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World Mental Health Day: Be empathetic, be #human

Nicole Reid

Nicole Reid

Oct 9, 2021

As we continue to try to find our feet and adjust to new ways of working and living, I don’t think I’m the only one finding it hard to keep track of things – especially during these times.

It’s World Mental Health Day today.

And, regardless of where we are in the world and how we might regard a person’s sense of self, it’s obvious that we’re living in unusual times. It feels like an understatement to say that looking after our mental health is really important.

The global World Mental Health Day theme this year is ‘mental health in an unequal world’. For me, this is about acknowledging people around the world have very different and in some cases unequal experiences balancing their mental health including access to help and support.

As such, it’s so important that we consider our words and actions when being in contact with our customers, partners, and most importantly, each other, with empathy.

Our workforce is diverse, with more than 3,600 employees spread across more than 20 cities around the globe. So, at Xero we must consider the complexity 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 taking a global pandemic into consideration.

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 share-house, or who have small children to look after, juggling home-schooling with remote working. As a working single mum, I certainly understand the juggling act!

But, it has also given some of us the opportunity to rethink the way we work. A lot of our people are thriving while working from home. They’re grateful for more time at home with family, no office commute, and more time for deep focus work, away from office distractions.

Setting our people up for success while working remotely has been a major focus for our People Experience team over the past 18 months. With this in mind, we’ve rolled out a few new initiatives to support our people as they face these challenges.

Encouraging greater flexibility

We’re 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 because of lockdowns, we’re committed to ensuring our people who are working remotely are supported.

Our Workplace Experience team is on hand to offer remote home workstation assessments so employees keep themselves safe and injury-free while working from home.

COVID-19 and its associated stresses mean that sometimes, an employee may not have the right headspace to do their job well. Our people can take wellbeing leave for any reason relating to mental health, not just physical health.

Build your best day!

While working remotely can certainly have its benefits, we are seeing and hearing about work-home life boundaries blurring and eroding. We want to empower our people to take control and communicate their own boundaries.

That’s why we’ve recently rolled out ‘Build your best day’ workshops internally. These workshops teach our people to create good habits, give themselves time for deep work, and create space between work and home to unwind. Our people 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 gave us an opportunity to rethink the way we work, and how we attract the best talent.

After conducting a lot of research into how to best support our people, we recently launched our ‘choose your own career adventure’ flexible work policy, which gives people in our product and tech teams the opportunity to work where they perform best – at home, in the office, or a combination of both.

We know that we get the best out of our people when they work how, and where, they like, so we’re really excited about this new initiative that gives employees and prospective employees the power to choose their preferred working environment. This is the first step of a wider approach that our employees are already reacting positively to.

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

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