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Wellbeing at work: More important than ever?

With Mental Health Awareness Week upon us, we’ve been thinking about wellbeing and how the bizarre situation we’re living through can affect us all. Read on for insights from an expert, a first-hand account of the pressures of the media industry and tips on what you can do to take care of your own body and mind…

Mike Laskey

Let’s be honest: things aren’t normal right now.

With the UK still in lockdown, companies still adjusting to the restrictions in place and millions continuing to work from home, even Nostradamus would have struggled to foresee the kind of topsy-turvy, uncanny year 2020 has shaped up to be.

Such fundamental changes to daily life can quite naturally have an impact on our wellbeing – whether from a physical or mental health perspective – and it’s only human for adapting to a ‘new normal’ to mean different things for different people.

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, so it’s a fitting time for us all to take a fresh look at wellbeing and just how important it is for both individuals and businesses alike.

A corporate opportunity

Presuming you are among the “vast majority of good employers who want to do the right thing” mentioned in the Prime Minister’s recent TV statement, you’ll likely be keen to protect and support the wellbeing of your team during the coronavirus pandemic. 

And in reality, every organisation should be promoting positive wellbeing in the workplace even under normal circumstances. Simply put, it’s just the right thing to do by your staff.

But what does promoting wellbeing look like, and what can firms do to benefit their employees?

“It’s not just a case of throwing a few perks at your staff, giving everyone a discounted gym membership and ticking a box to say you’ve tackled the issue,” says Khalil Rener, Director at Rener Wellbeing, which develops bespoke wellbeing strategies for people and companies.

“Promoting wellbeing effectively is about adopting a true organisational culture from the top down, in which you actually engage with everyone and create initiatives that can be sustainable, continuous and longstanding.

“The good news for businesses is that if you get it right, the results can be as huge for you as they are for your team members – including from a financial perspective.”

How huge? Khalil cites a Deloitte report in which employers who proactively ran activities to support mental health experienced a return on investment of 8:1.

“Organisations with better employee wellbeing are likely to enjoy increased productivity, fewer sickness absences and improved performances across the board, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer when you think about it,” adds Khalil.

At Jigsaw24, we’ve always tried to embrace wellbeing and embed it into our culture, encouraging positive work-life balances and maintaining our own internal strategy for staff to refer to. 

Lockdown poses unique challenges, but our line managers are regularly checking in on their teams and holding Zoom meetings to keep people feeling valued, listened to and supported.

We’re even holding regular ‘pub quizzes’ for a bit of light relief (and to raise money for NHS Charities Together)!

Sadly, though, wellbeing and the importance of mental health still aren’t fully appreciated at all companies. That’s something Zeb Chadfield, founder of post-production company The Finish Line, knows all too well.

The personal cost

Zeb set up the business in 2011, after having experienced a nervous breakdown while working at a different post house. Key to that decision was to build something with a better culture and a healthier work-life balance.

“I read a survey that said something like 87% of people in the film and TV industry struggle with their mental health – which isn’t surprising, because it’s very difficult to have a healthy family life,” Zeb told us in a recent interview.

“Standard practice is that clients will ask for a quote for 24 hours’ worth of work, and that work’s done over two days.”

Influenced by his personal experiences, Zeb designed his own company to operate with clearer boundaries between work time and leisure time.

“When you have the overheads of a traditional facility, you’re trying to cram seven days of work into five days to pay for your space,” explains Zeb.

“Then people are exhausted and stop being good at their job – so they end up doing overtime you can’t bill for, and you have no time to upgrade systems or test new things.

“We only quote eight-hour days, and that means a 24-hour booking is suddenly three days.

“Not only does it mean our talent is signing off at a reasonable time and able to have a work-life balance, but the producer, director, whoever is signing off the programme can do the same.”

The lockdown challenge

Maintaining a distinction between home life and home working is something millions of people across the world are currently wrestling with.

Businesses, and the cultures and working practices they employ, can obviously play a crucial role in helping their employees find a happier medium.

But there’s no denying these are stressful times, especially for people who had already experienced symptoms of anxiety and other mental health conditions before terms like furlough and Covid-19 had entered the lexicon.

“The key thing for individuals is not to compare yourself to others,” Khalil says.

“Everyone is different, and everyone is living in an entirely unique set of circumstances – some people have children or vulnerable relatives to care for on top of working, whereas others may live alone and find themselves without much social contact from week to week.

“Some may now find themselves struggling to close the laptop at the end of the day, while their colleagues could be finding it difficult to even be available for work in a busy family home.

“Every individual’s wellbeing needs are different, so it’s important to focus on you. What is your body and your mind telling you it needs? Ask yourself questions – are you feeling stressed, anxious, tired?”

Practical solutions

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do if you’re concerned about your own wellbeing, or that of a colleague.

Khalil views wellbeing as consisting of four main pillars: physical activity, mental health, nutrition and sleep.

These individual factors combine to shape how we feel at any one time, and the neglect of one can sometimes lead to a domino effect with the others – but in turn, making a change to one of these areas of our lives can make a big positive difference.

“That’s why it’s important to not try to change too much too soon,” Khalil notes. “It’s kind of like a New Year’s resolution, in that you don’t want to end up reverting to your old routine because it’s unrealistic to stick with a massive overhaul for the long term.

“You can make it more sustainable by thinking smaller. Just eating everything in moderation, trying to go outside once a day (if you’re able to), doing a few minutes of exercise and reducing your screen time slightly can be more achievable but really beneficial to your wellbeing.

“And there are plenty of apps and resources, like Headspace, Insight Timer and NHS One You, that you can take advantage of to make it easier and more trackable as well,” says Khalil.

Checking in on colleagues and friends – even if it’s just a quick call or a text message – could sometimes have a bigger impact on someone than you might think, especially if they’re feeling especially alone at the moment.

In fact, the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness.

And in these uncertain times, surely we can all aim to be a little bit kinder to ourselves and each other.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 18th - 24th May. For more information about the campaign, visit the Mental Health Foundation website. Want to discuss how IT could improve remote working in your business? Get in touch with our expert team on 03332 409 214 or email For the latest news, follow us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

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