World Mental Health Day – Working In Social Isolation Revisited

World Mental Health Day - Working In Social Isolation Revisited

World Mental Health Day – Working In Social Isolation Revisited

9th October, 2020

Here at Options, we’ve been working from home for several months now. In these unprecedented times, it’s important to remind ourselves how far we have come and the key learnings which now shape our ‘new reality’. That’s why we have decided to mark World Mental Health Day by reflecting on the last seven months and the different ways in which the Options team has collectively tackled “COVID fatigue”.

1.) Mountain walks

Back in March, we didn’t have the luxury of being able to meet with smaller groups of people outside. More recently, we’ve set up daily mountain walks with small groups to keep the social connection thriving and to reap the mental health benefits of the great outdoors.

The main drawback of a video call is that no matter how many people you have on the call, only one person can speak at a time. In a small walking group of six, multiple conversations can happen simultaneously. We’ve also incentivised a challenge internally to see who can complete the most mountain walks with other members of the company in October. All kept within the social distance guidelines, of course!

2.) Effective communication (Teams)

What a game-changer Microsoft Teams has been. Back in March, we set up a weekly call between team members to monitor performance as a team and ensure our communication was both active and productive. We implemented a soft ‘video call only’ approach which has now become standard procedure for the team (unfortunate for those pyjama workers out there). Microsoft Teams also allows us to track overall group activity which gives a detailed view of how well we are integrating and communicating as a workforce.

3.) Keep Active

At the start of lockdown, we kick-started our first ever company Strava group. Today it stands with 148 members and is yet another platform that enables our team to stay in touch outside of working life. Challenges were set up to spark some healthy competition and to encourage people to get out and keep active. In May, this resulted in eight Options staff members running virtual marathons, whilst another 90+ took to the roads to run virtual half marathons and relays. The competitive edge kept us going and recently another member of staff completed the London Virtual Marathon – a big step up from the couch to 5k!

4.) Invest in your setup

Look at your home office setup right now. Have you developed it since you started working from home? If not, and you’re struggling, it’s a great place to start. It was something I personally found difficult at the beginning of lockdown. Working from a small kitchen, I didn’t have the environmental change that I was used to when leaving the office at the end of each day. If you spend eight or nine hours a day at your desk, it’s a worthwhile investment to add upgrades where possible. The spare room can double as the perfect home office and become an enjoyable project to work on.


5.) Personal development/progression

At Options, we have always been serious about creating the best global technology organisation in our sector. We pride ourselves on our support initiatives; with training and development and further study a crucial part of how we are leveraging opportunity during the pandemic.

Over the past six months, we’ve developed our training and course content through Options University. We have also developed tailor-made modules in PowerShell, RedHat, Microsoft Azure/365 so that any member of staff can gain access instantly and from the comfort of their home.

On the career progression side, one area that I’d like to highlight is our “Hybrid” roles which allow staff to work with another team for several hours per day to develop their skills. If a future role within that team comes up, it makes for a much smoother transition with a critical understanding of what working life will be like within that team.

6.) Mental Health Awareness Initiatives 

As the ‘biggest challenge to employee wellness’, stress in the workplace is a challenging and often overlooked mental health issue. That is why we’ve taken practical steps to help ensure our team’s physical fitness also extends to their mental wellbeing. To that end, we have invested in accredited Mental Health First Aid training for team members who actively serve as Mental Health Champions across various levels of the business. Whether through peer-to-peer mentoring, educational initiatives, counselling support services or simply having a flat enough structure to ask for help without judgement, our mission is to create and develop a work culture of empowerment, learning and support throughout the pandemic and beyond.

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in many ways and serves as a timely reminder of how important it is to look after our mental health – not just in times of crisis, but on a daily basis. As we head into the winter months, I hope some of you find value in the above and carry it forward this World Mental Health Day.

– Liam Fegan, Belfast Support Team Lead

This year’s World Mental Health Day, on 10 October, comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more info, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *