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Research from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England shows a third (33%) of employees say they often feel unhappy, stressed, or worried at work. My Whole Self is MHFA England’s campaign for workplace culture change and they are calling on employers to create cultures where people feel able to bring their whole self to work to help improve workplace wellbeing.

Many things happen outside of work that can affect us at work. Poor mental health can affect anyone, at any time in the year, and it impacts people in different ways. It makes for a happier team when we know that we can share what’s happening in our lives without the fear of judgment or consequence.

In the spirit of getting to know our whole selves, here are some of the things we do outside of work.

Emma, Client Services Director and charity founder

13 years ago my family set up The Elizabeth Coteman Fund, a charity dedicated to supporting patients and their families affected by pancreatic cancer. The charity is in memory of my darling mum, who we lost to this dreadful disease. I feel proud to have supported so many sufferers and their families, as I know only too well how devastating this cancer can be. It’s a true legacy to my Mum; it’s brought us closer together as a family and really does put daily stresses into perspective.

When I really need to unwind outside of work and our charity, I am a passionate reader of all things crime! And I love to cook food from all over the world. I’m often found in the kitchen surrounded by every utensil we own, much to my husband’s delight 🙂

Four fundraisers carrying collection buckets at a supermarket in front of a display of bunches of flowers. The two men and two women are wearing purple t-shirts that read: fighting pancreatic cancer, the Elizabeth Coteman Fund, life is precious.

Claire, Head of Delivery and knitter

In 2022, I knitted a temperature blanket – it’s when you knit one row every day of the year and the colour of yarn used indicates the peak temperature of that day. So think blues for the winter months, greens and yellows for Spring, up to bright reds for the Summer heat.

At the end of each month, I’d share a photo of the blanket’s progress with the Studio 24 team. As much as I love knitting, there were times when I struggled to knit every day. But I was so encouraged by my colleagues who would regularly ask how the blanket was coming along, curious to see how the weather was impacting its development, and motivating me to continue with it.

That encouragement is true of everything we do at Studio 24. We’re all incredibly supportive of each other, whether that’s for project work or personal interests. We’re a close knit team (pun intended!) and it’s something I really value.

Claire's temperature blanket with lines of blues and greens at the bottom, moving into orange and yellow, then red and some very dark red. Then it moves back to orange and yellow and back to blues and greens.

Alan, Operations Manager and pool player

I can remember from a very early age sitting with either my parents or grand-parents watching cue sports on the TV. Back then it was normally snooker and programs like Pot Black.

As I got older I found more local venues like cafés had pool tables so we would often play during lunch. This led to joining and playing in various local pool leagues and eventually me joining the team that I am still a member of.

I am the longest standing member with nearly 30 years under my belt. It can be a frustrating game to play but no two games are the same. With the increase of internet streaming and extended television coverage it’s amazing I get time to do anything else!

Alan at a pool table taking aim at a yellow ball that is nestled just in front of a corner pocket.

Kate, Marketing Manager and netballer

About 5 years ago I joined a social netball league. It was the first time I’d played netball since school. My footwork was terrible, I couldn’t remember most of the rules and my fitness was sub par. But I loved it.

As I started to improve I took the plunge and joined a competitive netball league which includes training with a coach and wearing a kit for matches (the only time you’ll ever see me in a dress!). When you play netball you can’t think about anything else, so all the stresses of the day melt away. It also focuses on the importance of team work – you win as a team and you lose as a team. That’s me below as Goal Keeper (GK).

A team of seven netball players and their coach pose in front of the score board which reads 28 53. Their kit is a black dress with hot pink and white swishes on the skirt.

Julie, Office Manager and horse rider

My daughter started riding in 2019, and as soon as she started, I began to have an urge to learn to ride as well. So later that year I took the plunge and started having lessons and have now been riding for nearly 5 years.

It’s lovely to have a shared hobby with my daughter and we enjoy being in the yard and spending time with the horses and all the friends we have made. I find it relaxing just being around the horses and love to groom them. The horses all have their own personalities, with some being quite cuddly and others being a little mischievous.

We all (horses and people) love the annual treat when we ride in Thetford Forest. You can see how much the horses enjoy the change of scenery. We always know when a ride is on its way back to the campsite, as the horses waiting for their turn to go out will often call out to their friends when they are nearly back. That is when we all work together to make sure that the next ride is ready to leave.

I really enjoy my Wednesday mornings in the fresh air come rain or shine and always feel refreshed when I start work in the afternoon.

Julie has her face next to a horse's face is is smiling broadly.

Francesco, Senior Project Manager and football fan

When I was 10 years old, one Sunday evening my father came back from a game he’d just seen. He was absolutely ecstatic and it was then I knew I was doomed – I became a Juventus FC supporter instantly (not that I had much choice anyway)!

Football is “the most important among the least important things” as someone wise once said. What I like the most about it is its ability to bring people together. It’s the sense of belonging that I find most appealing.

I went to see Cambridge United recently – up the Us! – and I can’t wait to be back. The atmosphere and the people made me feel welcome. This is something I want to be part of – a welcoming group of people who support each other towards a common goal. Forza!


Francesco and his sister stand outside the Dacia Arena.

Jamie, Web Developer and language enthusiast

I’m a bit of a word nerd. From a young age I’ve had a fascination with language and how that affects the way we interact with one another.

As I grew up, I began immersing myself in foreign languages and media. Suddenly, I was reading comics the wrong way around (Japanese manga reads right to left!) and self-studying Japanese alongside my studies in French and Irish in school.

The main two languages I’ve been learning since then have been Japanese and Norwegian. I’ve found both have served me well over the years, from being able to have a laugh and good conversation with the locals when my wife and I went to Japan on our honeymoon (which also led to strangers giving us gifts!) to placing 4th in a pub quiz in Oslo which was held entirely in Norwegian (of which we were the sole non-native team). That landed us in the local newspaper!

I find myself in a lucky position where my job allows me to learn how to communicate with a computer and my hobby to communicate with people around the world!

About 50 people from all the the pub quiz teams come together for a group photo
Photo copyright: Budstikka newspaper

Miro, Front End Developer and speedway enthusiast

After work, I find joy and relaxation in reading the latest automotive news. I am fascinated by the world of innovations and modern solutions in the automotive industry. Reading about the newest models, technologies, and automotive events becomes an exciting way for me to develop interests beyond my daily duties.

Additionally, I am also a devoted speedway fan. The adrenaline on the track, the competition, and the unique atmosphere make it not just a sport but a true passion for me.
Cheering for my favourite teams and riders in these thrilling races is an excellent way for me to unwind.

Side view of Miro in the foreground watching speedway. There's a dirt track and with blurred motorbikes whizzing past. A banner on the circuit says speedwaygp.com

So that’s a little insight into what makes us tick! We are proud to support My Whole Self, MHFA England’s campaign for workplace culture change. The campaign calls on organisations to empower employees to bring their whole selves to work.

A green banner from Mental Health First Aid England that reads: we're supporting the campaign for workplace culture change, My Whole Self.