Working Together at RAIDBOXES: Mental Health & Nonviolent Communication

Michael Firnkes Last updated on 09.12.2020
9 Min.
Mental health
Last updated on 09.12.2020

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.

Without a doubt, many things run smoothly at RAIDBOXES. The innovative concept of roles from Holacracy promotes flat hierarchies and a large amount of personal responsibility. In this way, everyone in the team can look for fields of work they feel are meaningful - and which match their individual strengths. At the same time, we understand that stress factors are always going to exist 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. This is fantastic but it also brings further challenges. For example, when it comes to differing values or the idea of mindful communication where nobody 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.
  • Train our diverse team and new colleagues in mindfulness and promote a mindful communication culture in the office and on Slack (we're increasingly Working Remotely).
  • 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 point of contact: This applies to problems of any kind, whether they arise at work or at home (and therefore have an influence on your situation at work).
  • Confidentiality: We're informal contacts for all employees with any questions that shouldn't be directed to management/team management/colleagues. We always ask people who come to us first before we contact someone else with their concerns. When trying to resolve the conflict, for example.
  • Mediation and supervision: We can mediate in conflict situations between employees, teams, or between employees and management.
  • Personal responsibility: At the same time, we always appeal to the personal responsibility of those affected. This means we provide tips and methods for people to address the conflict themselves - more on this in a moment. We do this so the team culture becomes more open and transparent for the long term. Only when this isn’t possible, for whatever reason, do we use other methods.
  • Simply get things off your chest: There are situations where it helps to get things off your chest. True to the motto "disturbances have priority".
  • (Anonymous) surveys: These serve to record the current mood in the team. We use the tool Echometer. The development of employees and individual teams can therefore be measured according to various criteria.
  • Workshops: This includes sessions on the causes of psychological stress, coping strategies, and also 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 however you’d like to call it, requires the cooperation of all employees at the same time. We can’t have our eyes and ears open everywhere. Especially not in times of corona and remote work. We rely on those wanting to talk approaching us directly. To point out when individual teams are overwhelmed and, if necessary, to let us know when a colleague isn’t doing so 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 comes to our office on a regular basis to practice NVC with us. Communication according to the NVC model takes place in four steps:

  1. Observation: "When I hear/see/experience..."
  2. Name feelings: "I feel..."
  3. Identify needs: ”which is why I need..."
  4. Make specific requests: "Can you please..."

Again as a graphic:

Steps of nonviolent communication
The four steps of nonviolent communication

An example:

"When I don't get an answer from you on Slack, I don't feel taken seriously/feel perplexed/frustrated. I have a need for efficiency/support and appreciation. Therefore I ask you to let me know in the future if you’ve read my message and when you can answer it by.

Some other simple rules of mindful communication are:

  • Avoid evaluating your counterpart or their behavior. Stay focused on yourself instead.
  • A way to help you do this: don’t speak in "you-statements" ("You did this and that"), but in "I-statements ("I think that..."). This keeps the conversation constructive.
  • Even the phrase "we think" is rarely helpful. On the one hand, you can’t always assume a consensus within the team. On the other hand, you’re moving away from an authentic level. Or you’re hiding a personal opinion 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.

He 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, e.g. through company pension plans, employee budgets, budgets for personal training, fitness, etc.
  • Equality role: Areas of responsibility for this role include observing and maintaining equality for all genders, dealing with equal opportunities within the company, reconciling family and work, cultural/religious and sexual diversity (LGBTQI+), and measures against personal and structural discrimination.
  • Happy management role: RAIDBOXES employees regularly meet up for team events. Of course, this is currently limited by the coronavirus pandemic. The happy management role organizes these 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’s sometimes also called feelgood management.
  • Support during the corona crisis: We support customers from industries that are particularly hard hit by the consequences of the pandemic: culture, gastronomy, hotel trade, and events. Find out more about our program.
  • Action #supportyourlocals: Corona is a crisis for local traders, while platforms like Amazon are making big profits. This is one reason why we support the #supportyourlocals campaign with free hosting for portals that digitally network local businesses.
  • Code of conduct: At RAIDBOXES call this codex a code of conduct but in some companies it's referred to as a team agreement. It contains guidelines on how we want to shape the way we deal with each other and communicate within the team - on a respectful basis. It thus provides a sustainable structure for our measures. A separate article will soon be published on this topic, please subscribe to the comments and we'll let you know when it is.

Our green hosting also certainly belongs on this list. With its array of sustainability initiatives, it also indirectly contributes to respectful and socially conscious interaction.

Carrying the message

RAIDBOXES is already undertaking a lot. And yet there are areas in which we want to become even better. In some areas, we already ensure we only work with sustainable suppliers. But what about issues such as precarious working models and employee monitoring? For example, with the many online delivery services that are currently springing up out of the ground, and criticized? 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? Please use the comment function. Do you want more tips on business & sustainability? Follow us on Twitteror Facebook , or subscribe to our newsletter.

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