Rob Key is the founder of Studio Change (Brand Strategy + Design) and Change Space (Mental Health Community for Creatives). In this blog post, Rob focuses on how mental health needs constant addressing – yours and your teams. Any difficulties you’re facing can quickly trickle down to your staff. If working from home during a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we have to find the right work/life balance and provide safe and open spaces to talk and ask for support when it’s needed.
Breaking the silence about mental health is more important than ever before. The levels of stress, change and adaptation that everyone has had to deal with has been intense.
The scale of this is far bigger than we yet realise.
A huge part of the problem lies in the fact that terrible mental health is so easy to hide. We say, “I’m fine” or “everything is ok”, then we laugh and push the feelings down. We stick a kiss at the end of the message or use an emoji. Then we rely on destructive vices to scratch at the itch on a personal level. We do whatever works, so we don’t crack.
What’s worse is that it’s so unpredictable – one minute you’re riding high, the next you’ve crashed with no real reason. It just happened.
At home, it’s pretty easy to let go – in the workplace, perhaps not so much. It’s a high-pressure industry; full of creative criticism, competition and self-doubt – we find we can hide under the wave of exhilaration, pretending that it’s all par for the course. Until we burn out.
Often, social media is a vital part of the job we do and that can be a blessing and a curse. Filtered perfection hitting you in the face – inspiring one day, exhausting the next.
If you’re in a rough patch and all you see is people recruiting, winning, growing, it can be hard to maintain a sense of perspective. And professional jealousy feels embarrassing, selfish, even; at the very least, something to keep to yourself, surely…?
The key to this, I think, is in getting the balance right. You can always curate what you consume.
In the past year, I have seen some great examples of agency owners stepping in and providing support, days off, access to professional services. If we can find a positive legacy from the pandemic, I hope that this is it. The truth is, there have always been mental health challenges within our sector – Covid has just brought them to our attention.
If you’re an agency owner, how you feel can have a massive impact on your business! A couple of years ago, a crash completely wiped me out, leading to the loss of projects and team.
Mental health is no different to physical health. Some people need more support than others. The same as in a gym. Some bodies are ready for heavy lifting and fast running, some enter and immediately know what to do, which muscles to target. Some people need a little more guidance. Maybe it’s help finding a plan or someone to spot us as we push ourselves. Maybe all we need is a cheerleader. Whatever it is, we find the help. It’s not embarrassing, we just do what we need to do to be healthy. The same must be true with our mental health.
There’s no one size fits all approach. So, whatever you put in place needs to be flexible. It needs to involve and be reflective of your team.
This is why I am so passionate about creating spaces to work on mental health. Spaces to share and talk (if you want to). Talking doesn’t all need to be negative, just honest and human. There’s no weakness in it.
There are also simple things we can do to help ourselves. Exercising, eating better, being in nature, talking, journaling, seeing friends and family, getting a better balance with work. Most of these things are free.
If you’re an employer, you have to lead by example: show that it’s ok to take a break, to slow down and switch off. Demonstrate to the team that they are free to do the same.
We’re so focused on growth, sales, the future and how we can market. We often miss the most significant factor in our personal and business success – our wellbeing.
If we can look after that, if we can create an environment that nurtures it, if we choose our clients and team wisely: we can be the change in the industry.
About Rob Key, Studio Change and Change Space
Rob Key is the founder of Studio Change – an agency that specialises in brand strategy and design. In mid-2021 he also began Change Space, a mental health community for creatives where people can come together to talk, listen and work on their mental fitness in a no-pressure environment.