Forget ‘It’s good to talk’. We need to listen.
Storycatcher Dee contributes to our narrative around Stress Awareness Day.
‘Stress Awareness Day’ is an interesting concept. Stress is not your shy, retiring type. It tends to do a good job of making its presence known. We’re all well aware of it, thank you very much…
I do not deal with stress very well. I’m not your swan serenely gliding through the water, legs powering frantically but discreetly beneath the surface. I’m the wild-eyed hissing swan coming at you on the riverbank, flapping its wings furiously, threatening to break your arm.
Even at Storycatchers. Because of course there is stress here. Even offering full flexitime and full remote working options. No amount of flexibility, empowerment and freedom shifts that impossible deadline, or takes the pressure out of a pitch situation. Yes, I’m writing this in my pyjamas, at home – but that’s because I was up all night throwing up (TMI? It’s my personal brand…). Has the presentation I needed to start last night gone away? No. No it has not. RUDE.
And on top of the stress of working in the agency, there is the responsibility of running one. Which is what I wanted to add to our ongoing conversation about stress this week. I’ve managed teams before, but I’ve never been responsible for their welfare at work until now. And I am amazed at just how much SHIT people have going on in their worlds outside of work, that they’d ordinarily have to keep a lid on, in another workplace, at another time.
Can I just have a word, in private? Do you have 5 minutes? Can I schedule a meeting when you’re next in?
And then – hearts are opened. Situations laid bare. Relationships, family, mental health, illness, money, bereavement. Perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed. I can look at that list and know I’ve carried worries around all of those things and more, in another workplace, at another time. And previous employers have done what they could, within the confines of their policies.
But here’s the thing. I think employers should do more. We all should do more.
Because even being able to offer people the time and space they need to manage their life nonsense alongside their work nonsense doesn’t feel enough when someone is sitting opposite you open-hearted and glassy-eyed. “Don’t worry about work” feels like a really stupid thing to say when you’re with someone you recruited because they are exactly the type that worries about work. “Is there anything more we can do?” is so… small in the face of life’s biggest challenges.
But it’s a start. I have to believe that creating an environment where people talk honestly and openly about stress – at home and at work, without fear of recrimination – helps. I have to hope that when our people talk to us about what’s on their mind, they believe that our desire to relieve the burden, not add to it, is genuine. And sometimes, all people need is a cup of tea, 3 of the fancy client biscuits and someone to listen.
We talk a great deal about talking. Talking about mental health. Talking about stress. But talk means little if no one is listening.
Storycatchers hasn’t invented a silver bullet for stress in the advertising industry yet. You’ll be the first to hear about it when we do. But one thing we have learned is that people carry their burdens better and are ultimately more productive (hello, inner capitalist pig!) when they don’t have to hide what’s going on for fear it will be seen as a weakness.
Asking for help is a strength.
Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts @TweetCatchers