It was hard to foresee just how much our personal lives and careers would be affected by the late changes. Therefore, Q agency, one of the fastest growing software agencies in Europe, decided to grab the bull by the horns and provide a new program to help its employees deal with the challenges.
Overcoming the stigma of mental health
We turned to Anja Oppenheim Barešić, Head of People & Culture department, to learn how their recent ideas differ from previous efforts that also yielded impressive results. Starting from transparent communication, creative Slack channels, Q Talks, and similar activities, the company had a great start in the fight against the pandemic blues– but now came the moment to bring the efforts to another level.
Q: What inspired you to create the Wellbeing for Qumans project? What makes the Wellbeing for Qumans different from the similar projects you have already completed?
Building a healthy workplace has always been important to Q’s Management – we started with a well-equipped fun zone, kitchen, and a full-time “Employee Experience Specialist” whose only job was to keep people happy and engaged. But as we continued to grow, we came to realize that our benefits such as great office space, yoga, health insurance, and team building budgets weren’t enough anymore.
We wanted to Do More (it’s our value after all!) and take a more strategic approach to employee wellbeing. Also, we became aware that our culture has evolved and that we are ready to present a comprehensive program that covers all types of wellbeing: mental, social, physical, career, financial, and community.
A program covering various aspects of mental health sounds promising when one works with individuals whose needs differ one from the other. The Q team then further explains the project’s main goal.
By taking a proactive approach towards employee wellbeing, we hope to improve our employees’ resilience and decrease turnover in the future. Even though our people already show respectable levels of satisfaction and engagement, we know that wellbeing at work has been shown to improve the satisfaction of employees and the clients too.
Our goal is also to encourage employees to acquire new habits and make changes that will positively impact their lives and increase their general wellbeing and life satisfaction.
Both COVID-19 and earthquakes in Croatia have caused additional stress in our lives and thus prompted a greater focus on mental health. People are now more open to seeking help from mental health professionals and by creating these initiatives, we’d like to help fight the stigma around mental health. After all, mental health is an integral part of overall health and wellbeing.
The five pillars of Wellbeing for Qumans
With the defined system in place, new ideas don’t always come in conventional ways. It was a trip to Plitvice lakes that inspired the foundation of Mental Health Day and the whole team loved the idea. The project was also supported by Filip Ljubić, the CEO, who offered support and gave room to creativity.
Wellbeing for Qumans thus took off with a great start and continued strong—with a focus on five different initiatives that offer guidelines related to the improvement of wellbeing:
1. Be Kind To Your Mind
We are offering one session of free psychological counseling or psychotherapy.
One session will give people an opportunity to overcome possible resistance or lack of information related to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy also benefits us preventively, when we do not have major difficulties, but we want to get to know ourselves better and have better relationships with others.
2. Mental Health Day
Anyone can take a day off to recharge and deal with stress.
3. Q Wellbeing Talks
We will have Q Wellbeing Talks focused mostly on topics such as mental health, nutrition, productivity, etc. Our first guest was Dragica Barbaric, psychotherapist and mindfulness coach who held a mini mindfulness workshop.
4. Q Volunteers
We volunteer to help colleagues and the community. Our volunteering project for children of Brezovica that included the broader public as well (not just Qumans) was a huge success! We managed to exceed our target amount and buy an even better car for children of Brezovica.
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5. Stay Active
Socializing + physical activity= our feel-good Stay Active initiative. We all agree that it is easier to get up from the couch and engage in physical activity if we have good company to go with, right? Also, we have activities that target career wellbeing (e.g. getting to know your talents) and financial wellbeing (e.g. financial workshops).
Little help goes a long way
The managers have recognized the value of the initiative and once they approved the project, the groundwork was set for the next phase. The plan has been put on a table, and the employees got an opportunity to decide what initiative they like the most.
We also wondered if their own product – Jenz, an Instagram-like intranet, in any way shaped the course of this project? If yes, how so?
Everything we do is on Jenz, of course! We dedicated the whole week to the Wellbeing project on Jenz. Each day we presented one wellbeing initiative and by the end of the week, our employees voted for the initiatives they liked the most and would like to have implemented. Turns out they really liked all of them so five out of five initiatives will be implemented.
The future looks promising for Qumans
When faced with additional stressors, continuous support in a workplace goes a long way. Wellbeing for Qumans is, therefore, a long-term program with established practices in place. What are Anja’s plans for the future of the Wellbeing for Qumans?
As we have many activities planned, we are launching them step by step. But we think of it more as a program without a set timeframe and limited duration. Wellbeing is here to stay and to become a part of our Q culture.
How do you plan to evaluate the results of the project?
We’ve been measuring overall Engagement and Health and Wellbeing through Peakon, an employee success platform that converts feedback into insights you can put to work.
We plan to compare past results with results after 6 months and we will focus especially on Health and Wellbeing indicators. They measure the extent to which employees believe that their organization values health and wellbeing, and make efforts to support these factors. We will track participation rates and keep a close eye on turnover, absenteeism, and informal feedback.
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A shared effort
What advice would they give other companies that want to manage a similar program? What would be the first step they should take?
First of all, ask yourself why you want to have it, what would you like to achieve with this program, and how does it fit your culture? It’s trendy to have a wellbeing program these days but it’s not for everyone – it should fit with company culture and it should not be a cover-up for everything that is not working well in the company.
Once you have figured out your “why”, you can begin to create your “how”. Gather a team, brainstorm, do your research, seek inspiration.
After you have a sketch of your wellbeing program, get buy-in from decision-makers (usually Management) – bring the data, ideas, and action plans, anything that will help to present them the value of investing in employee’s wellbeing program.
Once the approval was granted, engage middle managers in any way possible – at least to promote the wellbeing program, but even better if they actually participate.
And last, but not least, think of ways to engage your employees. The more engaged the employees are, the more likely they are to participate. Identify potential obstacles that could be the reason for low participation – is it the activities themselves, lack of time, or lack of perceived value?
In the times such as this – when the whole world shut down just to be hurried up to recovery – there is no wonder we see the uprisings of movement such as Great Resignation. People are fed up with exploitative work ethics that don’t consider their wellbeing. Europe has a bit better standing in that regard than the USA but the problems will arise continuously throughout the world if something doesn’t change. Q’s example is a proactive one, which any employer can take.
That’s why we hope that no matter if you are a C level person, a manager, or an HR specialist, you could get some useful, good insights out of Q’s practices, and if you are an employee seeking out new opportunities – that you find Q agency as a great place for professional growth. For that matter, you can always check out their careers page for more info.