THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Mental Health Measures for Growing a Collaborative Work Environment

Understanding levels of mental health for remote eLearning experts, and offering services and measures that benefit their overall well-being.

The Importance of Mental Health

René Thiele, Chief Operating Officer for Xpan, explains how Xpan has stepped up to support mental health, and the measures taken to ensure the team is well taken care of. By staying connected with employees to understand their level of well-being, we continue to offer services that benefit and support a sustainable lifestyle for virtual Xpaners. René prides herself in being a person who encourages the team to do their best, but will be the first to tell them to check in with themselves. Be sure to watch for updates in our mental health series, where we talk about celebrating our team while working from home.

During the pandemic, psychological safety and mental health measures have been more important than ever. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety have increased while working from home, and we have been accommodating Xpaners in any way we can to ensure they are feeling safe and protected.

I believe this includes both mental and physical considerations because we’ve learned both are more intertwined than people think. Being in tune with your body and mind—and knowing what, like a screen, can affect them—is vital. It is important to take proper breaks so I ask the team to monitor their physical and mental health while working at home. I want to know, if you have a headache, why? Is it from lack of sleep or hydration—or is it something more, like an argument you had with a friend and now you are not doing well mentally and you still have to work. I don’t need to know the details but I want to help however I can.

To do that I must ask the questions. I must also be honest with our team about my own challenges in balancing work and life, with the hope the same candor is shared about their current state. Being vulnerable is difficult, but doing so amongst peers that care can relieve some of the weight off all our shoulders.

It’s so easy for people to discount mental health because there is a strong “hustle” mentality at a lot of workplaces, but if you need to take time for yourself, that should take priority over work.

Sometimes you have to be the brave person that starts a conversation like that. It lets other people know that it’s safe for them to share how they’re feeling. Even if you are the only one to speak up, it’s a way of letting people know that they are not alone in this situation.

Celebrating Where We Can

The conversation about mental health has been important to me long before the pandemic. For me, caring about others has always come naturally, such as remembering people’s hobbies, food preferences, and family events. I love feeding people and hosting events that bring the team together. However, the pandemic has kept me from doing what I do best: celebrating the hardworking people on the team.

Now I celebrate others by keeping in contact with them digitally. I’m limited now by what I can do from my computer, but even a small kudos on our digital channels can be meaningful. We continue to learn and evolve together as a team. The best way to support each other is to be completely honest with each other about the challenges we face.

Growing a Great Team

I love to garden, and I’ve unintentionally used it for personal goal setting with an additional outcome of showing team members how much they mean to me. This spring I planted six black beauty squash seeds into six pots. Then I gave them nicknames after different team members that I work closely with.

It’s more fun than a formal team check-in, which we still attend, but I like showing the team their squash’s growth via video. The plants have reached the point where they can be harvested and we’ve already seen a chocolate zucchini cake and a stir fry come out of it! This happens with love, care, and attention. They’re seeing how that love and attention is producing awesome results and these plants look amazing. It also shows them that I have a plan and we can share a goal. Overall, it’s been a great harvest.

A Perfect Peck of Pickles

My garden has been a great learning curve for me. There is careful planning required when selecting seed types, and strategic thinking for selecting the locations of where the plants will thrive best. I must consider their relation to the sun and drainage to give them the best chance of producing a hearty harvest. Many times I have learned too late that shade has now been cast after plant growth preventing the growth of another plant, or I’ve zealously overseeded and need to thin out plants now that are choking and preventing the growth of the others. The last thing a gardener wants to do is thin their precious seedlings.

After years of trying to tackle everything on my own as a gardener and a leader, it became clear that working together yields a greater product. I have learned through trial and error where plants will thrive, and when I did not know, I looked to my network for guidance. Nobody can finish a whole project solo: it truly does take a village. By making thoughtful moves, Xpaners thrive better. When we focus on strengths, and split up the responsibilities between other talented people, we can achieve a creative end result—with less stress.

Our clients rely on Xpaners to produce stellar experiences: in both our products and while working directly with our team. We achieve this by taking care of each other and by doing so, together, we are able to take care of our clients.

About René Thiele:

René Thiele is the Chief Operating Officer for Xpan Interactive Ltd. She is responsible for daily operations, supporting company growth, and positively impacting the organization’s bottom line.

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