I did originally think that at GOLD79, we were ahead of the game. After all, we have already put so many things in place: we have a strong mental health policy, all our Talent Coaches have monthly one-to-ones with their direct reports, we have Flex-Fridays, offer hybrid working, flexible holidays with the option to purchase more days, and generally like to think we keep an eye on our team’s wellbeing. During lockdown, we had regular sessions with a wellness expert to help everyone with remote working and now we have an Employee Assist Program providing access for private support and direction on all aspects of wellbeing.

However, having completed the course, while I still think we’ve got some excellent foundations in place, I realise we have more to do for us to be a really inclusive and supportive employer.

I now have a 12-point plan – which clearly needs some prioritisation. But aside from action, the key learning for me was more around our approach to mental health. An over-riding message from the course was the need to take time for the individuals in the team and have infinite amounts of patience. Something we’re not renowned for in agency-world. As well as taking time to simply listen, it’s essential to avoid being solutions-based in response. Again, surely problem-solving is second nature to anyone in a communications agency. We do this on an hourly basis for clients and for our teams – constantly keeping the plates spinning. So, the over-arching desire when someone tells you of a problem is to solve it – and fast.

But what was clear from the many case studies and scenarios we examined and subsequent conversations we had, was the need to simply listen and learn about the individual in front of us. Resist the temptation to demonstrate that we know exactly how they feel because of something we’ve come across in the past – something I’ve definitely been guilty of before.

There is, without doubt, a stigma surrounding poor mental health – it can still be seen by many as weakness which prevents people from being as open as they need to be about how they’re feeling. Understanding how someone is feeling is crucial to be able to help them to improve their mental health and while we, as employers, are not there to provide all the solutions, we can at least be supportive and understanding, helping to direct them to professional support where required. I believe this will go a long way to making our teams feel valued and included.

So, to start, I’ll be training our team and looking to adopt new approaches we can introduce into our daily agency life to ensure that GOLD79 is known for truly supporting everyone’s mental health, whatever the symptoms. Of course, I’ll have a list of positive steps that I can take to support everyone in my team, but primarily I will be there to simply listen and offer them the time to talk and not just on one awareness day.