Working Together at RAIDBOXES: Mental Health & Nonviolent Communication

Michael Firnkes Last updated 25.01.2021
9 Min.
Mental health
Last updated 25.01.2021

More and more companies want to boost the mental and physical health of their staff. Several teams take care of employee wellbeing at RAIDBOXES and one of those teams is called “mental health”. I'll explain in this article how we want to encourage greater job satisfaction - and why it's so important to us.

There's no question about it: a great deal is going very well at RAIDBOXES . The innovative role concept of Holacracy promotes flat hierarchies and maximum personal responsibility. In this way, each and every member of the team can seek out areas of work that are perceived as particularly meaningful - and that match their individual strengths. And yet we are aware that stress factors are also present in a company.

I personally enjoy working at RAIDBOXES. Not because we never have conflicts. But because we want to create a culture of openness to deal with these stress factors in a methodical way. I'll describe two of these methods here today. But let’s first consider where and why stress factors can emerge in a company. The causes include:

  • High workloads due to a wide range of projects.
  • Strong growth of a team leads to new structures and processes. These can initially cause more work than they compensate for.
  • Conflicts also arise when roles and thus responsibilities coincide.
  • RAIDBOXES is becoming more diverse. That's wonderful, but challenges await here as well. For example, when it comes to different values or mindful communication where no one feels excluded.

We want to pick up on dissatisfaction early and have a lasting positive influence on the work atmosphere. We try to ensure this with a whole range of measures:

Mental health

At RAIDBOXES we have a separate role, i.e. a small team, called "mental health". This goes to show how close the topic is to the hearts of our managing directors Torben and Johannes. The mental health role was introduced to increase the satisfaction of RAIDBOXES employees. Primarily within the company but this scope can be extended, if needed. The tasks and responsibilities of the mental health team include:

  • Recognize critical emotional states in employees and teams.
  • Serving as a point of contact for anyone overwhelmed with professional or private matters.
  • Training in mindfulness towards a diverse team and new colleagues, mindful communication culture in the office and in the office. Slack (as we work remotely to a large extent).
  • Provide protection against bullying. Fortunately, this issue hasn't arisen yet but we want to prevent it from the start.
  • Pay particular attention to introverted needs and ensure opportunities to retreat, e.g. for concentrated working.
  • Supporting people to achieve a good work-life balance.
Working Together at RAIDBOXES: Mental Health & Nonviolent Communication
We miss personal contact at the moment despite our video calls and virtual "after-work beer” sessions

At a team we've developed several methods to achieve these goals:

  • Anonymous contact point: This applies to problems of any kind, whether they arise at work or in private life (and thus also have an influence on the work situation).
  • Confidentiality: We are informal contacts for all employees for all questions that should not go straight to the management/team leaders/colleagues. We always ask the people who come to us in advance before we turn to someone else with their concerns. For example, to help resolve the conflict.
  • Mediation and supervision: If required, we mediate neutrally in conflict situations between employees, teams or between employees and the management.
  • Personal responsibility: At the same time, we always start by appealing to the personal responsibility of those affected. This means that we provide them with tips and methods to initially address the conflict themselves - more on this in a moment. We do this so that the team culture becomes more open and transparent in the long term. Only when this is not possible - for whatever reason - do the other methods take effect.
  • Just get it off your chest: There are situations in which it helps to get things off your chest. According to the motto "Disruptions have priority".
  • (Anonymous) surveys: These serve to record the status quo mood in the team. Here we rely on the Echometer tool. This allows us to measure the development of the employees and the individual teams according to various criteria.
  • Organization of workshops: For example, on the causes and coping strategies of mental stress, but also on mindful communication. More about this in a moment.

Either through qualifications or previous experience, members of the mental health team often have the necessary expertise to apply the methods listed above. In all other cases, we're constantly expanding our knowledge with further education and training. Again, RAIDBOXES provides the financial means for us to do this. 

Strengthening personal responsibility

An area like Mental Health - or whatever you want to call it - requires the participation of all employees at the same time. So of course we can't have our eyes and ears everywhere, especially not at times of Corona and Remote Work. We depend on people who need to talk to us, to point out overloads in individual teams or, if necessary, to tell us that another colleague is not feeling well.

The point "personal responsibility" is of central importance. A channel like mental health can only ever be a first step. It’s good that employees turn to us instead of bottling up their anger. Or before a culture of "tittle-tattle" develops. The next step, however, is to motivate everyone in the team to express themselves when a conflict arises. Within the team and also to management.

Without personal responsibility, methods like having a mental health team can lead to conflicts being (anonymously) identified but not adequately resolved. In the worst-case scenario, dissatisfied colleagues may hide behind the channel while others question its usefulness. This would undermine the acceptance of the method itself.

As already mentioned, we strengthen personal responsibility by providing employees with the necessary methods to reflect on themselves and address conflicts directly. This can go as far as small one-to-one coaching sessions in which we develop possible options for action together with those affected. This is done in a very practical manner and based on the case at hand.

Nonviolent communication (NVC)

A relaxed working atmosphere has a lot to do with how attentive communication is within the company. Conflicts should, ideally, be resolved together constructively. And not through personal attacks or by avoiding each other when disagreements arise. Both of these behaviors simply lead to more dissatisfaction and less growth.

One methodical approach to solving conflicts in teams, and in your personal life, is nonviolent communication. This approach was developed by US-American psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg. RAIDBOXES sponsors monthly workshops on nonviolent communication for employees, as well as extended introductory courses. The photo below shows a session before the pandemic: 

Nonviolent Communication Münster
Nonviolent communication training in Münster

Trainer Marianne Oshege regularly comes to our office to introduce us to the model. Communication according to the GfK model takes place in four steps:

  1. Observation, "When I hear/see/experience..."
  2. Naming feelings: "then I feel..."
  3. Express need: "I have the need/That's why I need..."
  4. Make aspecific request: "Can you please..."

Again as a graphic:

Steps of nonviolent communication
The four steps of nonviolent communication

An example:

"If I don't get a response from you per Slack , then I don't feel taken seriously/advised/frustrated. I feel the need for efficiency/support/appreciation. Therefore, in the future, please let me know briefly if you've read my message and by when you can reply.

Some other simple rules of mindful communication are:

  • Avoid judging your counterpart or their behavior. Instead, stay with yourself.
  • A tool for this: Don't address in you-messages ("You did such and such"), but in I-messages ("I think that..."). This keeps the conversation constructive.
  • The formulation "We are of the opinion" is also rarely helpful. On the one hand, you cannot always assume a consensus in the team, and on the other hand, you move away from the authentic level. Or you hide your personal opinion that you don't want to reveal.

Nonviolent communication seems strange to many at the beginning. Firstly, people are reluctant to talk about their feelings in a corporate context and, secondly, the concrete approach requires openness and courage. This is something introverted personalities in particular often find challenging. Other characters who tend to be more on the offensive may ridicule the unmistakable psychological approaches in the four steps.

Rules nonviolent communication
Great results from a training session

The practice sessions with Marianne help us overcome reservations on both sides. Using concrete examples from everyday team life, we learn how conflicts can be identified more quickly using NVC, how best to address them, and how to resolve them. I personally (I-statement 😉) have noticed how this makes my communication more honest, solution-oriented, reflective, and courageous.

Mindfulness for companies

More and more companies and agencies are looking towards mindful structures in which the needs of all employees are continuously reflected and addressed. But why do we even need to know about mindful communication in a professional context?

Marianne sees the following reason: In an increasingly complex and fast-moving world of work, companies are choosing forms of self-organization with decentralized decision-making structures to meet these challenges. Decisions that used to be made through structure and hierarchy are now more and more the responsibility of the individual.

According to Marianne, this means more and more skill demands are being shifted to the individual. The individual is thus faced with the situation of having to act and work independently and flexibly. In other words, employees need a stronger orientation towards making decisions, taking action, and using their initiative than is the case in classically hierarchical companies. Here, everyone in the team is challenged to develop an inner compass that gives direction and orientation. She continues: 

I’m convinced companies need mindful communication to be successful. Mindfulness supports us in reacting appropriately to the impulses of the outside world. It helps us to be in contact with ourselves in such a way that we can recognize: what do we need? And how do we want to deal with what we encounter? We find orientation on the inside where we lack it in the outside world.

At the same time, mindfulness, and mindful communication help us communicate this inner process and our intentions to the outside world in an appreciative and cooperative way. This makes it possible for the team to work together, to deal with differences, and to release or bear tensions.

What progress has the team at RAIDBOXES made since we started working on nonviolent communication and mindfulness? Marianne says:

I see progress in the fact that more and more employees are warming up to mindful or nonviolent communication. They’re willing to work on themselves for a different way of working together and they’re prepared to invest time in it.

She continues:

I believe something has changed in the consciousness at RAIDBOXES. I have the impression the employees are realizing it makes a difference how they talk and interact with their colleagues. And that there’s a need to change behaviors.

The desire for appreciative and authentic cooperation is palpable. And Marianne believes the process that can make this possible has definitely already started at RAIDBOXES.

Promoting mindfulness

The mental health role and nonviolent communication are just two of the measures RAIDBOXES uses to promote greater mindfulness. Within our team and also towards our customers and society. Here’s a small selection from different areas:

  • Social and health promotion: This is done for all employees. For example, through company pension schemes, employee budgets, budgets for personal further training, fitness, etc.
  • Role Equality: The area of responsibility includes, among other things, the observance and maintenance of equality of all genders. Also points such as equal opportunities in the company, compatibility of family and work, cultural/religious and sexual diversity (LGBTQI+) as well as measures against personal and structural discrimination.
  • Role of Happy Management: The team at RAIDBOXES meets regularly for joint events. Currently, of course, unfortunately slowed down by the current situation. The Happy Management takes care of the organization of such events, as well as the well-being in the office and beyond. In the startup and new work scene, the term is well known, it is sometimes also referred to as Feelgood Management.
  • Corona aid: We support customers from industries that have been particularly hard hit by the consequences of the pandemic: Culture, gastronomy, hotels and events. Learn more about our program.
  • Action #supportyourlocals: Corona is a crisis for local retailers, while platforms like Amazon are reaping big profits. This is another reason why we support the #supportyourlocals action with free hosting for portals that digitally connect local businesses.
  • Code of Conduct: The Code of Conduct of RAIDBOXES is a code of conduct, in some companies also called Team Agreement. It contains guidelines on how we want to shape the interaction and communication within the team - on a mindful basis. In this way, it gives our measures a sustainable structure. More about this soon in a separate post (feel free to subscribe to the comments if you want to be informed).

Of course, this also includes our Green Hosting. With many initiatives on the subject of sustainability, which indirectly also provide for a mindful and social interaction.

Carrying the message

SoRAIDBOXES is already making a difference. And yet there are areas where we want to do even better. We already pay attention to working with suppliers who work sustainably themselves. But what about issues such as precarious working models and monitoring of employees? For example, with the many online delivery services that are currently springing up and coming under criticism? Or at Amazon, as recently documented in VICE magazine?

There are more tasks to tackle here but our plans are already being drawn up. In the context of an extended sustainability role, for example. We know our approach will result in more financial expenditure internally and convenience may suffer occasionally. But we’re prepared to accept this to do our part as a team in creating a better working environment.

What’s your contribution?

How do you or your team create a better working atmosphere? What questions do you have about the methods mentioned? Feel free to use the comment function. Want more tips on business and sustainability? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

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