Overloaded. Squeezed. Exhausted by rushing back to the office after the pandemic and communicating with IRL? Worried about where the genius’ next creative shot will come from?
The fact that the last two years of blurred boundaries between work and home life have affected our mental health is an understatement. But this, combined with the Great Resignation, which sees people leaving the creative industries en masse, puts even more pressure on those who remain in the roles.
And despite global efforts to openly address the challenges of mental health, something that seems so prevalent is talked about in ways that feel predictable and often quite tender in media discussions. In addition to personal reasons to focus on our mental health, there is a clear business imperative to do so.
When the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) surveyed senior HR managers from large organizations about the most significant barriers to the ability of HR functions to fulfill strategic imperatives and goals, 60% mentioned burnout (probably the most insidious form of work) related stress) . And in a 2022 study by Deloitte Gen Z and Millennial, almost half reported feeling burnt out from exercise. Yet 65% believe that while their organization is now talking more about mental health, it has not had any significant impact on employees. Obviously, there is room for greater positive impact here.
Historical studies show that those in lower positions have suffered the most stress and are potentially more prone to burnout due to a very real or perceived lack of control over their workloads and circumstances. These days it seems to be a universal experience, with senior executives at major organizations such as Lloyds Bank chief Antonio Orta-Osorio talking about his own personal experiences of work stress and Imax CEO Richard Gelford speaking candidly about feeling overwhelmed. including how it helped them take the problem seriously in their organizations as well as in their own lives.
As early as the early 2000s, I was approaching burnout, and I think my experience is quite common, as I carry traits that many will identify in the creative industries (as in many others), where work can feel like a vocation. For example, I am completely committed to my work, to my clients and my teammates, I want to do amazing work in an industry that sets very high standards and applauds high standards, and I find it very difficult to exclude when there is work to be done (and there is always more work to be done).
Add clients working in many different time zones in an environment that promotes personal responsibility and you have the perfect recipe for potential problems. A combination of short-term health problems shocked me to make lifestyle changes that have led me to a more sustainable path since then.
We all need to go beyond the stigma of talking about burnout and turn it into action. It is essential to encourage employees to speak openly about the problems they may be experiencing and to provide training to detect the early signs of someone who may be in trouble. IBM’s Mental Health Ally program does just that – it trains teams to recognize signs of stress or trauma among colleagues and to approach them in the right way and with empathy and to have access to support.
Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to tackling mental health problems widely in society or in the workplace. However, a broader understanding and empathy for mental health issues, combined with a sense that we are better empowered to prioritize our mental health, will inevitably lead to better, more open conversations and actions that can make a difference. .
Someone I am very close to was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 20 years ago, which they manage through diet, medication and lifestyle. This is the focus of a full-time job along with all the usual things that the rest of us run in our daily lives. If there is one thing that would make a difference to them, it is that others see them primarily as a person, not as a condition. As a creative, intelligent, fun and productive person, they have several considerations on what helps them interact with the world in a way that reduces stress and anxiety – a more personalized prescription to be the best if you want to be.
And that seems to be the main key in general. Taking the time to understand what helps us present ourselves best in person, combined with employers and leaders who are empathetic enough to experiment with more individualized ways of working and supporting to help unlock our potential.