The mental health hangover

Picture the day. The lockdowns are over, the streets are bustling, and the idea of daily briefings exists only in our memories. Life is back to normal.

Except, of course, it’s not. Life is unlikely to ever be what we previously took as ‘normal’ again.

We hear a lot more about mental health now than we used to, and there is certainly a more open discourse around the subject than previously seen. The media and advertising industries have been renowned for many things; in recent years we’ve seen leaders across these sectors attempt to distance themselves from the hardworking, hard-partying image of the past, pivoting towards a more responsible way of working. However, without careful planning we risk stumbling head down towards the mental health hangover of our lives.

 

Agencies must do more

It’s the job of agencies – big and small – to ensure their workforce not only remain efficient, effective and enthusiastic but also happy. In the rush to reap back revenue and return to offices, there is the chance that mental health might lose its place on the priority list.

The way we do business has changed, and research from Eskenzi suggests that 91% of the UK’s office workers would like to work from home at least part of the time. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the office still plays a critical role in the career development of many and in the shared energy and creative magic our industry is renowned for.

We stand on the edge of a hybrid working model that ignores the previous boundaries between work/ life and agency leaders must plan for this new normal and the challenges it may bring.

 

Learn to walk all over again

In this new reality, we are having to adapt at incredible speed and there are numerous ways that leaders, individuals, and the industry as a whole can act to help alleviate the effects of this rapid change:

Be kind

The power of kindness cannot be overstated. Many people will feel drastically different from one day to the next. Allowing people greater freedom of choice as to where they work is likely to be well received.

Use this opportunity to advocate for improvements and changes

Whilst we have all been locked at home, we’ve had more than enough time to mull over the pros and cons of working life. Leaders should encourage employees to reflect on this, either in the office or over video-calls. By making the space for honest conversations employees will feel empowered and this should foster a positive atmosphere during this challenging phase. This massive challenge has presented an enormous opportunity.

Remind each other that feeling anxious or distressed is completely natural, and that’s okay!

By not saying anything we can spread the misnomer that everything is okay because we’re not talking about it. We like order as a species, this crisis has undermined that and we must help one another find it again by being open with each other until the new normal is bedded in.

Practice what you preach

Our planning must reflect the state of the world around us as well as the one we want to live in. We have an obligation to create work that speaks to our audience, and by dialing empathy into campaigns we can tap into the shared experiences we’ve all had. The more we can chime with our audience when it comes to executing campaigns the better results we will deliver. Don’t pretend it’s still 2019.

Offer tangible help & wellness benefits

Whilst saying “I’m here to talk to you whenever you need is good” what’s even better is putting money where your mouth is. Agencies rely on retaining the best talent (92% of advertising leaders said it’s difficult to find a skilled new hire), and a great way to do this is by offering free (or discounted) access to therapy, subscriptions to tools such as Headspace or online wellness classes.

By doing one, or all of these points agencies will not just hold onto the best talent but empower them to grow and contribute more to the overall success of the business. Lost earnings through poor mental health and increased sick days should just be a footnote when it comes to looking after employees’ mental health. Figuring out how to address mental health and champion wellness is something that must be dealt with now, or we risk carrying it with us far beyond the end of the crisis.

Alex Macdonald, Account Manager

 

For quick access to mental health support contact:

NABS – https://nabs.org.uk/ – 0800 707 6607

Samaritans – https://Samaritans.org – 116 123

MIND – https://www.mind.org.uk/

SAT Employee Assistance Program – 0800 169 1920