Since March 16th, all PHDers have been working from home.

This week – our ninth week of being physically apart from each other – is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW).

This year’s MHAW is themed around Kindness.

Kindness has been more important this year than it has ever been before – in my lifetime at least. Being on lockdown has helped slow down the spread of the Covid-19 virus but unfortunately for many, it has also had an unsurprisingly detrimental effect on people’s mental health.

I am part of a  group of PHD mental health first aiders and champions who have been doing whatever we can to improve the mental wellbeing and fitness of the people who work here, albeit remotely, but this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme gave us the opportunity to do a little bit more.

I’ve been at PHD for almost a decade now and ever since I started, we’ve had an ‘Employee of the Month’ Award. A gesture that promotes going above and beyond in your work to create a positive impact on your team, the agency or your client (or all three in many instances!).

Winners are nominated by their colleagues and awarded by a senior member of the leadership team in our monthly company meetings.

This month’s Employee of the Month award fell during MHAW so we saw an opportunity to not only award some great work, but also to award ‘Kindness’. So, this month – in line with the theme from MHAW – we created an additional award for our Kindest Employee.

The nominations for the ‘Kindest Employee Award’ were – like our regular Employee of the Month – put forward via nominations from colleagues and those nominations have re-affirmed so much of what I knew about the positive people-centred culture that’s been bred here and the amazing PHDers who make it live and breathe.

As a mental health first aider, I had the pleasure in reading all of the nominations and had the difficult decision in deciding, along with a fellow first aider, who was the winner.

In reading the submissions, I got a glimpse of what would have passed by as almost invisible moments of kindness.   It is rare that people announce the personal touches that make them feel good – those small acts of kindness that can go such a long way to making someone feel better, relaxed, part of something or most importantly – happy.

The nominations were varied but all with one common theme. If I say ‘it’s the little things’ you’ll know what I’m talking about. Every single nomination included a ‘small’ gesture. Unlike the EOTM award, this was not work that put anybody out.  It didn’t take hard graft to achieve. It didn’t take weeks or months of planning to get it right. On the surface they were small things. Small things that made a huge impact to the person on the receiving end. A gesture so thoughtful that it evoked a nomination for an award from the person who received it.

One of the nominations that struck me more than others was about how people can come together in difficult situations when they don’t even know each other that well. There was nomination from a PHDer who moved teams during lockdown but was instantly made to feel part of his new team. A team that went out of their way to make that person integrate, going above and beyond create moments for questions and support and instantly put his mind at rest so he could do his job the best way he could.

Other nominations included sending a care package to a pregnant colleague who mentioned a craving for something in particular that she couldn’t get at her local supermarket. The gift itself was impactful (I can tell you as a mother of two, fulfilling your craving doesn’t get much better) but it was the impact of the act itself – the fact that a friend/colleague/team mate went out of their way to make someone feel happy during a crisis – that’s had the longer-lasting effect.

One colleague sent her teammate care packages for her and her two children while she was on furlough. An act that in a difficult period of feeling disconnected, instantly made her feel part of something again.

We also had two nominations from employees who – when their colleagues that had won prizes through work competitions – had donated those prizes to their teammates as they felt they needed them more. It doesn’t get much kinder than that.

One of the nominations we received actually took place before the world went to pot, showing that acts of kindness are nothing new – we probably just don’t talk about them enough.

So, what have learned this week about PHDers during a crisis?

I’ve learned that I was right. PHD employees are kind. They were before the world went to shit and they certainly still are now, when it’s needed most. They go above and beyond for work but more importantly they go above and beyond for each other.

That’s the reason I’ve been at PHD for almost a decade.

People Matter.

Kind People make you feel like YOU matter and that’s a little something we all could do with right now.

By Emma Flaxman, Marketing & New Business Director & Mental Health First Aider