How you can bring the new era of wellbeing to life

Annabel McCaffrey, Head of Support at NABS on life after lockdown and how businesses can practically put the building blocks of wellbeing support into place.

Annabel McCaffrey, NABS

Head of Support


The new era of wellbeing is one in which wellbeing support is here to stay.

If anything has taught us about the central importance of wellbeing support at work, it’s the past 12 months. The pandemic, with its enormous pressures and challenges, has pushed people to the limit. It’s been an immensely difficult year in which many employees would have struggled to survive without wellbeing support from their employers.

Despite the clear trauma and tragedy brought about by COVID-19, it’s been positive to see organisations in adland respond to the crisis by creating, often quite quickly, new systems and structures to support their people’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

This has been the start of the new era of wellbeing. So, what’s next?

From now on, successful organisations will be the ones who’ll take forward what they’ve learned in the past year and embed it into the way that they support their teams.

As the support organisation for our industry, NABS is uniquely placed to understand the building blocks of current wellbeing support and how companies can put them into place practically. As we navigate the roadmap back into post-pandemic life, the following activities will be crucial.

If we enter the new era of wellbeing equipped with empathy and practical tools as part of our day-to-day leadership, we can help our people to thrive now and into the future.

Annabel McCaffrey

Navigating post-pandemic workplaces

An active D, E &I strategy is key. As an industry, we need to do more to create safe spaces and support for minoritised communities. If somebody feels that they can’t be themselves at work, that they have to ‘cover’, that they can’t progress or that they’re being discriminated against because of their background, all areas of their wellbeing will be hugely impacted. There’s so much activity that can be put into place here, from ensuring that colleagues from diverse backgrounds have access to mentoring and sponsorship to give them career support, to taking unequivocal steps to eradicate sexual harassment in our industry. Make a start by signing up as an endorser of the timeTo campaign.

An individual approach is hugely important. Recognise that different people in your teams will have different needs, and what’s more these needs may change over time. We’ve seen that this past year working parents have had to contend with the chaos of school openings and closings and home-schooling. Practically, individual support means listening to each person in your teams about what they’re going through so that you can understand how you can help. On the NABS Advice Line, we ask people, “What do you most need?” This is a really useful question that gets people to focus on what help will make an actual difference, whatever their challenge. The answer might be anything from not taking video calls on a given day to signing up for therapy sessions.

Linked to this is the importance of giving people choice. That’s something that’s been stripped away from us over the past year as our freedoms disappeared. But choice and freedom are so integral to our sense of wellbeing. Employers now have a chance to give these essentials back to their employees, and that’s a gift for all concerned because if you invite people to choose how and where they’ll work, they’ll not only feel empowered but also a renewed sense of being a valued member of your organisation.

You can’t hope to understand people or their choices without empathy. That’s why empathetic leadership is even more of a must-have now than it was pre-pandemic. People will need, and quite rightly expect leaders to understand their challenges so that they can provide compassionate, practical support that works.

Life after lockdown

The past year has created interesting opportunities for accessibility and inclusion, with online events and mentoring replacing nights at the pub and days on the golf course. Connection and career development are so key to wellbeing and we’ve seen how it’s possible to foster both purely online. As we move into hybrid working, there will be vital work to do in ensuring that face-to-face time does not entirely replace chances to learn and connect from home.

A strong emphasis on wellbeing support over the next few months is going to be crucial. At NABS, we’ve seen how anxiety and low motivation have dominated throughout the pandemic. There’s a strong possibility that these will continue into the next few months and beyond, along with other mental health challenges such as burnout and PTSD. We’ve been in survival mode during the last 12 months, and it’s when life starts to open up a bit more that people may move into a realisation about what they’ve been through. Cue potential new levels of distress. Organisations need to make sure that they provide safe spaces in which people can discuss their challenges, as well as signposts towards practical help, such as putting a mental health first aid programme in place and making people aware of NABS’ services.

Life after lockdown doesn’t mean that the worst will be over as far as wellbeing challenges are concerned. But if we enter the new era of wellbeing equipped with empathy and practical tools as part of our day-to-day leadership, we can help our people to thrive now and into the future.

Visit NABS for wellbeing support tailored to our industry

Guest Author

Annabel McCaffrey, NABS

Head of Support,


Annabel McCaffrey runs NABS' Advice Line, overseeing a small team of support staff who give confidential guidance to increasing numbers of adlanders. Annabel joined NABS as a support staffer more than 20 years ago, working with a variety of subjects including stress management, mental health, debt advice, employment law and domestic abuse. Annabel and her team promote an empathetic and person-centred approach, and pair this with an in-depth understanding of the advertising industry to give practical and empathetic support to people across adland.

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