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How can employers support staff and prepare for the looming wellbeing crisis?

The long tail of the Covid crisis combined with the rapidly increasing cost of living demands a new approach from leaders.
30 June, 2022
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Barely a day goes by in the creative industries without another hot take on the war for talent. In a candidate-driven market agencies and brands are having to rethink their value proposition for staff. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to making a meaningful and positive impact on staff wellbeing.

It is easy to be flippant about the challenges facing staff. Yet data from NABS underlines that mental health challenges have increased significantly amongst advertising and media professionals during Q1 2022.Calls to NABS relating to mental health are up by 15% on both 2021 and 2020 figures, revealing a worrying upward trend.

These statistics underline that the pandemic has left its mark on people across the industry underlining the fact that building back better is an endeavour which must extend to the wellbeing of staff. With this in mind we asked a selection of industry leaders how employers can better support staff and prepare for the looming wellbeing crisis.

Rachel Cook, Thompson Managing Director

We’ve recently seen big City firms offering flexibility in return for pay cuts while trying to balance this with token gestures like yoga and gong baths. This is a plaster-over-a-wound approach to wellbeing provisions for staff. We think more tangible, compassionate perks that coincide with no repercussions for hybrid working is what works. That’s why we offer a 24/7 confidential advice line for aspects of life that impact us like health, legal and bereavement support. Working within wellbeing, we believe counselling should be available for everyone, which is why Thompson employees, along with their partner or children, have access to free counselling. We also have onsite mental health first aiders to offer immediate support, and Wellness Action plans which we feed into each Personal Development Plan (based on a format from our client and friends, Mind) to enable staff to look after their mental health.

Employers have a responsibility to look after their staff. That doesn’t stop at accident books and health and safety training, it must include mental health as well. No matter the size of the business, employers need to monitor and proactively improve the state of mental health in their business. I recently met psychologist Rachel Lewis of Affinity Health at Work. She spoke about good work being about three things: good job design, work with purpose, and a safe working environment - that includes safety to speak up, to contribute and flourish, as well as to be mentally and physically free from harm. Get those right and you have the groundings for good mental health at work.

Verity Wills, Taxi Studio People Lead

Any agency should have their team's physical, mental and financial wellbeing at the core of how they operate. We are always looking to improve our benefits package, benchmarking ourselves against the creative industry and start-ups, to ensure we are progressive in our approach and offering.

We reached out to all new employees and asked what initiatives they would like to see at Taxi, along with desktop research and brainstorming sessions. A great achievement off the back of this was the implementation of a personal wellbeing budget. We understood that a one size fits all approach wouldn’t work and by having the leeway to spend the budget on anything that will support your own personal wellbeing allows staff to tailor it to their wants and needs. It can be spent on, but not limited to, a massage, mindfulness apps, counselling, CBT or financial advice, something which is extremely important in the current cost of living crisis we are facing.

Queenie Lo, UXUS CEO

We want to encourage employees to return to the office, but since working from home for almost 2 years, it’s important to get the balance right and create a space that people feel comfortable in. We’ve shifted towards an environment that's more like a meeting space, keeping staff interacting with one another. It's important for us that our employees are able to connect on a wider level, not from just sitting behind a desk. It not only improves collaboration and productivity levels, but also the wellbeing of our team.

Aside from our wellbeing budget, one of the initiatives we’ve introduced is ‘Dutch Lunch’, which is served twice a week. We provide various ingredients which allows staff to make their own lunch together. These foster a better culture in the workplace; employees see the additional benefits of coming in and have a chance to connect with each other.

Yuka Isaka, Monopo Tokyo Community Manager

The current global landscape is tricky to navigate, meaning the level of comfort needed in an individual's life changes constantly. That’s why we provide flexible support for housing and visa issuance to ensure that there are no restrictions, even if that means moving outside of the country.

Our mission is "Collective Creativity". We provide all kinds of opportunities for people to work in a way that works for them. We regularly hold all-hands sessions to thank each other, celebrate success and share the inspiration we gain from our personal off-the-job interests. We host monthly monopo night parties open to family, friends, and loved ones, in addition to clients and partners.

We strongly believe in the creativity inherent within people, and because all members share this belief, we have created an organisation in which each employee naturally and spontaneously works to improve the workplace for everyone.

Paul Domenet, Free The Bird Partner & Creative Strategy Director

As agency leaders, we have always remained accessible and so again, as business and the world gets busy again, we’re continuing this form of working and behaviour. And we had already been aware of the need for staff to let off some steam from the day-to-day, so we have a Creative Bursary which allows our work family to pursue creative, mind-stimulating activities away from work.

Wellness is a part of the agency’s DNA and hasn’t or won’t change because of the last two years and as we’ve returned to the studio under a hybrid-working mode”.

This article was written by Nicola Kemp, and first appeared on Creativebrief: https://www.creativebrief.com/...

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