Voices

Overcoming Overwhelm

From making your own rules, to having an escape plan; ahead of next week’s Advertising Week workshop on Overcoming Overwhelm we asked the panel to share their advice.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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Building a creative career, or any career for that matter, in the midst of a global pandemic isn’t easy. In all transparency, our Creativebrief workshop on Overcoming Overwhelm was envisaged long before this crisis changed all our lives irrevocably. For even before this crisis threw us a personal and professional curveball, burnout was rightly already at the top of the industry agenda. For creative businesses, where the biggest asset is people, ensuring those people have the right conditions and support to realise their full potential is vital to the long-term success and sustainability of the industry. 

Yet research from industry charity NABS reveals that 37% of employees are struggling with the new pressure of online presenteeism with 35% citing long virtual video conferencing meetings as a stressor and 45% finding it difficult to set boundaries around working hours. While research from LinkedIn in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation shows that on average Britons have been working 28 hours of overtime per month since lockdown began.

Prior to the pandemic, research from Creative Equals revealed that 12% of women plan to leave the creative industry within the next two years. A phenomenon that is often reported as women ‘dropping out’ as if somehow an inevitable fall that businesses have no control over. While diversity has rightly risen up the creative and business agenda, the uncomfortable truth remains that women, and men, are still leaving the industry because of overwhelm and burnout.

In the face of this overwhelm there is no question that the conversation surrounding mental health has rightly been given more space on the industry agenda. Organisations such as Bloom, NABS and Creative Equals have put the oxygen of honesty into the room about challenges as diverse as returning to work after maternity leave, to bouncing back from redundancy and taking on mental health challenges. A silver-lining of the coronavirus crisis is that honesty and openness is helping to remove the stigma and shame which still surround events or experiences that are outside of individual control. 

In the spirit of this openness, we asked the panel of Creativebrief’s upcoming Overcoming Overwhelm event at Advertising Week what one piece of advice they would give to avoid burnout and overwhelm in today’s challenging environment. 

Respectfully make up your own rules. We have an opportunity right now, with lockdown flexible working patterns, to make better work-life choices.

Nicky Palamarczuk

Nicky Palamarczuk

Nicky Palamarczuk, VCCP.jpg

Head of Social and Influence // Founder

VCCP // Back To Work After

Everyone gets overwhelmed, but some people think they still have to hide it. I think we should be able to tell our employers and our colleagues how we’re doing and what we need to get through whatever it is we’re struggling with. It’s in their best interest and you’ll be more likely to stay loyal and go above and beyond for them in return in the long run. I know I have. 

The other thing is to respectfully make up your own rules. We have an opportunity right now, with lockdown flexible working patterns, to make better work-life choices. We need to seize this moment while we can. Before cancer, I used to feel incredibly guilty about booking an hour out in my diary for my life coach or leaving early to get more than just bedtime with my daughter. Not anymore, because it’s also up to me to make work, work for me. Obviously, there’s a fine line and you have to deliver on the job you're paid to do but if you’re doing a great job then there’s no harm in asking because if you don’t ask, you don’t get. 

There are actually plenty of ways to keep or regain control, but most of them need to be put in place before you get to the critical overwhelm stage.

Katie Lee

Katie Lee

Katie_Lee, Lucky Generals.jpg

CEO

Lucky Generals

What’s your escape plan? In my experience overwhelm comes from catastrophising an event or moment in time until you feel completely helpless in how you rectify the situation or gain back control. When you have the space to step back and look at it objectively, there are actually plenty of ways to keep or regain control, but most of them need to be put in place before you get to the critical overwhelm stage.

Firstly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “it will never happen to me”. It might, especially in the current climate, so prepare. Make sure you save as much as you can, even if it just gives you a few months of cover. Make sure you’re on the right contract; one month might be liberating but three months gives you protection. Once you’ve got those in place, if you do spiral into an overwhelm, you can at least rationalise the, what’s the worst that could happen? by knowing you’ve done all you can to give yourself some air cover and that makes you feel a bit freer.

Radically candid conversation can go a long way to truly ground us, ready to face what’s ahead.

Victoria Brooks

Victoria Brooks

Victoria Brooks, Bloom.png

Strategy Consultant // 2019 Vice President

Bloom

We are an industry of highly competent, driven individuals who set our sights on something and most often, reach it. We like project plans and production schedules, scripts and strategies. Be it controlling the flow of a shoot or the flow of a meeting, we like to feel that we are at the helm. So, 2020 has been a shock! The chaos continues and changes daily. At Bloom, we have seen how this has knocked our collective confidence and heard the many stories of overwhelm from our community, as well as what has worked to mitigate these feelings.  

The best advice I could give is to find yourself a mentor or a mentee. We have seen that within both of our mentoring programmes, our core programme supporting the next generation of women in the industry and The Exchange, pairing male leaders with Bloom women, have offered a safe place to explore the daily consequences of the pandemic both professionally and personally. A safe sounding board and a place to brainstorm solutions outside our family, friends and colleagues is such a tonic in these turbulent times.  

Six months ago, a mentoring partnership may have focussed mostly on our career and leadership journey, but today, there is a merger of work and home life, so everything is up for discussion. Radically candid conversation can go a long way to truly ground us, ready to face what’s ahead.

Bosses: creating an environment where individuals feel able to open up couldn’t be more important. This is on you.

Graeme Douglas

Graeme Douglas

Graeme Douglas headshot.jpg

Chief Strategy Officer

Bountiful Cow

Be open about how you feel. Talk. I know this is reasonably well-trodden ground now and so it should be, there really isn’t much better advice. Discuss what your ‘playing conditions’ are with others and encourage your team to do the same, and more importantly, open up what’s in your head. I would never have been able to get well without doing this, and it took me years and years to get to that point. Bosses: creating an environment where individuals feel able to open up couldn’t be more important. This is on you.

 

To hear from the panel on how to Overcome Overwhelm tune in on Wednesday 30th September at 10.30am on the AWLearn Channel. 

 

More from Creativebrief at Advertising Week:

Mummy, what did you do in the great COVID crisis?

Building a future of work that works for everyone 

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