Wellbeing in the workplace
Mental health awareness is on the rise. With an increase in knowledge, high profile interventions and acceptance in society, we are steadily enhancing our skill set and ability to recognise mental wellbeing ourselves and others.
With millions impacted by mental health issues each year (15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition) awareness of the issue could not be more timely.
Part of developing our emotional intelligence on this topic is recognising the different aspects of our lives that can enrich or cause detriment to our wellbeing. Serving clients within the events industry, we witness first hand the notorious nature of the events sector, one that is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful industries to work in - (behind the military and the emergency services) (https://www.aeo.org.uk/blog-posts/stress-and-performance-in-the-events-industry) Working under high-pressure and to tight deadlines, we jumped at the chance to attend the Mental Health Workshop, exclusive to ESSA Members, hosted by Laura Capell-Abra, founder of Stress Matters. We sent our social media team, Georgia and Scarlet to the Manchester workshop, held at Manchester Central, to delve further into the subject matter and to see what they could bring back to the team at Vividink HQ.
By conducting biennial research into the state of the events industry, Stress Matters have used their insight and knowledge into helping organisations create a better working environment, and channel their vision of reducing stress within the events industry. (https://www.stressmatters.org.uk)
With years of experience working within the events industry, Laura’s knowledge, skill and experience in both events and mental wellbeing was evident throughout the entire workshop and both her and the business development coordinator of the organisation, Andreas, were able to provide a sound insight into the challenges that dictate the working day within the events sector.
The beginning of the workshop began with an introduction to other ESSA Members, where we were able to express our motivation for attending the workshop. It was interesting to hear in a room full of event professionals, each had a different, personal reason, for wanting to attend. The room we sat in was described as a safe, open space whereby everything disclosed would not be subject to judgement.
Throughout the day, we listened to Laura introducing her thoughts on what mental health actually is, how we all as individuals have one, good or bad, and the amount of stigma surrounding the word. ESSA Members also volunteered to answer questions asked by Laura, about their thoughts on Mental Health and how it is perceived. This gave us the opportunity to discuss both as a collective group and alone, how we manage our own stress levels and identify our coping methods.
In partners and alone we filled out a number of work-sheets, causing us to think and discuss our stresses, coping mechanisms and stress signatures. We plotted our energy levels throughout a normal working day, which when compared with colleagues, enabled us to identify when would best for us to work together and understand when our energy levels were mostly on par.
Track your Energy Levels.
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you have an afternoon slump or are you able to perform the same?
My Stress Curve.
We had to list our physical and emotional signs of stress and where we thought we were currently on the stress curve.
My Stress Container
We had to draw our stress container – e.g. a box or vase and identify our stressors and what were our coping mechanisms.
We talked about resilience and completed a resilience wheel. We added what we thought were the causes of our stress and scored it out of 10, then looked at how we could improve our score by one point. Focusing on the idea that resilience is the ability to BOUNCE back at challenging times.
We then had to put together a Resilience Plan – ie when things have been stressful before in your life and how have we coped with it. Laura focused on the idea of what our ‘window on the world’ is, that everybody is unique and individual. We discussed what we could improve, reasoning, composure, tenacity, collaboration or health.
- Accept – put the situation in perspective – it is what it is – so that it becomes less stressful.
- Avoid – refocus away from the stressful situation toward something more positive for you.
- Alter - shift your circumstances in some way so that the stress is reduced or eliminated.
- Adapt – change the way you interact with the source of the stress.
What is your stressor and ways that you might make it worse and ways that we might make it better?
In addition to addressing the seriousness of mental wellbeing, the workshop consisted of fun games orientated around well-being, communication and perceptiveness. We played a communication game with lego, amused ourselves with chatteez charades and an acting session of asking for a chocolate in a passive / aggressive or passive-aggressive manner (members had to guess which emotion we were trying to portray). The games, whilst humorous and light-hearted, subtly drew attention to the importance of how we communicate ourselves and our emotions to others, how one emotion might physically come across as the total opposite. It was key to making us realise how aware we need to be of ourselves and our colleagues.
The session with Stress Matters allowed Georgia and Scarlet to take time out of the office and understand changes we can make within our organisational structure to tackle some of the prevalent issues regarding mental health within the workplace. Communicating back to the MD, Paul, Friday morning allowed a team brainstorming session on what issues we can address as a company and team, to help us strive and work together in a safe and open space where we all feel accepted and valued as both employees and individuals.
Some ideas we were able to come up with and implement immediately were as follows:
- Taking important phone calls outside of the office. Working as a small team of 4, our office space is limited. At the same time, operating as a busy PR agency, phone calls is an inherent part of the job. We discovered that subconsciously, taking important phone calls and conference calls is distracting for both the person initiating them and others within the office. Talking to a client whilst completing other tasks on your computer screen reduces your attention and productivity. As an agency, we strive to be as efficient and focused on all of our clients. Making small changes like this will help us to achieve this.
- With a managing director, news writer, social media executive and digital marketing apprentice, our team at Vividink are all busy doing, writing, creating and talking to clients all day every day. During our discussion, we agreed that taking half an hour - an hour every Monday morning, in the local cafe, outside of the office, gives us a chance to reflect over what we achieved last week, what our objectives are this week and what we aim to have achieved by the end of the week. Communication is key within any organisation and this will help enhance our connection as a team.
- Our third idea was created after discussions at the Mental Health Workshop. Whilst working remotely is possible within our agency, we are predominantly office-based. Our location, in the heart of the Peak District, means we are fortunate to have the rolling green hills on our doorstep. In better weather, we explored the idea of taking our laptops outside. A change in environment can help improve our stimulation, concentration and creativity.
- Building on the above idea, ‘lunch breaks’ in both PR agencies and the events industry are rare. In our office, food is usually inhaled whilst staring at the computer screen and continuing with our work. This causes us to have no acknowledgement of what we are putting into our bodies and means we are not as refreshed and ready to start our afternoon tasks as we would be if we took a section of time outside of our work zone to consume our food. Studies show how energy levels dip drastically after lunch, to keep our concentration up and with the luxury of our location, weather providing we will take our lunch outside or in another location that is not our office.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time with Stress Matters and other ESSA Members, we will be looking out for the next workshop!