TUESDAY 10 MAY 2022 11:32 AM


Jo Dale Ford is the HR Manager at creative agency 23red. Passionate about creating inclusive work environments, she talks here about how to improve the mental health of employees.

Since the pandemic, we are seeing a trend of employers putting more emphasis on wellbeing and considering how best to support it in their teams. As a purpose-driven agency, we have always had a focus on a personal, human approach, but the pandemic has sharpened our focus in this area, encouraging us to explore how we can better support our team.

To help accelerate our work we set up a Wellbeing Working Group towards the end of last year, that comprises of a group of individuals from across the agency with a passion for wellbeing. It has been brilliant to work together and the diversity of membership means we are moving the wellbeing agenda forward in a way that truly represents the needs and views of the agency. As a group, we’ve considered the various elements of wellbeing - social, psychological and physical - and we’ve agreed how we can support each of these.

We’ve aimed to have a variety of activities and initiatives to ensure that we are catering to the whole agency, as well as reflecting current events:

  • Following guidance to work from home in January, we recognised how disheartening this felt for many, and we sent peace lilies to every member of staff to brighten up their home workspace, as well as arranging an online bingo session with ‘Timberlina’ to bring some light and fun to an otherwise dreary winter week.
  • Listening to our team has been crucial in helping us to understand what would benefit their wellbeing. Following feedback that staff wanted more emphasis on physical wellbeing support, we have partnered with GoJoe fitness app this month, for a month-long activity to encourage staff to move more and get out into the light. This is to mark both National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week.
  • It’s important to keep normalising conversations around mental health. With that in mind, our CEO has trained as a mental health first aider and this year we are training more staff at different levels of the agency. This is particularly important given that with a hybrid working approach, staff are often less visible and greater resources will help us to ensure we are providing more support to any team who is struggling.
  • During the pandemic we also brought the agency together for a range of wellbeing focused sessions, such as a workshop with BUPA on resilience, and a workshop on how to deal with post-lockdown anxiety standing out as particularly impactful.

But what contributes to wellbeing is broad - it’s not just about having a specific wellbeing programme in place and ‘ticking that box’. It is also about feeling valued and appreciated, having good relationships at work, having a supportive line manager, and feeling that you belong. All members of the Wellbeing Working Group recognise this, and are keen not to become ‘just a social organising committee’ but to ensure we are making that fundamental difference. We are fortunate that there is much about our culture that supports this:

  • Feeling valued and appreciated – it’s important that we weave this throughout everything we do. We have a ‘shout out’ section every Friday at our all-agency meeting where peers thank and acknowledge each other. We have a “spot bonus” for any staff member that demonstrates our values (called a CAKE award), and the leadership sets the tone for the rest of the agency, understanding the power of a simple thank you and ensuring they show appreciation.
  • Creating a sense of belonging – it’s crucial to be inviting as an agency and help staff to build connections. We have regular socials and times for the team to come together. New starters are asked a set of fun questions about themselves and we share the answers with all staff when we introduce them, which helps them to feel part of the team from the outset.
  • Feeling trusted – like so many organisations, we have transitioned to hybrid working and we trust our team to work in the way that enables them to best get the work done. To really embrace this approach, we moved to a new workspace that supports coming together when we need to collaborate and working elsewhere where deep focused work is required.

Whilst we have already started making good progress, we are constantly on the lookout for new ways we can better support the wellbeing of our team. In the coming months, we have plans to refresh our benefits package to ensure that we are catering to everyone’s needs, and to train our line managers to support the mental wellbeing of their team members. Most importantly, we will keep listening to our teams, tapping in to how they are feeling and ensuring we are cultivating an environment in which our teams can give their best and thrive.