Undoubtedly, mental health has taken a hit for people in most countries around the world, with fingers being pointed at the pandemic and how it has taken a toll on individuals who were suddenly confined to their homes, unable to spend time with loved ones.

In Malta alone, a recent survey by misco found that seventy-nine per cent of employees have experienced mental health issues such as stress and anxiety related to their work this year.

And, as general awareness continues to grow, iGaming affiliate KaFe Rocks Group which is also the company behind usbetting.org and uscasinos.com, is striking while the iron is hot, so to speak, in an effort to embed mental health awareness into the company’s culture and foundations.

Speaking to iGamingCapital.mt about how the company is doing just so, Jess Farrugia – People Experience Manager, stresses the importance of getting people curious about their own mental health, even those who may feel they do not struggle with such issues.    

At KaFe Rocks, Jess’ mission is to constantly improve the journey for ‘Rocketeers’ – a playful term the company uses to describe its workers.

Jess’ role is to essentially see that all parts of a Rocketeer’s journey with the company runs smoothly, from pre-boarding and onboarding, all the way to exit interviews and everything in between.

“I am also a big champion of our company culture, being yourself and being given the tools and flexibility to thrive both at work and at home,” she says.

“The job is very creative. You adapt to feedback and are constantly trying to get input from the people. What are the pain points? What should we focus on urgently? What can we do differently going forward? This constant adaptation and keeping the company’s strategy in mind is a big part of my role.”

So, why is mental health awareness at the workplace so important?

Asked about why the company has chosen to take on mental health at the workplace, and what it means in practice, Jess shares that KaFe Rocks is a firm believer in championing a culture of trust.

“We want our people to trust us enough to be open about what they need to succeed, including when it comes to their mental health.

“Creating an environment so that people feel at home enough to talk about their wellbeing is so important if you want to create an open and honest environment. It is one less barrier if you want to reach people and maintain a healthy workplace relationship.”

Jess points out that while the world and private corporations make all kinds of allowances to safeguard physical health, making allowances to address mental health issues is far less ubiquitous.

“The concept of caring for one’s mental wellbeing is nowhere near as normalised as caring for one’s physical wellbeing.

“Companies make all kinds of allowances for physical health, such as gym memberships, subsidies and sick leave, I strongly believe the same standards of care and attention should be put in place for ailments that do not show up under physical form.”

Jess adds that there should not be a barrier when employees are fearful of sharing when their mental wellbeing is suffering, for fear of reprisals or being held back at work.

“Expanding the focus of wellbeing can only be beneficial for the company and the employee.”

What is KaFe Rocks doing to concretely champion mental health and its awareness?

In January of this year, KaFe Rocks made headlines across the iGaming space and beyond after it instituted an unlimited paid leave benefit.

The initiative was not instituted as part of the company’s efforts to champion mental health, but it certainly contributes to employee wellbeing by providing peace of mind as workers no longer have to carefully plan out how they will utilise their previously limited leave allocation.

Prior to introducing this change, Jess shares, the company circulated a survey among staff which found that people were feeling the pressure of endless lockdowns in their countries.

As a remote-first company, KaFe Rocks must keep tabs with its workers who are situated all around the world, who may have experienced differing levels of severity when it came to Government-mandated lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus.

Listening to Rocketeers’ feedback and recognising hard work, KaFe Rocks decided to provide staff with a ‘reset day’, meaning everybody within the company, except for a very limited number of skeleton staff, took an extra day off together.

With the knowledge that most of the company is on leave, workers could enjoy a day however they wished with the peace of mind that there wouldn’t be a mountain of emails and messages to catch up with, as most colleagues were also off. “Overall, the initiative was received very well”, Jess      shares.

The Richmond Foundation

One major benefit KaFe Rocks has introduced for its Rocketeers to champion wellbeing has been introduced via a partnership with Malta’s Richmond Foundation. The Foundation, as psychology officer Matthew Paris tells iGamingCapital.mt, works broadly in mental health, from providing care to individuals suffering mental health issues within the community, to a 24/7 help line and training mental health first aiders.

One of the services it offers is partnering up with private companies that wish to sponsor therapy sessions for their workers. KaFe Rocks has engaged The Richmond Foundation in this regard, and provides its Rocketeers with unlimited therapy sessions, as and when they are needed, in complete confidence.

Here, Jess explains that there are no caps or limits, and that the company trusts its workers to make use of this benefit as needed, whether it is a one-off check in or regular sessions.

“It is useless to place limits on this, if somebody is going through something, they may need regular help and we wanted to provide flexibility on this.”

Jess shares that uptake has been slower than expected, but is gradually increasing.

“I think as more people make use of it, and see the benefits of it, and share their experiences with colleagues, other Rocketeers will be encouraged to try out a therapy session.”     

Asked whether many private organisations are partnering up with the Richmond Foundation to offer their own staff members sponsored therapy sessions, Matthew shares that quite a few have signed up, and more are joining every day.

“This shows that a lot more companies are giving importance to employee mental health and wellbeing. This is why we offered the service in the first place, we realised that work is a very big part of everybody’s life, and mental health being catered for at work is very important.”

Also on the agenda for KaFe Rocks is having mental health first aiders on staff, which could take the form of existing employees becoming trained in mental health first aid, a service The Richmond Foundation also offers.

Here, Jess stresses that the company “wants to make people feel that having mental health first aiders is just as normal as having a physical first aider at the office.”

And, finally, the option for Rocketeers to carry out their day of work at the company’s offices in Malta, playfully called The Oasis, completely at their own discretion, is another way in which KaFe Rocks caters to employee wellbeing.

“Mentally, giving staff the option to decide whether they want to work from their home office or at The Oasis provides peace of mind. We have been careful to curate a space that is peaceful and inviting, that apart from working in, is comfortable to socialise and interact in.”

And, as more and more people are prioritising company vision around wellbeing when choosing an employer, it is likely that wellbeing and mental health will continue to be given prominence across the private sector.

KaFe Rocks is always on the lookout for the next potential Rocketeer – more info can be found on their page here.  

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