How Double Eleven fosters a nurturing environment for mental health and wellbeing amidst a pandemic

This article is by Double Eleven HR & Operations Supervisor, Andrea Wearmouth

The fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic has been swift and aggressive, completely upending our way of life at every turn. This “new normal” is affecting everyone mentally, and retaining our employees’ mental health is hugely important to us at Double Eleven. With all that Covid has thrown at us, we want to ensure that all of our staff is getting their social and emotional needs met during this trying time. To do that, we’ve set up a series of practices that cater to the wide gulf of situations our employees may have found themselves in during this pandemic.

One of the biggest hurdles for many on our team is that of being a parent raising children while working remotely. Raising kids requires a ton of work even outside of a pandemic, so we as a company were quick to remind the wider team to show empathy and compassion towards their parenting colleagues. We told everyone to expect delayed responses and variable availabilities as typical “working hours” became a more mercurial concept. Everyone has new battles to face these days, and it was important for parents to know that the entire company is there to support them.

Others on staff have found themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum by living alone. To help those in such isolated situations, digital support bubbles were erected within the company to ensure people could virtually buddy up with colleagues.

Another group this has been a challenge for is has been those who started at Double Eleven in the midst of the pandemic. Since lockdown started in March, we’ve hired around 40 full-time employees and this number is still growing. To ensure that this onboarding goes smoothly, all of our recent recruits have regular contact with their team leads, ensuring that they still receive the level of mentorship, feedback and engagement that they would have had prior to the pandemic.

As a company that’s expanded significantly over the last year, it’s important that our efforts to support the wellbeing of everyone grows in line with that.

Some teams have coffee breaks and “sanity chats” every morning, which are 15-30 minute calls where teams get together and talk about what they’ve been up to outside of work.

While we miss the post-work rounds of drinks and football games during lockdown, technology has made it easy to keep that social element. People are creating and running weekly quizzes, D&D has continued remotely, and online gaming has made for many impromptu social gatherings.

Prior to lockdown we would meet for monthly team lunches, encouraging people to mingle with folks outside of their department. Nowadays, we still meet for virtual monthly lunches via Microsoft Teams and the company kindly picks up the tab for everyone’s meal. Another small gesture we do to create a feeling of community is having the company cover everyone’s tea, coffee and biscuit expenses in lockdown, retaining our creature comforts from before.

Internally, as the HR & Operations Supervisor at Double Eleven I have been talking to every single member of the team from the beginning, checking if there’s anything we can do to make their work-from-home lives more comfortable.

We know that people are dealing with this in very different ways, so we adapt what we offer on an individual basis. We’ve even reconfigured larger teams so that everyone gets regular one-to-one support from the person who oversees their work on a daily basis.

We’ve always had an open door policy as a company, encouraging people to talk to their manager about things that bother them so they can collaboratively find a solution. We also acknowledge that there are people who do not feel comfortable talking face to face, and prefer the anonymity of external resources, so we offer as much information as possible to help with this. Talking therapies and other counselling are available for those who want them, and our team is able to help guide anyone through the referral process, ensuring that they get the help that they need.

Double Eleven is constantly looking for better ways to work during the COVID crisis. Some of these practices have been so effective that we may continue them after the pandemic is over. In the meantime, localised spikes in cases and the use of national contact tracing will continue for the foreseeable future, so we have a working group that meets weekly to discuss how the tide is turning. If there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that we must take things one day at a time, as we can only predict so much. Ultimately we will do whatever we need to in order to keep our people safe, and ensuring that they have all the mental health support they could want is our top priority as we navigate this troubling era together.

Andrea has been with Double Eleven almost 5 years and is their HR and Operations Supervisor. She continually supports the team with her focus being on staff wellbeing and work-life balance.

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