The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health”. The key elements here are that it is active, and not passive and needs to be consciously worked on. The second is that it is holistic: it goes beyond just physical health and looks at many more dimensions of our lives that need to work in harmony with each other.
‘Wellness First’ at disguise
One crucial part of wellness is mental health, which has been incorporated into a ‘Wellness First’ programme at disguise. ‘Wellness First’ is an active promotion of wellness across the company, driven by the following key initiatives:
Unlimited holiday, work from anywhere and an inclusive approach to taking leave
disguise offers unlimited annual leave as part of our ‘Wellness First’ initiative. Our people consistently work hard and strive to go above and beyond, which can lead to burnout.
Taking time away from work to recharge is vital for avoiding burnout and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Over the years, we noticed that holiday days were often saved for the latter half of the year. By removing the limit, we removed the need to save days for later and allowed employees the opportunity to take time off when they need it.
We also considered various research which suggests that unlimited holiday results in employees taking less time off due to anxieties around taking too much holiday. In order to combat this, we have a minimum requirement of holiday days imposed. We want employees to take time off to recharge and ensure their mental health comes first!
We firmly believe in empowering our team so they can make sure work works for them. This is why we have a ‘Work From Anywhere’ policy, where, for up to six weeks per year, employees can work in any other country they choose.
Employees with disabilities, those who practise a religion and those who have children are just some examples of people who will particularly benefit from additional flexibility in paid time off, making disguise a more inclusive place to work for all. We also offer the option to swap public and bank holidays for other vacation days so employees can take off the days that are meaningful to them.
This all acts as an enhancement to our ‘Belonging’ policies’, which are in place to ensure we create a workplace where everyone feels like they belong. As part of this, we provide additional paid time off for employees undergoing fertility treatment, menopause and gender transition. These policies remain active, and now employees are also able to use their unlimited time to ensure they are able to best manage their physical and mental health in every circumstance.
The mental health buddy system
In order to ensure that employees get help with their mental health when they need it, we have introduced a mental health buddy system.
Mental health buddies are qualified Mental Health First Aiders with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) who act as the first point of call for any disguise employee who is struggling with their mental health.
While they are not trained counsellors, they are trained to listen and are qualified to signpost these individuals to the most appropriate person or resource.
At the moment we have thirteen mental health buddies within disguise. We continually promote who our mental health buddies are so anyone can feel comfortable reaching out. In addition to our mental health buddies, we also have a global Employee Assistance Programme with a. hotline employees can use if they are struggling.
We have also introduced the following key initiatives to promote wellness:
- Free access to the dedicated wellness app ‘Calm’ for all employees. Calm offers advice, meditation and other practical ways to better support mental health and well-being.
- Dedicated medical health cover for some regions which includes mental health support in the form of counselling.
- Virtual yoga classes that are accessed globally twice a week for over 18 months. More recently we have added a virtual relaxation class that focuses on the practice of meditation to support employees being able to wind down and switch off.
- Regular organised talks around mental health in company-wide meetings. We recently had Keynote Speaker, Consultant and Mental Health Campaigner, Geoff McDonald, share his mental health story and inspire others to get help if they need it.
It is not just about shiny new initiatives or Mental Health Days, we also want our leaders to embody wellness at a team level. To achieve this, disguise has an objective for all our leaders to make sure that they are monitoring wellness in their teams and that this is an active topic at their weekly 1-1s and quarterly reviews.
It’s been said many times - there is no health without mental health. Mental health matters now more than ever. Mental health challenges can be the most difficult and the most hidden challenges we face and can impact every aspect of our lives. I am so proud of our ‘Wellness First’ initiative and that mental fitness and mental health are front and centre at disguise. I want every disguiser to know that we want to promote mental fitness and offer support when it’s needed. I want every disguiser to know that there is always someone to talk to.”
disguise Chief People Officer, Lorna Bains
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