On 16th August MHFA England will be closed for our summer wellbeing week. 

One of the first emails I received when I was appointed Chief Executive of MHFA England last year included a footnote which stopped me in my tracks. It was alerting me to the fact that the office would be shutting down for one of the organisation’s two annual wellbeing weeks and was along the same lines as the one which is now on the bottom of my email, which reads: 

From 4pm on Friday 16th August the MHFA England office will be closed for our employee summer wellbeing week. The office will reopen at 9am on Tuesday 27th August, following the bank holiday.

At MHFA England our wellbeing strategy includes two total office close down periods, because spending time with friends and family or doing something we enjoy is important for our mental health. We do this twice a year, once in the summer and once in the winter.

The difference between holiday entitlement (of which ours is 25 days plus public and bank holidays) and wellbeing week is that the whole organisation is preparing to close down, which means that it reduces people’s temptation to check in on projects, tasks, and emails and therefore increases a sense of proper downtime. It also means staff come back to much less email traffic from colleagues inside the organisation, and without a long ‘to do’ list, because we provide really good notice to our Instructor Members and clients so materials can be ordered and courses booked before we close. 

When work is busy and deadlines are looming there can be a temptation to just power through and for some this can result in what is commonly described as ‘burn out’. We believe that by focusing on good job design, a supportive workplace and giving that extra time to decompress and relax, that employees at MHFA England are not getting to the point of burn out. 

As a social enterprise our goal is to support workplaces to create good health, as well as prevent ill health. We aim to really walk the talk. We pride ourselves on finding ways to create the opportunities and space for staff to reset, boost energy levels and connect with their family, friends and themselves. 

I have been talking to staff about what they intend to do this year. Activities include: visit granny, volunteer, look after their children (all working parents and carers know the summer holidays requires a lot of annual leave), go on extended trips to visit families overseas, as little as possible and redecorate the lounge. 

Me, I will be looking after six dogs, a lot of horses and chickens in Wiltshire. The countryside, with more animals than you can shake a stick at, is my type of self-care.

All organisations will have their own unique approach to promoting wellbeing. Any leaders whose operations make a wellbeing week a feasible part of their strategy and would like to discuss why I think it is a genius idea with significant business benefit, please do get in touch.