2020 has been a year for the history books. Never did we think when we were sent home from the office in March that nine months later, we would still not have returned. As much as it has been a challenging and difficult year for everyone, it has also been a phenomenally inspiring one.
The way that the teams I work with – both internal or external, at supplier or client side – have rallied together to keep our industry and respective businesses going has been genuinely humbling to witness. With no idea how long this was going to go on for, we just had to keep going by staying positive, staying engaged and staying on top of a huge volume of work. As we come towards the end of the year, it looks like a brief respite is finally in sight. For many people, this Christmas will be the first chance they will have had to put the laptop away (and that means actually putting it away!), turn off the work phone and enjoy some peace and quiet. With that comes a huge sense of relief and, for some, a significant emotional release that has been pent up and held on to for some time.
When we finally stop for a while it may be only then that we realise quite how hard this year has been; how we have been clinging on and driving forward despite the incredible toll that has taken on us both physically and mentally.
In an IAB report that was released this week, over 2020 49% of respondents reported increased productivity. That makes sense; we have saved time on commuting or going to meetings and have had significantly more time sat, unflinching, at a screen. As a counterpoint to that, 40% of respondents say their mental health has declined during this time.
The true extent of the effects this year has had on the industry will become apparent next year when we begin to understand the knock-on effect more fully for businesses and consumer spending. This will also highlight how 2020 has affected staff and their requirements in the “workplace”, wherever that may now be.
When we return to our respective places of work in 2021, we will need to ensure that we are supporting staff and helping them achieve the work/ life balance that has been lacking this year. The 2021 mental health and wellbeing agenda is going to be vital to ensure the recovery of not only businesses, but the people that fuel them and it’s vital that we are all aware of the fundamental requirements that businesses should be striving for:
· Clear and respected working hours – whether people are in an office or at home
· Making sure staff take adequate time off and holidays
· Improved flexibility in home working and hours so that staff also see the benefits for their personal lives, not just for the businesses bottom line
· Proper set up available for people to work efficiently from home
· Ensuring accounts and teams are sufficiently resourced
· Educating staff on the availability of various resources when they do need help
· Training on resilience and stress relief as well as management training and investment in mental health first aid
· Provision of an easily contactable EAP (employee assistance programme) – made available to all staff
· A change in mentality whereby requesting additional resource or support if required is actively encouraged
The above points are what we hold agencies, including our own, to account on – going beyond posters on office walls and social sessions on the latest “self-care” trend, these are the practical steps that Space & Time has taken and continues to develop to ensure that our staff are looked after as we head into 2021.
It is the final point that will inevitably prove difficult as a shift in mentality takes time, however the more we speak about it, and the more we lead by example, we will see this as a change for the better.
Let’s not forget the lessons we learnt this year, and let’s continue to grow together and look after each other.
For more information on what an agency mental health and wellbeing agenda could (and should) look like, get in touch with one of our mental health champions at www.spaceandtime.co.uk – we love a chat!