We take health and wellbeing (is it one word?) pretty seriously here at Skout. Coming out of Covid, we quickly recognised the impact the changing environment was having on the staff of our B2B PR agency and made some investments that we hope have helped the team negotiate and manage some of these new challenges.
According to PR Week half of those working in PR, marketing and comms have experienced severe stress, anxiety or burnout more than once in the past year. That’s quite a statistic. Good mental health and wellbeing doesn’t mean that you’re always happy and positive. But it does make it easier to cope with challenges in your daily (work) life. Mind, the mental health charity, points out that “mental wellbeing doesn’t have one set meaning. We might use it to talk about how we feel, how well we’re coping with daily life or what feels possible now.” And that might simply be the tasks that you deal with every day, even if you can normally do them in your sleep.
There are plenty of resources out there for anyone struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. I like this list from Mind:
• Relax and reduce stress
• Find ways to learn and be creative
• Spend time in nature
• Connect with others
• Look after your physical health
• Try to get enough sleep
The PR Week survey also found that that 67% of those who had mental health challenges felt their employer is doing the “bare minimum” to help employees with mental health problems. No wonder the industry has seen such a volatile turnover of staff recently. It’s bad enough to feel that your mental health isn’t great, but it will be unmanageable if you don’t feel supported at work.
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I am clearly no health and wellbeing expert but I have worked with a few to develop Skout’s programme. Our first investment was to hire a health and wellbeing consultant – Dawn Barnes. Throughout last year Dawn delivered monthly wellbeing sessions that delivered insights into what is happening inside your head, how to recognise potential issues as they start to build, and introduced the team to practical techniques that they can use to manage their wellbeing – from meditation and mindfulness. to breathing patterns and self-talk. I think that it’s safe to say that we all learnt something that we can use. As someone who regularly meditates and is a massive advocate of yoga in developing mindfulness, I’ve been really pleased that the team’s reaction has been so positive.
“It has helped me to remember that it’s okay to take a pause when life is getting a little busy.”
What else can B2B PR agencies (and any company – however big of small) do to support staff? There are 100s of things. Here’s a few that we’ve implemented:
- New learning and development opportunities – often stress can be caused by not feeling like you know what you’re doing. Address this with in-house training that can be quickly and easily accessed by staff.
- Get outside – lots of the Skout team are enthusiastic walkers, so we introduced the Skout walkies. Once a month we go for a two hour walk in the beautiful Cheshire surrounds that we’re lucky to have on our doorstep. It doesn’t need to be scaling up a mountain, just a couple of hours amble and a chat with colleagues.
- Create a community where your team can motivate and support each other. We’re currently walking across the world (virtually) as a team. So far we’re mid-Atlantic Ocean.
- Keep an eye on each other and make it easy for employees to tell you how they feel. There’s no magic bullet for this one. It’s about asking each other ‘how are you’ on a regular basis. We’ve formalised this as part of monthly one-to-ones but you might find an informal approach is just as good. But it’s as much about a top down culture of openness and sharing that help staff to feel that it’s ok to be honest about how they’re feeling.
- Wellbeing isn’t just about mental and physical health. We’ve also extended our programme to include financial wellbeing. Given the current cost of living crisis, we know that being financially unhealthy is also a major cause of stress.
All of this does beg the question: should we also stop working with clients who are causing staff undue stress? The ones with unreasonable demands who very much treat the team as someone to dump on rather than the valuable (skilful, interesting, fun) marketing partner they are? I can put my hand on my heart here and say yes. The client/agency relationship needs to be productive and when its more master/slave than partnership, it’s no longer productive or healthy.
Do you want to work somewhere that takes health and wellbeing of their staff seriously? Remember we’re always hiring. Take a look at our Life at Skout page or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.