Less Stress: A New Mental Health Program For intive’s Employees

The turbulent year 2020 meant huge emotional challenges for many of us. What mental struggles did intivers have to cope with last year? How is intive helping to manage employee stress? Why do we need to reboot our thinking on mental health in 2021? These are the topics we’ve discussed in our most recent interview with Anna Schattovits (Learning and Development Business Partner), Urszula Mojska (HR Business Partner) and Anna Cyrańska (Event Manager) – initiators and coordinators of intive’s “Less Stress!” program.

The pandemic has altered the lives of millions of people. How has it affected the mental wellbeing of intivers?

U.M.: The pandemic, the lockdown, and remote work have greatly disturbed our sense of security. Suddenly, everything has changed and it has been hard for many of us to adjust. The challenges ranged from organizing a proper workplace at home to experiencing a growing sense of isolation. Besides, we’ve had to deal with a disturbed work-life-balance, no physical contact with colleagues, no proverbial “water cooler talks”.

A.S.: Exactly. During the coaching sessions with intivers, the issues of work-life balance appeared most frequently. When home matters began to intertwine with professional responsibilities, intive’s employees have noticed increased fatigue and less resistance to stressors.

Limitations in interpersonal contacts leave us with little chance for co-regulation - the process whereby one nervous system calms another, which primarily occurs in the course of direct interaction.

Also, the opportunity to talk about professional dilemmas and frustrations has been severely limited. And unfortunately, conversations with family members or other people outside our professional group are not always the best substitute – it just doesn’t feel the same.

A.C.: I would like to add that for a powerhouse like intive it’s been relatively easy to switch to remote work: we’ve introduced proper procedures, built an app that allows us to work in a hybrid model, made it possible for intivers to take home the necessary office equipment. This is important, but not enough. That’s why we’ve also created the “Less Stress!” program – an initiative that addresses the mental well-being of our employees.

Tell us more about the “Less Stress!” program. What kind of support does it provide?

U.M.: In fact, the idea for this initiative appeared long before the pandemic. For some time we’d been noticing that educational and preventive measures should be taken to protect the mental health of our employees - a very important issue often overlooked by organizations. The Covid-19 situation has just accelerated our actions in that area.

A.S.: The “Less Stress!” program is a collection of various activities aimed at helping employees who struggle with symptoms of stress, and equip them with tools to deal with stress in everyday situations. The important part of the program is also to raise awareness about mental health well-being and disenchant the myths about mental disorders, psychotherapy and psychiatry. As part of the program, we offer employees participation in individual coaching sessions, webinars, meetings and group discussions.

A.C.: We’ve approached the subject holistically, adapting the activities on several levels: individual support, support for managers, and activities aimed at teams and the entire organization. Everyone can use the help of the HR department, and the managerial staff is also involved in the program. Managers learn about mental health topics, for example, about the symptoms of burnout, so that they can react quickly and appropriately when they first spot them in their team members.

We’ve just entered 2021. What should we expect in terms of our mental health? Are we going to regain our balance after a rather unusual 2020?

U.M.: I don't know if 2021 will bring us relief and return to normality – it would be rather naive to expect that. We can only further adjust to the current reality and do our best to take care of ourselves. At intive we’re adapting to the new normal – for example, we’re currently working on a hybrid office project. Ultimately, we would like our employees to do some work from home and some from the office.

A.S.: What I am happy about is that mental health topics have finally become noticeable. It’s a very welcome trend that should continue in 2021, as now we need more mental resilience and flexibility than ever. The previous year has showed us that they are in fact basic skills without which it is impossible to act boldly and effectively in a world that continues to surprise us.

A.C.: We’ve certainly all learned to pay more attention to ourselves, our emotions, and feelings. I sincerely hope that these lessons and the appropriate stress-management practices will remain with us for good.

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