13 October 2019

The refurbished gym at UKFast

The refurbished gym at UKFast

How are you?

When was the last time you asked yourself that?

When you’re focussed on your goals, and passionate about your work, it is all too easy to forget to check in with yourself yet it is one of the single most important things that you can do.

If you are not well, and feeling at your best, how can you perform at the level you need to achieve your goals? You can’t. It is impossible.

So, World Mental Health Day this week brought the perfect opportunity to pause and check in. It is fascinating how when you are so focussed on reaching a certain level, your focus is on the business, on your team and on your family. Your own health and wellbeing falls to the bottom of the list. Yet, with these goals comes huge amounts of pressure, and that’s when you have to look after yourself the most.

I learned many years ago that, for me, there are three things that create the foundation for my own wellbeing: eating well, resting well and being active. When any of these things start to slip, I notice the impact on my overall mental health immediately. I feel the everyday stresses more than I would.

Discovering this about myself, I realised that whilst I may be able to manage these three things for myself, could the team that I employ? Many workplaces are not conducive to a mentally healthy practices. You’re expected to sit at a desk from nine until five, with a break here and then, but be productive throughout. That doesn’t work.

Managing energy

Yoga - UKFast and Tech Manchester Wellness Festival - Mental Health Awareness WeekPeople have to be able to manage their time and energy themselves. At UKFast we have an onsite gym, where the team can workout as and when they need. If they don’t work out during the day, they can do so after work, saving them the time costs of travelling to and from a gym, and the monetary costs of a gym subscription. Having the gym removes the barriers for people to maintain one of those pillars of wellbeing. Before we had an onsite gym, we had access to the Midland Hotel gym a short walk from the office and to local squash courts.

The team embraced the gym to the fullest extent. They have created work-out classes like kettlebells. And there is a running club each day. So much so, that we employed a personal trainer to lead fitness sessions and to run one-on-one training plans. The impact has been astonishing clear to see.

This week, we relaunched the gym after a refurb and a host of incredible new equipment from Pulse. Within moments of the doors opening, there were at least ten people working out! Along with the refurb and new equipment, we’ve also created a studio in Archway Three (the second UKFast Campus building). Here we can hold lunchtime spin classes and it creates a permanent home for our twice-weekly yoga sessions.

We have held these yoga sessions for many years. They offer a free, 45-minute session for teammates to enjoy exercise in a different environment, while focussing on the mind and meditation too.

Making life easier

Next door to the new studio, we’re also in the process of creating a space to help our team to take care of a second of those pillars: eating well. I have dreamed for a long time of creating a café/restaurant for the team, where they can get subsidised, fresh, healthy food quickly, easily and at a fraction of the cost it would be elsewhere.

chess in the reception of UKFast Campus

Chess in the reception of UKFast Campus

Our restaurant was born from a chance encounter and inspired by a business trip to Amsterdam 18 years ago. I was there to meet RIPE the organisation who manage the IP’s for the internet. On arrival I was ushered through to a waiting area that turned out to be a kitchen in the centre of the building. I realised how progressive the Dutch were even back then. I was told to sit down by a tall chef, who said “soup?” in a very commanding voice. I politely did the British thing and said, “No, thank you.”

After she persisted in repeating the word “soup” a few more times, I gave in and ate. I was made to feel really at home, sitting next to colleagues who I’d never met and who made me feel incredibly welcome.

That one meeting, I had no idea ahead on the day, changed my life. It changed the way I perceived how business could be and should be. It became a goal that “one day” I excitedly said to Gail when I got back, “One day we must have a place for people to eat and feel welcome, somewhere homely where we can have a chef and really healthy food.”

It’s taken 20 years but we’re almost making that a reality and we have three chefs. The finishing touches are almost done, and I can’t wait to open the space fully to the team to enjoy some incredible food, our team of amazing chefs are all experts in vegan and dairy food too so we are planning a super healthy menu.

And because our temporary beach that we set up every year works so well, we have an amazing outdoor area with fire pits and pizza oven. It’s so important to create places where people can escape and switch off and make friends and feel comfortable. The restaurant is deliberately being designed without any UKFast brand colours and typefaces, just so that it will be like visiting a proper cafe or restaurant.

When you’re rushing around managing family, pets, life in general, it can be hard to prep a healthy lunch ahead of time. That inevitably means quick, junk food options instead. Hopefully this café will be the new go-to place for everyone to enjoy a healthier, hassle-free lunch.

Our four-legged friends

Aside from these bigger things there are small changes you can make to help people manage their wellbeing better. For example, we have a huge chess set in the reception area. This is something for people to do when they’re waiting. So instead of sitting on a couch, fidgeting with nerves while waiting for an interview, for example, you can play a game of chess to pass the time.

Whilst these have had a massive collective impact, you might be thinking that you don’t have the money to invest in anything like this for your business. Well, you’re in luck. Aside from the gym, the thing that has had the most impact on the team, by far, was actually free. It cost nothing. Allowing dogs into the office has had the most extraordinary impact on the energy levels and wellbeing of the team. It started as a bit of fun, now it is something that we could never change.

If you pause for a moment in UKFast Campus, look for one of the many office dogs. You will see a steady stream of people walking by who cannot resist stopping to play with the dog or hand out some scratches. They all walk by with a smile on their faces. And it isn’t only dogs – we’ve had cats, lizards and rabbits in the office on any given day. As long as they adhere to the basic etiquette, they are more than welcome.

So, whilst Mental Health Day may have passed, there is still plenty we can do every single day to help ourselves and our teams live healthier, happier lives overall.

How do you look after your mental health? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast, tomorrow’s guest is a great one!

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