Companies can no longer ignore the mountain of challenges that their employees are facing. Whether you are an isolated single, single parent, parents who are trying to co-parent, or just parents who are trying to homeschool or deal with active toddlers while working from home, you have probably questioned your mental health once or twice in the last two years or so.
Burn-outs don’t happen overnight; people get beaten down over time. So it is natural to conclude that wellness is something that we must work on every single day. It is so very easy to take care of all of your family and work responsibilities and neglect your self-care.

As a micro-company, we’ve experienced a lot of professional and personal challenges during the pandemic. So how have we maintained our mental health and general wellness during these trying times? We want to help other very small, young start-ups come together and achieve their long-term goals regarding mental health and the well-being of their employees. Larger companies have more employees and more opportunities to set up programs. But how do you do it on a smaller scale for very small or micro companies? We have some practical steps you can take as a team to fast-track the process.

A little history first: Employee mental health, as well as overall employee wellness, is of the highest priority at The Cecily Group. We put it in our values, after all. In 2020 we started with Project Fully Loaded. It is based on one of our core values:

Fully Charged Batteries Included

When we work, we do this with batteries included. And these batteries are always charged and ready to go further. We know how to charge our batteries and find motivation from ourselves.”

The idea is not just to put it into our values and expect it from our employees, but to make it a priority and put it into practice every day. If you are not familiar with our values, please read my blog on how to write your company values here.

Just like our values guide us in the workplace, we also use them to guide us with our personal goals. From the beginning, the focus was always on creating opportunities to become better and expand on our skill set or unique abilities. People tend to view being successful as something they can measure by their status, influence, or net worth. I propose that there is a third aspect to flourishing, and that is your overall well-being. You cannot buy health and that is why wellness is the third pillar of success.

That is why our “Project Fully Loaded” (PFL) is so important to us and why we choose to make this socially-supported community where we can address the issues we face with people who are working toward the same goal as we are.

Project Fully Loaded

is a health initiative where each Awesome Team member focuses on an aspect of their health or well-being. This is a long-term project without a deadline or other time restrictions. Participation is voluntary. Regardless of the type of betterments the Awesome Team members choose to make, they agree to share their tips, progress, and experiences as they go along. The purpose of this exercise put into practice one of our most important and valuable values, “Fully Charged Batteries Included.” The Awesome Team Members will choose their buddy network based on their interests and goals. This encourages relationship-building between all the Awesome Team members.

What we are doing here is supporting our employees in their goals and exercising the muscle of success by building on small achievements and following through with them over time. The moral of the story is that as a young start-up, it just doesn’t work to try to attract or retain personnel with expensive and lavish gifts. That can turn very nasty quickly. Once you start to grow and increase your headcount, it can be quite a drag on your balance sheet. We are trying to offer the same amount of benefit in a non-financial way by setting up a platform where our employees feel supported, and we can achieve our goals together.

Some benefits of the program are:

  • Increased capacity for teamwork in a social or relaxed setting.
  • Improved skill as an accountability partner and motivator.
  • Building better habits with daily benefits.
  • Reduce the possibility of burnout or other stress-related health risks.
  • Help to sustain employee morale. Increased information-sharing and brainstorming.
  • Gives new employees opportunities to connect and socialize with other team members and to truly understand the company culture.

A project like this is especially important and attractive to teams who are working remotely because let’s face it: if you do not see your colleagues regularly, you sort of forget about them. You also have a really hard time, as an employer, gauging the tenor of the group and the individual needs of your team. It is so important to foster an open culture where employees are encouraged to give feedback and cooperate. This is a lot easier if it is something you practice regularly. Just like we all have our areas of unique abilities, so do we have our areas of interest and priorities in life.

So how do you blend those things, although one of us might be a triathlete and one might have just had a baby or have physical challenges that might bar them from really participating?

The answer is to share our progress on our goals in small dynamic mini-teams of three or four people. That way, it doesn’t matter so much if the goals don’t overlap. It is rather the progress, no matter how small, that is communicated and the shared experience of meeting small steps in the company of others that drives us on.

Team members joined the mini-teams based on their interest in a particular topic. Our PFL topics are:

  • Accountability and motivation
  • Sleep and rest
  • Unplugging and recharging
  • Nutrition and hydration
  • Movement and fitness
  • Gratitude and giving back
  • Culture and inspiration
  • Family-friendly
  • Meditation and focus

My personal experience in goal-making started out focusing on losing the Quarantine 19. Unfortunately, I failed miserably at losing weight. Something happened, though, that surprised me, and was the key to helping me feel and perform better. I have two small kids. Those who have babies know that they wake you up a lot! I started wearing a smartwatch and tracking my steps and sleep. I concluded that it was almost impossible for me to lose weight if I was constantly sleep-deprived and stressed out. You simply cannot make good decisions or perform well without enough sleep. After reflecting on this, I reset my goals to be both more realistic and more specific: now, they are:

  1. to track my activity and to take a certain amount of steps per day,
  2. do a daily meditation,
  3. do intermittent fasting and
  4. get at least seven hours of sleep per night.

So even if in the beginning, I tried to bite off more than I could chew, the determination to carry on and define PFL success by what I overcome, rather than what I achieve, makes the difference. As it says in our values,

When we fail, we fail with so much style that we can learn from it and move on.

During the PFL process, it is important to realize why goals may fail:

  • They’re too big
  • They follow an unrealistic time frame
  • They’re built for the short term
  • You don’t have a support system
  • The environment is inconducive to your success
  • Your process isn’t the time or resource-efficient
  • The goals are not important enough to you

The next question to ask is: what’s changed now that we’re trying again? In the case of The Cecily Group team, we have all reflected on where we failed to meet our goals and questioned whether or not those goals were as important to us or as pressing as we thought they were.

The next thing we decided to focus on is creating mini-habits that we can tack onto things that we already do every day – like brushing our teeth. If you want to focus on gratitude you could, for instance, think of three things that you are grateful for while cleaning your teeth, washing your face, or laying in bed. There are so many things that we can do to decompress and tank some energy that we can draw on to sustain us daily.

If we truly want to integrate these mini-habits into our lives, get better at working as a team and improve our communication, the first thing is to agree to terms that all employees feel comfortable with and then, start to build those habits together. Another aspect of this is to practice the five C’s.

  • Curiosity
  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Capability
  • Confidence

Through the 5C concept, the team can claim its leadership in matters relating to the purpose of the company. Through the concept of the 5C’s, the team would also see a higher level of entrepreneurial discussions, where more ambitious projects are taken on within the group. This is fed by looking back at all the past mini-achievements – both the personal and the shared ones – and thereby seeing that a better future can be created.

As all the team members live through their own 5 C’s, each individual will become clearer and more conscious over time of what can be achieved to benefit the overall well-being of the group. Practicing this in a relaxed environment during PFL offers the opportunity to put this into practice in our work environment at a later date.

Project Fully Loaded is the icing on the cake. It shows that the well-being of our employees is just as important to the company as our financial success. Because we are a legacy company, we’re about longevity and making short-term goals that help us to win later on. And this is how we have maintained mental health during the pandemic in our company. We all have a shared experience but one thing is clear: If it wasn’t for this project, a few of us wouldn’t have made key changes to our everyday routine and maintained them.

For example, my boss has been affected by the project. He started meditating. Another one of our team members organized a 21-day meditation challenge by Deepak Chopra. This practice helped them focus, feel calmer, and overall be more rested than without the meditation.

This history of working on common goals together is something that we can build on and that helps us build our company culture.

Our Goals as an Awesome Team:

  • We will introduce small achievable goals which we link to current habits like setting aside time for meeting friends or going for a walk.
  • We will put focus on being consistent with our microsteps or micro habits. We try our best to do them every day. Taking a break from habits – even a day – might get you off track, and it’s much easier to stay on track than it is to regain traction if you fall out of your routine.
  • As we master these micro-steps, we will use each quarter to evaluate and add on to them – whether it be in the form of time, effort, or frequency.
  • We will support each other in the form of a buddy network. Everyone will commit to their buddies. We will show support in the form of listening or checking in with our buddies.
  • Be honest about your level of commitment. If you can only check in once a week or are not feeling a particular topic, speak up! This project relies on your feedback and participation.
  • If we fail, we are committed to fixing things, evaluating our habits, and getting back on track.

I hope that you can take some or all of these tips and use them to make your team better, stronger and healthier right away. Let’s take care of ourselves, make common goals and take care of each other!

Disclaimer: The author is not a health care professional or medical professional, and the contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Whilst the information and opinions found on this website are written based on information available at the time of writing and are believed to be accurate according to the best discernment of the author, the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any health concern must be assessed by a doctor. If you think you require assessment, call your doctor or local emergency department immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the author or the contents of this website is solely at your own risk.