COVID-19 only adds to the mental health crisis we were already facing

Before COVID-19, this industry was already experiencing a crisis. A mental health crisis. Fleur Marks and Sean Hall explain why it's important companies don't lose sight of that, as their workforces are more (physically) isolated than ever.

How we choose to show up in this moment as leaders has ramifications for each of us, our people and our industry.

And retaining our creative strength and taking care of our people will be vital to our commercial survival and protecting our industry culture to continue to attract amazing talent.

Our industry had a mental health crisis before this crisis. The experience of countries ahead of us as COVID-19 has unfolded shows that mental wellbeing goes downhill from week three, so we must act with urgency or things will get worse. The usual ‘she’ll be right’ Aussie attitude won’t cut it.

Ultimately, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking we’re just working from home right now. The reality is that we are confined, trying to work.

Data collected through polls of over 1,000 people over the past two weeks shows the negative impact this massive disruption is already having. And we have a long way to go.

Click to enlarge

Only 20% of people actually love WFH. If you don’t love where you work, how do you produce your best work?

Emotionally, 83% of us are negatively impacted in ways that impact our ability to be creative and productive.

Click to enlarge

To thrive, we’ll need to use our creative superpowers on ourselves. We are the brief. We start where all great briefs start, with real data and insights on how people are feeling right now, and what is impacting their creativity.

From there, we need to immediately implement a plan that fosters creativity and wellbeing:

Create the capacity for change

Dedicate 90 minutes a week to connect, learn and practice how to be well with new skills that will help your team perform under pressure. Preferably at the same time for everyone, role modelled by the leadership team. That’s less than 4% of the working week to positively impact the remaining 96%.

Address core needs at a personal and collective level

Check in regularly with your people on their emotional sentiment and keep the dialogue two-way and open.

Teach practical wellbeing skills

Best practice is to use a wellbeing diagnostic to understand where to prioritise for greatest impact.

Allocate space for focused work

Create space to be creative and do focused work. Trial a ‘Power Hour’ at the same time every day across the business to give permission for time to be creative and to not be ‘on’ with others constantly.

Be clear and compassionate as leaders

Up-skill leaders, fast, on how to lead through uncertainty by building their emotional intelligence capabilities.

Respect and empathise

Validate the toughness of this situation. Reframe challenges as opportunities and remain positive about what lies ahead whilst being authentic about not knowing what’s ahead.

In this together

Create a sense of belonging. Watch your language, and change it to represent ‘we’ rather than ‘I’. Overcommunicate and celebrate collaboration regularly.

Transition talent

Establish a transition program that fills future skills gaps and retains valuable talent.

Charge our creative superpowers

Find a way to celebrate creativity during adversity as a collective. Maybe we assemble Team Australia to tackle the UN brief together?

Take care of each other

As an industry, create opportunities to share our experiences and work together to protect our creative prowess.

We’re in this together. Whatever steps we take now will pay dividends for the future, for creativity and for retaining our best people where they thrive, and deliver their best work in these challenging times.

We have a choice to make: Thrive, survive, or decline.

Fleur Marks is chief wellbeing officer of Well You, and was previously director of wellbeing and talent development at WPP AUNZ. Sean Hall is CEO of human performance company Energx.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.