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To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked a selection of industry leaders to share their advice and tools for overcoming overwhelm and banishing burnout for good.
To call 2020 a bruising year is perhaps the mother of all understatements, as research from NABS revealed stress and burnout increased during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
In the midst of an industry-wide drive to build back better, it is paramount that burnout cannot be the acceptable cost of entry for a fulfilling creative career. With this in mind we asked a selection of industry leaders to share their views on how to best overcome this most challenging of years, prioritise mental health and banish burnout in the creative industries.
Now’s the time for our industry to begin thriving with the new workplace arrangements.Carly Avener
Our industry has coped remarkably well with the overnight shift in working practices from a year ago. But it’s been some time now, so only coping isn’t good enough. Now’s the time for our industry to begin thriving with the new workplace arrangements.
One of the challenges we need to overcome is in how to ensure we as businesses deliver on the same responsibilities to our colleagues as we would if we’re in the office whether that be providing adequate workstation set-up or spotting potential burnout.
This is not so easy. When you’re in an office, there are ample opportunities to step in to allay a colleague’s stress or potential burnout from working those extra hours. But behind a screen, an email address or Teams avatar, those opportunities to step in and provide support can be lost.
At Leo Burnett, we’re trying to rekindle that in a virtual-physical hybrid world in which we now work. Our strategy means we have assigned everyone a wellbeing buddy so everyone regularly checks in with each other to offer a helping hand to relieve stress, and a chit-chat instead of work-related discussion. We’ve also introduced no meeting zones into the working week as well as an early finish on a Friday, whatever the season!
Beyond that, it’s important to enable colleagues to have ownership of their well-being by working when, where and how suits them best. We all know there will always be more work to do than hours in the day, so empowering, and trusting, colleagues to set their own boundaries rather than wait for them to be set is critical.
We all need more good days at work and after the year we’ve all had alongside flexible working, that matters even more. We as agency leaders must step up to the challenge.
Only by encouraging a culture of honesty and openness can we banish burnout.Sean Allen-Moy
It used to be about not being the first one to leave the office at the end of the day. Now it’s who has their green light on Slack the latest. Both are wrong and wreck the wellbeing of people who are often just starting out in their careers.
Moving to PR from a broadcast newsroom where you had to leave your desk, pack up your things and get out of the room by the end of the commercial break every day, this long hour’s culture and erosion of work/life balance came as a shock to me four years ago.
Joining a new organisation in the twilight of the pandemic means for the first time I’ve taken an active interest in my new employer’s approach to mental health, wellbeing and burnout. Every organisation and agency of any stature has pages on their website about their people policies, but they’re nothing if the culture of the agency encourages burnout and rewards unhealthy working patterns. At Tin Man, our mental health and wellness programme Hearts & Minds provides tool such as a 24/7 helpline, a flexible wellbeing allowance and a Wellness Action Plan to name but a few. We have also recently introduced a mental health sickness policy which means staff struggling with a mental health issue are able to phone in sick without being questioned or having to explain. The way it should be.
However, what struck me from day one is the culture of openness and honesty in the agency. An honesty that means team members are empowered and keen to share their experiences of subjects as personal as anxiety and mental health with their colleagues and even externally on the agency's blog.
Only by encouraging a culture of honesty and openness can we banish burnout. It needs to be OK to say you’re overwhelmed by work, by life, by global events. That has to start with leaders, sharing our own experiences and fears and setting the tone for a better industry post-pandemic.
Burnout shouldn’t be the prerequisite for a promotion, but too often juniors consider it their rite of passage.Rosie Humphrey
Burnout shouldn’t be the prerequisite for a promotion, but too often juniors consider it their rite of passage. The glorification of working tirelessly and spinning too many plates has been conceptualised as ‘doing your time’, the inevitable rings that all juniors jump through to reach success. But just because we can physically do something, it doesn’t always mean we should, and no one expects you to.
Fostering an open, understanding culture and making downtime an important aspect of the working week helps agencies to mitigate the unrealistic expectations that juniors can place on themselves. At Manifest we’ve been using Spill, an integrated mental health platform, that has been integral to educating the team on burnout and how to diffuse stress and anxiety. Everyone is just trying to do their best and when they’re not feeling so great, it’s important they feel comfortable to flag that.
By providing accessible, optional therapy sessions, the team is encouraged to prioritise their wellbeing at work, creating a nurturing environment that normalises speaking openly about their feelings and fears. Introducing no meeting times between 12-1pm and 5-6pm has really helped to reduce feelings of overwhelm and provide headspace, so that when we need to, we can give it some welly.
I've been honest about the fact that I need help, and because of that, I have become stronger.Tash Rosehill
I’m exhausted, and I’m willing to bet you feel it too.
This is down to a totally uncontrollable situation.
We've been in fight-or-flight mode, homeschooling, grieving for lost moments with friends and family for over a year now.
However, it's also been a year of ‘time’.
Time to be home with the kids instead of commuting, time in the fresh air, time to spend quality moments in your little bubble.
This year we have struggled, succeeded, loved and lost more than ever.
My top tips for protecting your mental health and your time for you are:
Boundaries: Be honest and firm about what you’re able to do. This doesn’t mean saying no to everything, it means giving yourself time and space to protect your mental health and be the best you can be.
Create balance: Find things that give you energy. For me, this is the sabbath; Jews take time out from the daily grind to pause and reflect on the week gone, take a break from distractions and prepare for the week ahead, whatever it may bring.
Communicate with your friends, family and colleagues: I have never opened up more about my mental health than I have done this year. I've been honest about the fact that I need help, and because of that, I have become stronger.
Be kind to yourself: You and your body have been through SO much. Remember that you are a work in progress!
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