What are you doing about mental health in your workplace?

Don’t filter feelings

Let’s talk about mental health. Is it still taboo, or is the creative industry doing enough to support the well-being of their employees in and out of the workplace?

It’s all well and good to go for a coffee here and there, ‘buddy up’ with the newbies or give someone a pat on the back for a job well done, but is that really all we can do? I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to a few industry leaders about their thoughts, opinions and ideas on how we could make someone’s day just that little bit brighter and their outlook on life just that little bit better.

 Diana Milone - Client Partner, Toaster

Diana Milone – Client Partner at Toaster

"Everyone gets £1000 budget per year where half of that budget is to be spent on wellness, whether that’s counselling, therapy, gym membership, spa days, or something a bit more personal – whatever wellbeing means to you. The other half is spent on training, but they don’t decide what it is, that’s left to you, for whatever it is that you want to learn in and about your industry.

Everyone talks about culture, but talking about it and actually having it are two different things. When you talk about mental health and wellness, the most important thing is to the have the employee’s best interests at heart, so I don’t understand why most topics related to this go through HR – which I see at a lot of agencies.

I’ve heard people be spoken to like they shouldn’t be spoken to by very senior members of staff, it’s all very old fashioned and will most likely have a negative impact on people’s mental health. It’s not just agency, it’s society and it’s culture. With millennials coming in now and demanding more flexibility, creativity and side hustles, things are changing but they’re changing slow.

It’s like asking employees to work on weekends, or expecting them to pick up an email at 11pm, if they can do it, great they’ll do it. But expecting them to do it something completely different, and that causes stress and anxiety."

 Paul Wood – Senior Client Director at Interbrand

Paul Wood – Senior Client Director at Interbrand

"Mental health in its broad sense is still considered a taboo subject. I think I’ve been, however way you look at it, both fortunate and unfortunate to have experienced mental health first hand as someone very close to me as gone through mental health challenges, and as a result as have I to an extent. Whilst it affects the individual, primarily it has a broader effect than just the person going through challenges and anxieties. The reason why I say that is historically it’s taken the advertising industry a very long time to recognize mental health as an illness, and it is effectively just like cancer or any other disease.

People often look at it as someone’s inability to cope, which is so wrong. However, in London and many other cities, people are becoming more aware and responsible for it as ultimately people are a company’s biggest asset, so they have to look and be able to understand it. I’ve read reports that people that are creatively minded can sometimes be more susceptible to mental health issues because their standards are sometimes higher, or the environment and their needs are different, so creative industries need to be more creative in dealing with the stresses that come from modern life and the pressure of living in big cities or having high pressure jobs.

If you’re having difficulties in any way, shape or form, the best thing to do is to air those concerns with your manager and they should try their hardest to help. I know Interbrand have been very supportive with me in personal issues in many ways, for example offering counselling, letting me know they can be flexible if I ever need to work from home or a day off to regroup, or just offering their help both professionally and personally. The biggest and best thing is just to be an ear for someone. Not be a manager, or a colleague, just a person.

If you think mental health is a taboo, then it always will be to you. But if you open up, more often than not, someone else will have had a similar experience very similar to yours and be able to sympathize and empathize.

There could definitely be more initiatives to actively promote wellbeing. At the moment the initiatives are driven purely by people’s experience to do something and take action. Obviously everyone has their own roles and responsibilities but it’s nice to feel like you can go up to your CEO and tap them on the shoulder for a chat, or even just knowing that your colleagues have your back, be that work related or otherwise."

Lorraine Jennings, Director of Services and Talent

Lorraine Jennings, Director of Services and Talent at NABS

“NABS exists to support people that work across the advertising and media industries. Our main aim is to improve the wellbeing of people. There are so many factors that contribute to your wellbeing and we look at everything as a whole. We run a number of services designed to help people in the industry at all stages of their careers.

We rely on our very generous donors, we couldn’t do what we do without them. Our services are free for people in the industry, which means that everybody can benefit. We’re well-known for our confidential Advice Line, and at the moment most of the calls we receive are from people seeking emotional support - they may have problems at work, such as redundancy, or problems at home – anything from divorce to domestic abuse. Our Advice Line team are amazingly dedicated; they give a very high level of one-to-one support, enabling people to come to us for real guidance and help when they need it most.

We also offer a variety of Masterclasses, evening Talks and speed mentoring sessions where we bring people together from across our industry to learn new skills and develop their professional selves. Our mission is to help people to thrive by equipping them with confidence, resilience and knowledge, and we’re delighted to be able to help so many people every year.”

I found my conversations with everyone above really helpful as I know first-hand what it’s like to feel like you have the whole weight of the world on your shoulders. I used to have too much pride to ask for help, but I’ve realized from those chats and from personal experience that there’s always something that you can do. Whether that be joining an agency that has the same incentive as Toaster with the £1000 budget to fund an activity or hobby that promotes your wellbeing, or like Interbrand where you feel comfortable enough to have a chat with a colleague and get your worries off your chest, no matter their seniority, or even go to a charity like NABS and attend a workshop or talk with people in similar situations to yourself.

It’s better to share your troubles than be trapped by your feelings so please do take the time to look after yourself. Everyone has their own issues or challenges that they are coping with, but it’s nice to know that there are people that can relate and want to help, and I assure you 9 times out of 10, just taking that step to ask for help, whatever it may be, will make even the biggest problem just that little bit easier to manage.

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