Mental health first aid workshops & awareness initiatives empower team at Microsoft

Business Area

Education, Events, External campaign, Wellness

Key focus



Medium term


Following qualifying as mental health first aiders, the team ran multiple workshops open to all members of our organisation. These workshops included activities on identifying unhealthy behaviours, how to have conversations about mental health and signpost colleagues to professional services. These workshops created a safe space for people to speak openly about their own experiences with mental health. It was also an opportunity to draw attention to the vast number of resources that we have within Microsoft- when often it is a case of knowing where to look and how to get started. All participants who gave feedback said they now either felt confident or very confident talking about mental health.

The team then coordinated an organisation specific calendar of events supporting Mental Health Awareness week complimenting both the company program and building on the great foundations that qualified Mental Health ambassadors within our organisation have spearheaded for several years.

Activities included an organised run, a fireside conversation from a medical professional to discuss Mental Health, getting diagnosed and the stigma in the workplace, a coffee and cake morning where all proceeds went to MIND (Over £1000 was raised) and Guided Meditation from an external professional.

What did you set out to achieve?

If the past few years have taught us anything, it is to prioritise our mental health, The energy crisis in work is very real- particularly as the strain on the invaluable human capital that keeps our companies running takes its toll. A small team in Microsoft Advertising wanted to reduce the stigma of transparent, honest conversations in the workplace around mental health and raise awareness of something that can be so deeply personal and yet imperative to employees and business health. Our mission is to create an inclusive and supportive environment where everyone is encouraged to be open-minded, honest, vulnerable, and empathetic. We strive to build trust and foster bravery in all our interactions, as we work towards our common goals. We are committed to promoting mental health and well-being, and providing resources and support for those in need.

Describe how the initiative or campaign works?

The initiative started out as a group organising workshops. However, based on the positive feedback and the appetite to continue the conversation, a mental health team has now been established. We have a full team of members across different roles and verticals and an executive sponsor who advocates for the work we are doing. We choose our focuses and what projects to do based on feedback via surveys and by wider events (such as mental health awareness week).

Can you tell us about the practical steps to set it up?

The first step was coming together as a group of passionate individuals to discuss ideas and plan a set of mental health workshops for various internal teams. We’ve worked closely with Sales Director, Ellie England, who has guided us in spreading this project across the business and connecting us with senior stakeholders. We’ve also collaborated with Xandr to share ideas and expand our impact. Outside of the business we spoke with GP Jen Saw to seek advice on navigating this subject with tact and how to find the right resources to inform our work. The budget for this project has been minimal, mostly small contributions to external collaborators. 

Ted Talk speaker

What positive impact has this initiative had?

We created various events and workshops to raise awareness and support for mental health issues. Some of the highlights were:

  • A cake sale that raised £1,000 for Mind, our chosen charity for Mental Health Awareness Week.

  • A Ted Talk that featured 15 speakers sharing their insights and experiences on mental health.

  • A Stress & Burnout session that taught 17 participants how to cope with stress and prevent burnout.

  • A Guided Relaxation session that helped 10 participants relax and unwind.

  • A Let’s Talk About Mental Health session that brought in an outside speaker, GP Jen Saw, and a panel of experts to discuss mental health diagnosis and stigma in the workplace. The session had 32 online and 10 in-person attendees, as well as 15 viewers of the recording.

  • We also received positive feedback and nominations from colleagues, who appreciated our courage, vulnerability, and knowledge in facilitating the mental health workshops.

Mental Health Week calendar


What did you learn that could help others?

We have learnt over the past year is that we must meet people where they are on their own journey. Mental health is a topic that requires vulnerability and is intrinsically personal. We’ve learnt that we need to meet people where they are and ensure whatever we do, we ensure its inclusive to everyone, irrespective of their own relationship with mental health. We have shaped our activity and focus based on feedback. Rather than trying to make people engage, we have shaped what we do about what the wider team wanted. To get feedback, the team compiled a mental health survey and took the findings of this to our senior leadership- aligning on KPIs for further impact. Based on this, we are now helping teams navigate how to talk about mental health and protecting their own energy in collaboration and under the stewardship of the UK wellbeing team.

How will you make the benefit of this campaign endure?

The first thing we are doing is keeping the v-team and making sure we are evolving in the best way to ensure that we are working according to the needs of our team. We are checking-in regularly with the team to make sure we understand their needs and concerns (via polls or forms). The mental health v-team came together during an off- site to reflect on what have been done in the past months, get some learnings and plan the rest of the year to keep Mental Heath as a top priority. One of our missions is also to engage with senior leadership on the mental health topic to encourage them to lead by example. We are also regrouping with partners and always looking for new ones that can help our team.


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