10. October 2022
Today, on Oct. 10 on “World Mental Health Day” it is a good occasion to ask ourselves the important question:
“Do I really feel good about my job?”
We can answer this question simply with a yes or no – but it can also encourage us to reflect on our relationship with our daily work. And regardless of what the answer to this question is for ourselves, it can give us clues about our resilience, our mental strength, and our mental health. But how does our mental health actually relate to our professional life, our job? Why is it so important for our mental health that we enjoy our job; and in what way do companies help employees to feel good about themselves?
A simple equation
We spend about one-third of our lives at work – only sleep takes up an even greater proportion of our time over the course of our lives. So it’s no wonder that our work has an important impact on our well-being.
At the same time, our personal well-being also influences the quality of our work. Personal appreciation on the job and fun at work help us to work in a focused and motivated manner – and thus to be more successful for ourselves and also, clearly, to contribute to the success of the company.
Personal worries, of whatever kind, always accompany us, they burden us in our private lives and also have a major impact on us at our workplace.
Consequently, it is important for companies to recognize the personal concerns of their employees and to ensure that employees and thus the company itself remain healthy – and can continue to develop in a healthy manner.
Mental health is the source that enables people to realize their full potential and contribute to the community. WHO
So how does VAST FORWARD contribute to the mental health of its employees?
In our blog posts “A strong team through work-life blending” and “Yoga in the workplace” we already talked about how we use the opportunities that our way of working as a remote company offers us, to feel good at work and in our private lives and how small breaks keep us mentally and physically fit.
The two keys for us are balance and communication. Especially because at VAST FORWARD we work exclusively remote and lack the level of physical togetherness that is important to all of us in our everyday working lives.
In addition, other important factors ensure that we see our job itself as supportive and conducive to good health.
A balance between requirements and skills
The project management team at VAST FORWARD works freely and self-determined. On the one hand, this is great for our individual lifestyle; there is no obligation to be present at the office, no commuting, no problem with doctor’s appointments or waiting for handymen or mail deliveries. At the same time, self-determination adds its own challenges to our project management tasks. Self-organization and self-motivation can be stressful without direct feedback and confirmation from a team, and other ways must be found for mutual appreciation, because we’re not sitting across from each other in the office.
Our job should challenge us, but not permanently over- or under-challenge us.
So we make sure that we distribute our projects and internal tasks with a view to the abilities of the VAST FORWARD Ladies and use impulses to constantly develop ourselves further.
Through new challenges on the job and targeted training, we expand our personal competencies and also develop ourselves through our work. Because we are all in the same situation, we can always count on the support of the whole team.
In the search for meaning and purpose, we may find that we are helping or supporting our clients – in 2021, we built virtual teams and delivered a wide variety of digital assets in more than 800 projects for more than 60 clients. But to be honest, sometimes that’s not really tangible as a success.
Since 2020, the whole team is now developing our sustainability project VAST GREEN together! It feels good and is a great confirmation that we can all get involved in the topic of sustainability with our personal interests and at the same time do good in many ways with added value for us personally and for society.
To drive our sustainability initiative forward with vigor, we have developed our own approach: transparently organized work in topic-based groups, structured in sprints, with our own communication strategy and rituals.
Our internal communication strategy includes regular mini-online workshops within the team. Sometimes with external speakers, but mostly organized and held by one of the VAST FORWARD ladies themselves.
During our weekly VAST GREEN coworking session, we use part of the time for our Sustainable Friday, where the VAST GREEN ladies share sustainability topics of personal interest with the team.
Our regular Lunch&Learn are also an opportunity for each team member to weigh in with a specific, slightly more in-depth topic. Our L&L series usually deals with topics that directly affect our daily professional lives and the digital world. But there is also room for topics that extend beyond our working world and, most importantly, we always use the inspiration from the presentations for lively conversations and discussions afterwards.
In addition to our joint professional work, VAST GREEN is a benefit – for us as individuals in a team – and VAST GREEN is also a meaningful task that always motivates us with visible results for us personally and for VAST FORWARD.
Always there to listen
“100% remote” at VAST FORWARD means that we all live and work in different places. To make our collaboration work, we naturally take full advantage of the opportunities that digital communication offers us. Almost every day, we talk not only about professional topics, but above all about private matters. These conversations are very important because they allow us to share insights to our private lives with each VAST FORWARD Lady – the social component in our everyday work. Of course, each one only tells what she wants to tell. However, in this way we create a strong cohesion in the team, attentive interaction with each other and, with mutual understanding, an atmosphere of trust that makes it possible for us to respond well to each other in the work environment.
We are constantly developing our internal communications. Last year, for example, internal feedback gave rise to a series of workshops on communication within the team – which then gave rise to our “buddy program”. This was a direct response to our own feeling that we too often focus on personal contact with specific colleagues. Even though we are a rather small team, it is important to find ways to have sufficient contact with all VAST FORWARD ladies. As part of our buddy program, we now meet one-on-one, mostly virtually, in quarterly rotating teams of two to talk about personal and professional matters. At first, we were skeptical and not sure whether such an arrangement could actually be successful. That’s also why we regularly review the benefits of our buddy program as a team. So far, we agree that we want to continue with it as a communication tool because it additionally strengthens the team feeling for the majority of VAST FORWARD ladies.
And even outside of the buddy program and team calls, we always find an open ear and advice among our colleagues. We can be sure of the support and backing of the team in both professional and personal matters. This certainty contributes significantly to our mental health and job satisfaction.
"Although I work alone at home, I don't feel alone. There is always someone from the team available for me." Hanna
A healthy feedback culture and fun at work
A healthy feedback culture on professional topics also contributes to well-being on the job. Be it in our quarterly employee reviews or in feedback forms that we fill out after events, for example. With our lively and healthy feedback culture, we ourselves ensure that we all keep an eye on the further development of VAST FORWARD and the mental health of us VAST FORWARD ladies.
It’s not for nothing that one of the central questions in our end-of-year meetings in December is: “Do you still like doing your job?”. Maren asks us this question every year and confronts us to honestly reflect on our relationship with our job. For me, the answer is clearly “Yes, because I enjoy my job.”. Both such a question and such a positive answer have not been commonplace for very long: in our parents’ generation, such a conversation between employer and employee would certainly have been laughed at – today we know that it is absolutely legitimate and important. Scientific research proves that it is essential that we approach our daily work with fun and joy.
Having fun at work is essential for us to feel good about our job and to be able to do it with motivation and concentration.
Our mental health is based on appreciation and a sense of achievement
A strong cohesion and mutual appreciation within the VAST FORWARD team results quite automatically from our communication and feedback culture.
We often follow our colleagues’ projects closely and celebrate our small and big successes together. And we often enjoy sharing positive feedback from our customers with the entire team.
The feedback from our customers regularly gives us the certainty that we are doing what we do well. These successes motivate us to tackle even difficult projects with strength and a solution-oriented approach, thus contributing to our well-being on the job.
Today it is clear, satisfaction in the job and thus the mental health of employees depends not only on financial aspects and measurable results, but to a significant extent also on the personal and professional framework. In this context, communication within the team plays a decisive role and, in the best case, creates an atmosphere of trust that allows us to respond to the personal abilities and circumstances of each team member. Cohesion and support within the team are crucial to ensuring that we feel good and stay mentally healthy in the job in which we spend a considerable part of our lives.
This is not only good for us ladies, but also for our company VAST FORWARD.
VAST FORWARD is not only concerned with sustainability on a professional level, but also in their private lives. Therefore, in January 2022, everything revolved around the topic of vegan nutrition.
Since June 2021, the VAST GREEN team has seen quite a few changes, as four ladies have joined us.