At Agent, the mental health and wellbeing of our Agents is of upmost importance. That’s one of the reasons we treat our Agents to monthly massages, give them access to flexible working hours, and even have Leo, the office dog as our Head of Security.
However, following Government advice, the Agents, like many people in the UK, and indeed across the World, have now been forced to work from home, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This puts many of us in an unfamiliar situation, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.
In this blog, Mind lists five ways to wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, learn and give, and I think there’s plenty more that we can take on board from this during our time WFH (working from home). So, here are some useful tips from Agent on how to adapt and remain productive, positive and overall less anxious during difficult times.
1. Be social (virtually)
We love being social at Agent, we encourage meet ups to discuss our work, love learning from one another, and sharing our expertise. We also enjoy frequent team lunches, nights out and away days.
In the current situation however, staying connected has become more of a challenge, and although it’s business as usual as far as our work is concerned, it has become more important than ever that the team stays connected whilst physically distancing themselves.
Agent HQ may be closed for now, but we are very much open for business as usual, using email, phone and various project management systems to communicate effectively with our clients and each other.
We’ve therefore adapted and become more creative about how we communicate, utilising tools such as Microsoft Teams to run our meetings. Remember, we’re all in this together, so we’re taking extra care to ensure that we’re all doing okay, plus the video calling makes for a much-welcomed laugh together.
2. Be active
We already know that regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety, and that’s why we have bikes at Agent HQ for Agents to use when desired.
Being confined to the space at home may stop us from staying active for now – but the team has been sharing home workout tips with each other in our WhatsApp group.
In the past, we have practiced yoga and Pilates as a group, so we’re more than prepared to get creative about finding ways to stay active. Many gyms have now closed down, but don’t worry as many of them are now offering classes via video call.
3. Be mindful
The Agents recently completed our mindfulness training with Mindfit, learning how to pay attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings, and the environment around us, and how that can improve mental well-being.
Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ of your environment and others can directly enhance well-being and improve the way you work. At Agent HQ we have several ‘break-out’ areas, mood lighting, plants on our desks and more to ensure the space is comfortable, inviting, and ultimately somewhere the team enjoys working.
As we work from home it’s therefore important to create a healthy home-working environment, so get a plant for your workspace, or have a ‘clear the clutter’ day, consider lighting and sound – create whatever space you need to succeed.
4. Be structured
A sudden change in working environment or schedule can be disrupting, so practice setting goals, this will help to limit distractions and keep you on track. If you struggle to create clear boundaries between work and home life at the best of times, then what happens when both of these are taking place under the same roof? Try where possible to keep all work in one place and create separate spaces for work and leisure.
It’s also worth trying to follow your ordinary routine as closely as possible and use the time saved from activities such as commuting to do exercise, research, or catch up on recent events. You may even wish to use this time at the end of the day to wind down from work, try reading a book or listening to music.
Learning is hugely important at Agent, it’s what keeps us ahead of the game and up to date with any developments in the creative and digital industries.
That’s why we’re keeping up our PAM (Peer Advisory Meetings) sessions via video call. These sessions are designed for us to share what we’ve been working on around our growing team of Agents, giving us a glimpse into the day-to-day of members of other departments, helping to understand each other’s roles and identify opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.
We’re learning more about each other too, aside from work conversations we’re sharing images of our pets, recommending playlists and sharing our best WFH tips.
6. Be giving
Be giving to yourself and others and you’ll feel better for it. It’s important to make time for (at least) one self-act of kindness per day, these can be simple things like taking a coffee break or listening to some music, maybe even enjoying a (healthy) snack! We love our snacks at Agent.
Taking a designated lunch break away from your home desk is an absolute must, and make sure to eat well if you can and stay hydrated.
We’re always looking out for one another at Agent, but more so than ever in the current circumstances. When anxiety levels may be higher than usual it’s important to take notice of how colleagues are feeling or acting and make sure we still take time to continue our KIT (Keep In Touch meetings), mentoring each other and supporting each other.
We’re here to help others too, thankfully Agent is in a privileged position where we’re able to work from home with little disruption, and as a giving agency we are always open to helping others, if you know of a person or organisation in need of assistance just get in touch.
Finally, I reached out to a connection on Twitter (the power of technology in these times of social isolation) to Jake Mills, Chief Executive of Liverpool-based mental health organisation Chasing the Stigma, who offers the following advice:
“Working from home in isolation with kids, pets, partners and a whole lot of anxiety surrounding the outside world can have a real impact on your mental health.
“Our top tip would be to devise a schedule for yourself, so there is a structure to the day. This will help maintain a sense of normality.
“Give yourself regular breaks and carry out stress-busting techniques, exercise (a lot of gyms have switched to Instagram live classes – home exercise doesn’t have to mean lifting tins of beans but if that’s what you’re into – go for it!), take a bath or pick a new box set to start. Do something you enjoy, bake, dance, play Cluedo… whatever you love doing but never get the time to do – now is your chance!
“If you’re finding the anxiety and stress too much, there are services you can access. Head to the Hub of Hope to find relevant services near you. The Samaritans are always open to talk, and many charities who focus on individual issues have their phone lines manned. If you’re not big on telephone calls, text HOPE to 85258 to access our confidential text service with Shout.
“In an emergency, always call 999. The NHS is very busy at the moment, but that doesn’t mean your life or that of another person isn’t worth saving if they or yourself are in crisis.”