Mental health

Togetherness at Raidboxes: Mental Health & Nonviolent Communication

More and more companies are promoting the mental and physical health of their employees. At Raidboxes, several teams are working on this, including "Mental Health. How we want to ensure more satisfaction in the workplace - and why this is so important to us.

There is no question about it: a great deal is going very well at Raidboxes\. The innovative role concept of holacracy promotes flat hierarchies and a maximum of individual responsibility. In this way, everyone in the team can look for fields of work that are perceived as particularly meaningful - and that fit their individual strengths. And yet we are aware that stress factors are also present in a company.

Personally, I really like working at Raidboxes. Not because we don't have conflicts. But because we want to use methods and establish an open culture to deal with these stress factors. In this article I present two of these methods. But first, what can be possible causes of conflict and stress in companies? Among others:

  • 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 isbecoming more diverse. That's wonderful, but challenges await here too. 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 there is a separate role or a small team called "Mental Health". This shows how much the topic is close to the hearts of our managing directors Torben and Johannes. Mental Health was introduced for the simple reason of making the employees of Raidboxes happier. At work, but also beyond if needed. Our team has the following tasks, among others:

  • 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.
Togetherness at Raidboxes: Mental Health & Nonviolent Communication
Personal contacts are currently lacking, despite online meetings and the virtual "after-work beer".

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.

In some cases, the Mental Health Team already has the necessary professional background, for example through previous jobs and training. In all other cases, we train ourselves - again with financial support from Raidboxes.

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 of "personal responsibility" is of central importance. A channel like Mental Health can only ever be the first step. It is good and right that employees turn to us before they "swallow" their anger. Or before a culture of "ranting and raving" develops. The next step, however, is to motivate everyone in the team to speak up as soon as a conflict arises. Within the team, but also to the managers.

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.

There is a methodical approach to solving conflicts in teams (and in the private sphere) called non-violent communication - founded by the US psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg. Raidboxes sponsors monthly workshops on non-violent communication for its employees, as well as associated introductory courses (the picture dates back to pre-Corona times):

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. Expressing need: "I have the need/That's why I need..."
  4. Formulate concrete 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 via Slack, then I don't feel taken seriously/advised/frustrated. I feel the need for efficiency/support/appreciation. That's why I ask you to let me know briefly in the future 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 are moving away from the authentic level. Or you hide your personal opinion, which you do not want to reveal.

For many, the approach of Nonviolent Communication is unfamiliar at the beginning. On the one hand, people are reluctant to talk about their feelings in a corporate context, and on the other hand, the concrete approach requires openness and courage. This is often a great challenge, especially for introverts. Some "offensive" characters, on the other hand, smile at the psychological approaches that are unmistakably contained in the four steps.

Rules nonviolent communication
Great results from a training session

The practice sessions with Marianne Oshege help us to reduce reservations on both sides. Using concrete examples from everyday team life, we learn how conflicts can be recognised more quickly through GfK, how we can best address them and how we can resolve them. I personally (I-message 😉 ) notice how my communication becomes 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 with non-violent communication and mindful action? Marianne comments:

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:

Something has changed for me in the awareness at Raidboxes\. I have the impression that the staff realise that it does make a difference how they speak and interact with their colleagues. And that there is a need for behavioural change.

The desire for appreciative and authentic interaction is tangible. The process that can make this possible is definitely underway at Raidboxes, says the trainer.

Promoting mindfulness

Mental health and non-violent communication are just two of the measures with which Raidboxes promotes more mindfulness. In the team, but also towards our clients and society. Here is a 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. At the moment, of course, this is 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. The term is well known in the start-up and new-work scene, and is sometimes also referred to as feel-good 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 a team agreement. It contains guidelines on how we want to shape the interaction and communication in the team together - 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

Raidboxes is already making a difference. And yet there are areas where we want to improve even more. We already make sure that we work 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 are being criticised? 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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