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Health and happiness at work

“Happiness and health are, without question, two of the most important things for humans to have; and for years businesses have been trying to introduce ways to make sure employees have both. To be clear, this isn’t in terms of health insurance or receiving an annual bonus to make you happy – rather, it’s about mental wellbeing. It means ensuring that day-to-day we’re feeling the best we can – not burnt out, run down, anxious…”

Poor mental health is now the number one reason for staff absence*. It’s one thing to open up to friends or family, but how do you create an environment where people are happy to talk openly with their colleagues?

DBA member, Rufus Leonard’s Emily Duncan outlines the steps they’ve taken to help with the health and happiness of their team. 

maksym-kaharlytskyi-478964-unsplashThe Duke of Cambridge recently launched ‘Mental Health at Work’ a new initiative from Heads Together and Mind. But, while it’s a huge step towards improving mental health in the workplace, it came alongside some shocking statistics. Hundreds of thousands of people lose jobs as a result of poor mental health, which equates to companies losing valuable staff, purely because they’re not equipped to deal with or support mental health problems. Only 2% of people said they’d feel comfortable talking to HR about their mental health, and as Mind’s research shows, a quarter of British people sit at work, suffering in silence.

But at Rufus Leonard the stats are pretty different. We found that 91% of staff feel comfortable talking to HR, 85% of employees know who to turn to if they have a mental health issue, and the same amount know that Rufus cares about their wellbeing.

Happiness and health are, without question, two of the most important things for humans to have; and for years businesses have been trying to introduce ways to make sure employees have both. To be clear, this isn’t in terms of health insurance or receiving an annual bonus to make you happy – rather, it’s about mental wellbeing. It means ensuring that day-to-day we’re feeling the best we can – not burnt out, run down, anxious…

Of course, the scope of problems is huge and just like most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Some people may only feel stress during certain periods of their lives, for others it can be a daily battle; there are over 200 recognised mental illnesses, so there’s probably at least 2,000 things that could be done to tackle these, and we can’t be expected to do all of them in the office. Considering we apparently spend a massive 90,000 hours at work during our life time, however, we can at least do our best to cover as much ground as possible. Which is what we at Rufus are trying to do – and, if our stats are anything to go by, it seems like we’re doing a pretty good job.

So how do we do it – and how can you?

 At Rufus, we’ve got a pretty extensive list of things we’re doing to ensure our staff are their happiest and healthiest.

form-679321-unsplashOf course, there are popular choices like yoga and meditation. Where once yoga was considered just a fad, you probably won’t find a gym in the UK now that doesn’t have a regular class. And it’s seeping its way into workplaces, too. With yoga and meditation proven to ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, there’s no doubt that regular sessions throughout the week will do a world of good for staff’s wellbeing, so we’ve introduced yoga sessions and a designated meditation room here at Rufus.

Like we said, though, no one size fits all. Sometimes things can’t be soothed by an exercise class (it’s certainly not a wholly adequate replacement for traditional forms of therapy), and much more needs to be done. 

 The most important thing, and indeed the first step necessary into making your workplace as happy and healthy as possible, is getting Board and Senior level staff involved. There are countless training and consultancy courses designed to better equip management to support staff who are struggling, and even a couple of days spent on these courses could do wonders for an organisation. This isn’t suggesting that all bosses need to become licensed therapists, but they should be willing to expand their understanding.

It’s also worth having advocates throughout the business – whether these are people who put on talks and courses, or just people who are trusted, and can act as a go-to if someone needs to talk. Here, we implemented just that, with Project Director Rosie Lee being appointed as our very first Mental Health First Aider, with the view to more joining her. While HR are always available to speak to, it’s important that other people are on hand to help staff feel comfortable talking about mental health issues. It’s a simple, but massive step, and one that will hopefully make our already hugely positive stats even better. 

Sometimes someone to talk to isn’t even what’s needed, but rather just some downtime. And in gaining an understanding how staff might be struggling, it’s likely management will be more on board with implementing classes or sessions during the work day, approving mental health days, and advocating for a more flexible working environment to benefit staff who may be suffering. As a result, staff will be more willing to have an open conversation, but as flexibility increases, pressure is likely to ease off, and what businesses will actually see is an increase in productivity and a decrease in sick days. Take Kirk’s story, as told by Heads Together as a prime example.

Flexible working is arguably one of the most important things businesses can make available – and not just for parents and carers. As explains, people with ongoing mental health problems meet the Equality Act and Disability Discrimination Act’s definition of disability – and are therefore entitled to reasonable adjustments to their job/workplace.

Reasonable adjustments can include:

  • Changing a person’s working pattern to enable them to start later or finish earlier because of the side effects of medication, or allowing them to travel the night before meetings and stay over to avoid early morning travel.
  • Providing a person with a laptop, remote access software and permission to work at home on set days, or flexibly according to the severity of their symptoms (within a monthly limit).
  • Excusing someone from attending work functions and client events involving food, instead allowing them to set up alternative networking arrangements that achieve similar business returns.

Once again, these might not work for everyone, but taking conversations with staff on board, and listening to how they feel they can be supported, means these adjustments can be tailored to create the best possible outcome for everyone.

Then there’s smaller things – freezers stocked with ice creams, free fruit throughout the week, dogs in the office, hungry days (where we’ll support staff in going out to events that will further their career development), regular social gatherings… Sometimes it’s the bigger things that matter, but sometimes, tiny gestures make all the difference necessary to feel a whole lot better.  

We’re still figuring out the best way to help employees with mental health and wellbeing – it’s a work in progress and there will be a lot of trial and error along the way. What we do know, however, is that people are talking – and that’s a massive step forward.

mark-cruz-334535-unsplashHere’s a full list of things we do at Rufus to help with health/happiness:


Ice creams

Hungry days

Social gatherings

Discounted gym membership

Discounted visits to the dentist



Flexible working (for all everyone)

Mindful colouring in


Cycle to work scheme

Open door policy with HR

Working environment

Regular reviews for staff

Family planning survey (to see how people really feel)

Ad hoc things (e.g. giving out cool spray during the hot summer we’ve just had)

A week-long plan for mental health awareness week including Tea & Cake with TED talks, yoga, a designated room for meditation, origin stories addressing mental health, smoothies, a place for people to feel comfortable sharing information and stories about mental health


Free fruit each week

Working with NABS

Opportunities to volunteer

Boxing club

About: Emily-Faye Duncan

With over ten years HR experience under her belt, Emily-Faye helps to keep the Rufus Leonard culture rich and vibrant, and is the driving force behind our search to find new and diverse talent. She’s also the 2017 winner of The Rufus Leonard ‘Lionhearted’ award.

*Source: Mind, the mental health charity

Image credits: 

Photo by Alex Machado on Unsplash

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

Photo by Form on Unsplash

Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash

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