26th September 2017

The secret to happiness at work: remembering what’s important

Holly Davis
Agile Project Manager

As Deeson grows in size, our agency is becoming more distributed. Some of us are based at either the Canterbury or London offices, and some work remotely from all over the UK and Europe. So it’s important to find ways to make sure the whole team is on the same page.

Last summer we open sourced our company handbook. It links to not only our company policies but also helpful guides on everything from joining Deeson, to our approach to self-scheduling, advice on taking your mandatory paid sabbatical after five years, and lots more. 

Team members and prospective recruits (even other agencies) tell us the handbook is useful. But we admit it can be a lot to absorb on your very first day, and it doesn’t necessarily give an immediate impression of what it’s really like to work at Deeson. 

With this in mind, and inspired by this brilliant post from Government Digital Service, we decided to produce something visual for new and existing team members, that would verbalise the unspoken truths and aspirations about working here.

The team behind the exercise.

This project was coordinated by myself and the rest of the Collaboration and Wellbeing chapter – a group of people within the agency who have volunteered to lead on initiatives that bring the team closer and support individual mental health and happiness. 

With an HSE study from 2016 showing that stress accounts for 37% of “all work related ill health cases” in the UK, we think it’s a priority to ensure a work-life balance. It’s one of the reasons we introduced mandatory paid sabbaticals and our annual £250 personal Wellness Fund. 

This aim of this new project was to produce a visual poster that could act as a daily reminder for everyone in the agency about the basics – things it’s OK to do.

Producing the poster.

The Collaboration and Wellbeing chapter started by running a short video meeting open to the whole company, to introduce the project and its aims. Then we crowdsourced and voted on suggestions as a team, and whittled them down until we had our final list:

We encourage you to poster

Download a PDF version of the poster here

They’re all important points, but we’ve chosen four to go into a little more detail about:

Ask for help – Self-managing doesn’t mean existing in isolation. Each one of us is a part of multiple teams (a chapter, a project team, plus the agency as a whole), and that’s a lot of talented, friendly people to turn to! There’s no reason to ever struggle alone with a problem.

Spend some time co-located with the team – We believe distributed is the future of work. The benefits of flexible working are countless and many employers are missing a trick not making this a core part of their offering. But that’s not to say face-to-face contact isn’t valuable. It’s easier to bond and form stronger relationships with colleagues when you get to see each other, so we create plenty of reasons for the team to get together, for example our tech chapter away days.

Turn off Slack – We felt it was important to include this one, because there is a pressure to constantly feel connected and plugged in. Yes, there should be a way for colleagues to contact you during work hours – but we understand that constant notifications can generate low-level stress that isn’t conducive to doing your best work. So we encourage team members to shut down Slack when they need to.

Switch off when you clock off – Be honest, how many times have you checked your work emails while on holiday? Maybe that suits you, and that’s OK. But we want our team to know that not only do they have permission to switch off completely when they’re not at work, we actively encourage it. 

Now that the poster is finished, we’ll be printing them out to put up in both our offices, sending a copy to our distributed team members who’d like one to put up in their workspace, and even taking individual reminders as Slack loading messages. We love the poster as a colourful reminder of the principles that we try to live out everyday.

We always appreciate an insight into how other companies do things. What else do you encourage at your place of work? Tweet us at @DeesonAgency.

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