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We launched our new Feel Human at Work emotional wellbeing sessions to coincide with World Mental Health Day

Like most PR agencies, Splendid is now approaching what is often our busiest time of the year, whilst also facing the additional challenge of reacclimatising to being back in the office, if only for a few days a week, after launching a hybrid approach to working in September. It’s been wonderful to sense the return of the old creative buzz in our newly remodelled office space, but we also recognise that such a change in working environment can be quite draining, both physically and emotionally.

This year’s World Mental Health Day falls on Sunday 10th October. Mental Health UK proposes a few ideas to support this day, including the Big Mental Health Get Together, which is about creating a supportive environment for people to reconnect and ideally have an opportunity to talk about mental health.

At Splendid we are applying this theme by launching our new Feel Human at Work sessions, comprising four experiential wellbeing workshops, delivered in small, in-person groups to facilitate openness and free discussion. In the first three workshops, Feel Calm, Feel Connected and Feel Mindful, we learn how stress can lead to emotional issues such as anxiety and depression, then explore a range of simple strategies to help us recognise and respond to stressors, and to build our emotional resilience and intelligence. We place particular emphasis on strengthening our compassion, a powerful resource to be used both on ourselves and others. Finally, in Feel Inspired, we learn how to adopt a challenge mindset, and practise a few simple visualisation techniques together. All staff have been invited to sign up to these sessions over the course of the next few months.

Our wellbeing strategy has for a while now been underpinned by the Human Givens approach to emotional health, in which we recognise that, as humans, we all have emotional needs which can be categorised in the workplace as needs for security, control, status, headspace, inclusion, attention, development and purpose. They can be thought of as forming a ladder going from lowest to highest, like Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. When the lower needs are not being met, we will feel stressed, compromising our ability to perform to the best of our ability, making it harder for our higher needs to be met.

As part of our induction process at Splendid, I introduce the Human Givens approach in a workshop that includes an Emotional Needs Audit. Each need is given a score out of ten, based on how well it is being met. We then discuss how we might improve on any low scores by accessing the various resources that are available to us; both innate resources such as the ability to imagine, to learn, to take a step back; and external resources such as the support of people close to us.

We also collect emotional needs scores in our anonymous bi-annual staff survey. Given the fast-paced world we work in, with ever-changing client demands, it is no surprise that the lowest scores tend to be around control and headspace. We are constantly looking for ways in which we as an agency can help to improve on these scores and have come up with various initiatives.

As an example, this week’s Wednesday Wellness theme was “Keep Headspace alive”. Our email and meeting-free daily Headspace Hour was launched last year in recognition that our need for headspace was being compromised as many of us were spending all day sitting at our computer screens, often in back-to-back video calls, as the result of working from home. We have been encouraging everyone to use the hour between 12 and 1pm to take a proper break, ideally to get outside and stretch their legs. To help keep this habit alive as we return to the office, this week we have been sharing recommendations for enjoyable walking round-trips near the office which include stopping to pick up a tasty lunch, to eat outside or in the office around our famous long bench.

Our highest emotional needs scores are around security, attention and inclusion. Our Splendid ambition for open and honest communication has served us well throughout the pandemic, and we have continued to celebrate successes, however small, across the whole agency. Splendid has also built up a reputation over the years for its lively and inclusive culture where everyone could feel completely safe bringing their whole self to the office. Whilst we put a lot of effort into retaining this spirit, inevitably it has been harder to maintain remotely, and so we are really looking forward to it being reignited over the coming months. As well as various planned social activities, I am hoping that the Feel Human at Work sessions will play their part in supporting us through this challenging, and hopefully exciting new chapter at Splendid.

As my role as Head of Wellbeing continues to evolve at Splendid, alongside my own private psychotherapy practice supporting individual clients, who are often facing their own workplace issues, I am finding that at times the lines between the two roles can become quite blurred. What’s clearer to me than ever is that all organisations are simply groups of human beings, all trying to do their best in an ever-changing world. It is important that we don’t lose sight of this as Splendid continues to grow and develop as a successful creative agency.

Brene Brown, the renowned mental health academic, author and speaker, points out that the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change is vulnerability, and that it takes courage to be vulnerable. For us to be courageous at work requires both emotional resilience and a supportive environment where it can feel safe to take risks, without fear of judgement. The key to this is compassion, for ourselves and for those we work with, hence the strong emphasis on compassion in our workshops. A culture of compassion can help us all to recognise our strengths, challenge past assumptions, and embrace whatever the future holds, however uncertain it may seem. We all have our part to play in fostering this approach at Splendid, as we navigate the new, hybrid approach to working.

By Jane Latham, Head of Wellbeing