It's all right to talk: Jagex shares its advice on mental health in the workplace

For World Mental Health Day, Jagex offers some advice on what they do to encourage a healthy balanced workplace, as well as their work to support local and national initiatives.

Jagex has been recognised by mental health MIND for its commitment to wellbeing in the workplace and was the first games company to be placed in the Workplace Wellbeing Index 2016/2017, a benchmark of best policy and practice.

The Workplace Wellbeing Index recognises companies that have introduced initiatives to promote and support positive mental health in the workplace. The 2016/17 Index saw Jagex lead the field in the category that recognises a company that is committed to 'Achieving Change' within the workplace.

More recently the 2017/2018 Index saw Jagex attain heightened recognition for “Achieving Impact” in workplace wellbeing. This award is given to employers who have made demonstrable achievements in promoting staff mental health, demonstrating progress and impact over time.

How does Jagex support mental wellbeing and stress?

At Jagex, we have an employee assistance programme, which we promote to our staff. This means there is somewhere employees can turn to when they need reliable information and support, and someone to talk to when times get tough.

This is a confidential and impartial service that employees can contact as often as they need to, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service provides free access to a range of specialist support and information, including a life management service, telephone and face-to-face counselling and an online wellbeing portal.

We also have a dedicated Wellbeing channel on our intranet with resources, news and a place where people share thoughts and recommendations for reading materials.

On site, we offer counselling and Mind Clinic sessions during Mental Health Awareness week and we have just started trialling bi-weekly on-site counselling sessions where people can confidentially explore personal issues and dilemmas.

Awareness training for managers and staff

It’s important that line managers are well equipped to understand how to deal with issues, so we offer mental health first aid training to our line managers. This training helps them understand mental health and recognise the signs and symptoms of different mental health conditions, as well as understand what support is available to employees experiencing mental health distress.

It also helps them understand their role in creating a mentally healthy workplace, so we offer advice and support so that they too recognise and understanding different mental health issues.

We also have wellbeing champions across the business who are advocates for health and wellbeing within Jagex.

Their roles include signposting others to support channels, providing feedback on key topics and issues, as well as making recommendations within Jagex so that we can positively drive wellbeing initiatives.

It’s important as a studio that we support various national mental health and wellbeing campaigns too. For instance, we take an active part across the studio in Time to Talk Day, Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. Activities at the studio have included tea and talk mornings and afternoons, massages, inviting in external speakers and asking a counsellor to be on site.

One such example of a talk we had in the studio was from Jonny Benjamin who launched a global search to find the stranger who talked him out of jumping off Waterloo Bridge in 2018, and how it changed their lives forever.

Encouraging a balanced lifestyle

We don’t have a policy around overtime and crunch as it is not common at Jagex. Employees may on occasion work overtime, but this is pre-agreed with their managers and if they do work overtime in most cases it is agreed that they can take the time back in lieu or are possibly paid overtime.

It’s important that mental health and physical health are very often linked. As such, we also make sure we have a range of benefits that encourage a healthy lifestyle, for example:

  • Gym membership: we have Nuffield Health reps in the Studio to talk about Nuffield Gym membership and to give a mini health MOT
  • Cycle scheme
  • Free cycle repairs
  • Social clubs such as Jagex football team and cricket team
  • Free fresh fruit

Charity initiatives focussed on mental health

It’s not just the employees who benefit from being a part of these initiatives.

Our passionate and generous RuneScape community has helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds over the last few years for some incredible causes.

By singularly focusing on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people through partnering with our chosen charities, we and the RuneScape community come together to help people to receive the backing they need to cope with the turbulence of the world today.

For 2017 and 2018, we selected three charity partners to work with us on a two-year partnership, to get more benefit from a longer relationship. This helped us to meet our objective of making a real difference to communities, individuals, and to how the charities can work effectively.

Our aims were to:

  • Support Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Engage our player communities and staff
  • Exceed previous funds raised by Jagex
  • Make a positive change in the world

The three charities we selected were local and national.

Local partners:

  • CPSL Mind, the local Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, and South Lincolnshire branch of the national Mind charity. 
    • £98,000+ raised through player community and staff fundraising
    • This entirely funding their successful May 2018 Stop Suicide Campaign, including hosting the launch event at Jagex HQ for 100 VIP guests and shooting the campaign video at Jagex
    • Donating a whole day from our Creative Services and Graphics teams to design assets and posters.

National/International partners:

  • YMCA Right Here
    • £98,000+ raised through player community and staff fundraising
    • Donated a day from our Social Media and Marketing teams to create a six-month social media plan, and a day from our Web Services team, to optimise and improve the ‘Find, Get, Give’ mental health resource website
    • Shot a short promo film to improve visibility of the ‘Find, Get, Give’ website
  • Prince’s Trust
    • £98,000+ raised through player community and staff fundraising
    • Funded and delivered get Started in Games Design course for 15 young people with mental health issues in conjunction with Cambridge Regional College, culminating in a two-day Game Jam at Jagex HQ
    • Funded mental health first aid training for all frontline Prince’s Trust staff

Initiatives for all three charity partners:

Gielinorian Giving was an in game initiative in RuneScape which involved:

  • A combination of interactive NPCs spreading mental health awareness
  • Links to charity info
  • Purchasable in game items (Armour, Pets) where all the funds were donated to all three charities
  • Linked into Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day, with social media profiles broadcast to our followers, with over one million reach

We had a dedicated charity area at our 2000-player RuneFest live event for our charity partners to engage with players on a 1-2-1 basis.

Regular staff fundraising activities include Canteen Charity items, Pub Quiz, bike rides, themed days, and a bake off. So far, we have raised over £300,000 far for the partnership.

Finally, we like to encourage all staff to take on community service activities, as well as do volunteer work. They can get additional paid time off for this kind of activity.

Last year, this meant our studio donated more than 600 hours of their time. Some of the volunteer activities included:

  • HackX – a whole day of donated staff time and skills across Web Development, Community Management, Social Media, Marketing, Graphics and Creative Services to work on charity partner chosen activities.
  • The in-game charity content is developed in scheduled development time, however 100% of the proceeds are donated to our charity partners, so this dev time is donated as volunteer work
  • We have Jagex football and cricket teams, who regularly take part in charity sporting events during work time

On a case by case basis, we also offer flexibility to accommodate individual requests.  For example, one of our employees trained to become a Special Constable, for which we made allowances with days of work, shift start and finish times.

All these initiatives and support for employees makes for a much healthier and open approach to mental health in the workplace and in society.

If you would like to share your story about how your workplace encourages openness and a healthy approach to mental health, get in touch with Ukie.