Mental wellness should not be celebrated

Junren Xiao
by Junren Xiao
Mental wellness should not be celebrated.
As a strategic communications consultancy, Distilleri is all about helping our clients identify trends and incorporating them into their marketing strategies (and eventually executed through a mixture of campaigns, PR efforts and social content) for a sustained impact, rather than a standalone communications piece. This allows our clients to achieve their marketing and business objectives more effectively.
It is the same with mental health.
Mental wellness has to be institutionalised (pun not intended) in company policy, not just observed for a month, a week, or worse – over a 2-hour webinar, once a year. This is why Distilleri doesn’t celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month but would use it to spread awareness of the importance of mental wellness instead.
There are many articles out there showing how easy it is to implement mental wellness practices in the office, and while this probably sounds just like one of them – the important bit is that it has to be aligned to your company’s culture and more importantly, what your staff likes to do together. Not everyone is into activities like poetry slams, Mongolian throat singing classes, or a Michael Jackson tribute seminar (this actually happened to me at my first job).
Here is some of the stuff that we have implemented:

1. Days Off Without MC

Distilleri’s leave policy allows our team members to take up to 7 days medical leave a year without a medical certificate. No questions asked. Work can be hectic at times, and everybody needs a good lie-down now and then. While other organisations profess to give their employees mental off days, Distilleri leaves it to our team members to decide when to take their mental off day(s). Most of the time, these days can’t be pre-planned.
However, it is important to emphasize the need of seeking professional help when needed. Our team leads check in with their teammates regularly and look out for signs that indicate that they may need help.

2. Flexible Working Arrangements

The pandemic has shown the world that we don’t need everyone in the office, at the same time, to produce effective work. We knew this all along. Even before Distilleri was formed (we were a merger of 2 communications agencies: Huntington Communications and Paprika Global), we were practicing flexible working hours — staff can choose which time blocks work best for them. It worked great, so it only made sense to formalise it in our employment contract when we merged.
Also, if team members need to work on the weekends, they are compensated either with off-in-lieu, or monetarily. Pats on the back are good, but not good enough in this case.

3. Encouraged (and Funded) Breaks

We did reasonably well in 2021, our first year of inception, and so in Q4 2021 we wanted to reward our team. The original plan was to have a company incentive trip, but there were many travel restrictions at that time. Hence, we decided to give everyone $1,000 to spend on their personal vacations — they can utilise it any time in 2022. The only catch is that they have to send us some of their vacay photos to be featured on our social media — to show what an awesome company we are.

4. Physical Wellness Supplementing Mental Wellness

Pretty common-sensical stuff. Healthy body = healthy mind. At Distilleri, we let our team members decide which fitness classes they want to sign up for, and we’ll pay for it – the only requirement is that they have to find enough colleagues who will be interested. So far, they have joined HIIT classes, attended sessions with the New Balance Run Club (shoutout to our client, New Balance), and organised pilloxing classes. Ultimately the benefits are not just fitness, it is also a great chance for people from different departments to come together and get to know each other better.

5. On-going Culture Building

We encourage our team members to have informal gatherings/social events. Hence, we allocated common / recreational spaces when we were planning for our new office space (we just moved into a nice 4,000 sqm office).
In addition, we also sponsor company social events – from dinner sessions to KTV parties in our edit suite, or bar crawls at our new office location. It may sound obvious, but formalising these events — setting a clear budget, getting volunteers to organise, and even just by sending a meeting invite, help make them a success.
In essence, Distilleri does not celebrate mental wellness. Instead, our focus is a constant environment of personal and professional development, which results in a team that works, plays, and rests better.