How to Create a Positive Agency Culture

A recent study by the CIPR revealed that over a fifth of PRs are diagnosed with mental health issues while 75% said that agency work is the most stressful. So what are we doing as an agency to promote Mental Health Awareness Week?

Stress is part of the work we all do. Workloads, client retention and account handovers when staff leave are just a few of the issues that agency staff face. There are also many more personal issues that people do not wish to discuss with their employers or colleagues. Privacy is important, but health affects work as well as home life; so how do you find a balance?

Creating the right environment

The first step is facilitating a climate that is conducive to openness. People need to feel comfortable enough to raise personal issues and have them taken seriously. Employers must not interrogate staff for straight answers as this can lead to resentment and misunderstandings. Employers need to be able to look for and react to the tell-tale signs of stress and mental health concerns, whether that’s a decrease in performance, being late to work or taking time off sporadically.

The second step is to encourage workers to switch off. The biggest problem with agencies based in major cities is that work never truly switches off. People are encouraged to work until they drop and to be committed beyond what is appropriate.

What we do for our colleagues

As a smaller agency we actively encourage our employees to separate work from their home lives. We have a shared work WhatsApp group, but we encourage people not to raise work-related issues outside of working hours which is better for their mental health as they can switch off from work at the weekends, for example.

We also provide free fruit in the office, and regularly praise and reward people for their hard work to ensure they feel valued and appreciated.

Each of our staff has his or her own way of dealing with mental health concerns; many are open about them but some are not. This is okay, because being open is not what matters in all cases, and everyone handles things differently. What matters is empathy and watching for the warning signs so you can intervene and make a positive difference to colleagues.

What our team do for themselves

Here are a few things that our colleagues do to make themselves feel good:

Zoe Lamb – Account Manager

“I’ve realised that exercise shouldn’t be underestimated for its mental health benefits and my favourite form is swimming. I don’t take it too seriously but try to get down to the pool for an hour or so at least once a week, and with no phone or connections to the outside world I can (pretty much) fully switch off – which is perfect for recharging my batteries.

“Otherwise, just having a cup of tea to hand and a good book to get lost in is enough! Any cat cuddles are a bonus!”

Sam Clarke – Digital Marketer

“I can be quite an anxious person; I’m naturally quite introverted so being social for long periods of time can burn me out. The way I balance this is by ensuring that when I’m not at work I’m quietly learning, listening to music or enjoying my hobbies. I find it helpful to just sit and do nothing in silence sometimes so my thoughts can organise themselves without any distractions.

“Nature is a big part of destressing for me; being surrounded by trees and fields really helps me relax. Enjoying the shining sun and birdsong early in the morning makes a huge difference to me.”

“The last thing is eating healthily and exercising regularly. I go to the gym and do a mixture of weightlifting and cardio because that balance makes a huge difference to how I feel emotionally and physically.”

Sharon Foster – Senior Marketing Manager

“Life can sometimes be a juggling act and getting the balance right is important. Exercise is helpful but so is chocolate! It’s always great to get outside as well and enjoy the fresh air, especially at the seaside.”

Kerri Saxby – Senior Account Manager

“I’ve jumped back on my bike again recently and feel so much better for it. It gives me a bit of space to sort through my thoughts in my own time.

“I’m also out in the fresh air, soaking up some rays and enjoying the rolling countryside (unless it’s a really steep hill, then not so much!).”

Jez Ashberry – Director

“I’ve started walking my little dog Luna to work along the canal towpath. It’s a beautiful and peaceful walk – much better than a stressful commute – and it’s also great to have Luna in the office for occasional cuddles and treats.”