Why should stress management be prioritised within the workplace?

In honour of Stress Awareness Month, we spoke to Croud’s Senior Marketing Manager and The Alliance of Independent Agencies’ Wellbeing Chair, Alexandra Stamp, to delve into the importance of wellbeing within the advertising industry, and why stress management should be prioritised.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Alex and I work within the marketing team at Croud. I have been with the company for almost three years, and the time has absolutely flown by! I primarily focus on the US & Australian markets, but also work with the team in the UK on global initiatives such as internal communications and CSR.

I am also the Wellbeing Chair, for the Alliance of Independent Agencies, an organisation that aims to support and promote the incredible work, and people, within the independent sector. Over the past six months in this role, I have met so many incredible and inspiring people, and the conversations I have in both roles cross over daily. 

I live about an hour outside of London, I only managed a year in the city before deciding in 2015 that I needed to escape to a place with more greenery and fewer people.

What barriers have your seen/heard with regards to agencies promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace?

It can often be hard to know where to begin with implementing wellbeing initiatives, especially if you are a smaller agency, or one without a dedicated HR/People department or person. There is a lot of information out there, so knowing where to start, and what to prioritise can be a challenge. 

I think the key point is that every agency faces challenges, can feel like they are not doing enough, or not enough of the ‘right’ thing. We have conversations between agencies as part of the Alliance, which helps put a spotlight on our own practices and developing them.

What do you think contributes to a happy and healthy workplace environment?

There are many contributing factors, but I think open honest conversation about wellbeing, particularly our own wellbeing, is the most important, and often the most challenging, step.

I was on a webinar recently, and the speaker, Paul McGregor from Everymind at Work, said to ‘embed mental health conversations into conversations that are not mental-health related’, and this point resonated with me.

In our marketing team, we have very open conversations about wellness and mental wellbeing. If we attend an event or read an article, on matters we think are important, will always share and discuss as a group. It harbors a very positive environment, one where no topics are off the table.

Why is it important to acknowledge stress factors within the workplace?

Because understanding, acknowledging and mitigating stress factors helps us perform better in the workplace, and in all aspects of our lives.

I think it is important to take a holistic view of your stress factors. I’ve always disliked the phrase ‘work-life balance’, as if work and life were two separate entities with no bearing on each other. We all know that when the end of the working day comes around, you can often carry thoughts of work straight into the evening and through to the next morning, and the same with the personal. At the beginning of the year, I completed a Wellness Action Plan (WAP) in order to assess my own stress factors. I found it a great tool for self-reflection. If you are interested in exploring using a WAP, Mind has a selection of templates available to download for free.

What role do you think management plays in supporting the wellbeing of their employees?

I believe that wellbeing is the responsibility of everyone within the workplace, but of course, you need to have support from management to drive the initiatives and conversations forward. Having CEOs and founders/directors who engage and drive forward conversations about wellness helps filter the conversation down through the business. 

We are very lucky at Croud to have conversations about wellbeing normalised, and to be invited to internal events where we hear about different people’s journeys and perspectives on their own wellbeing. 

Being proactive, not reactive, to employee wellness is also key here. Let’s take Employee Assistance Programmes as an example. They provide invaluable support to many but are often a reactive offering – a place where employees might engage as a final step. Employers should focus on training managers to have conversations about wellbeing and take the time to understand how those within their team might need support.

How do you prioritise your mental wellbeing?

I like to think that I am quite aware of what my stress factors are and this allows me to mitigate stress. I think the honest answer is that I don’t always prioritise my mental wellbeing but I know when I have fallen short and need to put the focus back on it.

I like to talk things through, so being open about my mental wellbeing is a big way in which I prioritise it.

And finally, what do you enjoy doing to de-stress?

My general approach is to take a step back from the situation and think about what it is that is putting me under pressure. I came to the conclusion a while ago (when I was driving, and running late for something) that being stressed won’t aid the situation the majority of the time. Stress just adds another level of baggage to the situation.

More generally, I like to take regular short breaks and often walk around the house or go into the garden. I drink a lot of tea (lockdown has made me realise just how much tea I drink each week) and I often use this time for a quick break, and to reset.

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