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Improving Mental and Emotional Well-Being in the Workplace: One Agency’s Journey

Blog post graphic about maintaining mental health and well-being.

Through spring’s thaw and summer’s heat, we’re a long way from January when BNO employees set an agency-wide New Year’s resolution to make 2023 the year we focus on bettering our mental health.


Without further ado, here’s a recap of what we’ve done and lessons we’ve learned as we gear up for Q4, Black Friday, end-of-year budget scrambles, and the holiday season.

January: The Kickoff

A company-wide poll was conducted, making it official: 2023 would be the year of mental and emotional well-being.

President and CEO Trista Walker kicked us off with her support: “Taking care of our people starts with listening and putting their needs first.”

Team members crafted a monthly activity schedule ranging from guest speakers to physical activities, along with designating a mental health support tool for each month of the year. The long-term idea is that tools BNOers jive with most can become commonplace beyond 2023.

“My headspace has certainly improved since BNO launched the 2023 Mental Health Initiative.”

February: Pressing Pause

February was all about mastering the art of taking a breather.

Armed with calendar blocks and reminders—ergo, no excuses—team members practiced coming up for air throughout the day for 15-minute breaks.

From getting out in nature to escaping into the world of a video game, we learned there are many ways to take a brain break. What matters most is that whatever you choose, make sure it recharges your mind and renews your positivity for whatever lies ahead.

March: Omm-g, That’s Relaxing

From boosting creativity to knocking negative emotions, the whole-body, inside-out health benefits of meditation are hard to ignore. That’s why we spent the month of March digging into this well-being power tool.

On-staff expert Marc Goodinson got us set to Zen with a presentation on all things mindfulness and meditation.

We also gathered virtually on Monday mornings for guided meditations. And we must say, those good vibes certainly carried into the rest of the day and week. The proof was in the team’s post-meditation glow.

“This experience has been really helpful. It’s allowed me to see that I can take time for myself while still being an effective worker.”

April: Let’s Take This Outside

With spring starting to show on the trees and in the weather, we couldn’t resist making April all about the great outdoors!

Throughout the month, we encouraged BNO folks to get down to earth every chance they had, whether that included taking lunchtime walks in the sun or meetings from their favorite porch-sitting spots.

Our Culture Club’s Hiking and Adventure Club helped show us how it’s done with weekend visits to Sourland Mountain Preserve and Schooley’s Mountain County Park—a couple of local hiking spots.

But it didn’t stop there. April also brought us our first guest speaker event: Nick Montalbine. Well known for documenting his experience with burnout while working his dream job at Nike, Nick shared the journey that led him to executive coaching, dropping inspiring wisdom and actionable tips on showing up and feeling your best at work. We gleaned so much from Nick’s talk that we couldn’t help ourselves but share his insights in a blog.

May: Getting an Expert Opinion

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we knew we had to go big, which brought us to Dr. Brynna Farbod, Psy.D.

Dr. Farbod joined us for a talk about giving our 100% to the 40 hours a week we spend in the workplace—all while feeling our 100%, too.

With important topics like boundary setting (and sustaining!) and relationship building, we left the event feeling better prepared to cultivate mental strength.

(Psst: There’s a blog all about it here.)

June: Leading With Heart

(DJ voice): This one’s for the leaders!

June’s focus was on making sure our agency’s backbone—our leadership—had the know-how needed to support BNO’s team members.

Resourced with information on how to have constructive conversations about mental health and emotional well-being, people leaders across the agency gained insights and strategies they can bring to one-on-one meetings, daily workflows, etc., to support our goal of feeling good.

“This initiative really showed us that BNO is serious about destigmatizing and encouraging our tending to mental health.”

July: Staying Paws-itive

If we can justify some furry friend face time with mental health stats, we’re all about it. So here it goes: Pets have been proven to increase anti-stress hormones and feelings of overall happiness in us humans.

Naturally, this knowledge called for Pet Show-and-Tell calls throughout July.

From hearing about team members’ pets’ best (and sometimes naughtiest) moments to indexing long lists of nicknames, we learned two lessons: 1. BNO members have the cutest creature companions around, and 2. There’s no midday crash a good snoot and a good laugh can’t cure.

August: On Our A Game

If there’s one thing we’ve learned on our quest to better mental and emotional well-being, it’s that feeling good doesn’t have to be hard work. In fact, there are benefits to keeping it light.

Increased serotonin levels and improved connections with others are among the reasons why we decided to make August a month of play.

A major bonus of having offices in vibrant downtowns (St. Petersburg, FL; Philadelphia, PA; and Somerville, NJ–lucky us, we know) is that there’s no shortage of fun to be had. Our teams headed out to local arcades to put this “fun and games” thing to the test. Between a pinball and billiards game or two, it’s been verified.

September: Flexing Our Feel-Good Muscles

Turns out a great way to stop sweating the small stuff is to, well, sweat. From refreshed creativity to a decreased risk of depression, exercise was the feel-good weapon we explored in September.

Lucky for us, team member Janet Yarka moonlights as a fitness instructor. She graciously agreed to lead us in some inclusive movement each Monday morning.

The running theme here was to recognize that the small steps we take to move more can make a big impact on how we feel—physically and mentally.

“When I’m talking with friends about work, it’s a source of pride knowing my company is invested in our overall health.”

What’s Next: Looking Forward

With just a few months left of 2023 (how is this possible!?), we’ll continue our monthly explorations of different mental health tools with some pre-holiday de-stressing and team-focused events through the end of the year.

We’ll be digging into BNOers’ experiences of the different tools we’ve introduced in order to see what will stick as we move forward. We know that mental health is never meant to be a fixed destination or a box we check, but something that remains dynamic and proactive as time goes on.

Knowing we have each other to lean on, and that this focus on self-care makes us all the better when it comes to bringing fresh thinking and creativity for our clients? Priceless.

Now that we’re rejuvenated and ready—see what we can do for you.