful. Be mindful of your
own limits. Share knowledge. Ask people how
they’re doing. Bring your dog to the office.
Remember there are no silly questions. Leave
things better than you found them.
You should… Talk to people about doubts and
concerns. Be yourself. Give candid, timely
feedback. Be honest, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Try to… Soften the edges. Be hard on problems,
not people (including yourself). Put your ego aside.

Download the poster here 🙂

We created a private way for people to share how they’re feeling

Although the Slack channel was proving to be popular, we knew not everyone would want to share their feelings in a public place. So we decided to create ‘This is Me’ – a short mental health form which anyone can fill in and share with whoever they want.

You can share what’s unique about you and how you cope with mental health with your manager, or anybody, so others can spot warning signs and support you if you need it. The form is confidential by default, but you can share it with as many people as you like. It’s entirely up to you. Sometimes we just want to be asked ‘How are you doing?’, and This is Me helps others know when to ask.

We’ve still got work to do

We’ve come a long way in just under a year, but we’ve still got work to do. We’ve supported people suffering with depression, anxiety, bereavement, domestic abuse, break ups and more. But we could still do more to make coping with mental health a part of everyday life at Monzo.

We expect a lot from our employees, and we take our duty as employers seriously. We want people to perform at their very best. So we need to make sure we give people the tools and support to cope with working exceptionally hard. Being a high functioning, brilliant person is not at odds with having a mental health diagnosis. We are a community, and when we stumble, we help each other back up so we can continue to achieve audacious goals together.

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