Building resilience in the workplace

There are many things I wish I could tell my younger self as I somewhat unknowingly embarked on a career in advertising all those moons ago. I joined an independent agency, fresh off the boat from Dublin back in 2014 and fell in love with London, the industry, the work, the clients and the comradery. However, I have learnt the hard way that this business can be a cruel mistress if you let it!

Whilst things have changed massively since I started, Adland has always had a reputation for late nights in the office and high-stakes pitches, parties and a cutthroat race to the top (that’s if you can ever get past that pesky glass ceiling!) Extroverts with big personalities tend to dominate the room and it can be a real struggle to find your voice in such a fast-paced environment. As someone who leans towards being introverted (although you might not guess it when you meet me!) , I know all too well how that can feel and how anxiety can manifest, which is why building resilience was one of the most important lessons I took on in order to succeed.

Resilience can often feel like a bit of a buzz word, but it is the one thing I think we need to teach young people from the offset. Stress and anxiety are unavoidable in life, but completely manageable if you have the right tools.

When you break it down, the key things seem pretty basic:

#1: Find the right environment.

Some people thrive in big companies or big teams, others work best in smaller agencies – know what makes you happy and brings out the best in you.

#2: Surround yourself with people who back you.

You are going to spend the majority of your waking life with them, make sure that the culture matches your own and that you feel supported.

#3: Break the cycle in your own mind…

…that was telling you that you can’t do something. Having been in the industry a while and having been involved in many conversations around mental health in the workplace. This comes up time and time again, especially among women in junior to mid-level management roles. (Imposter syndrome anyone?)

#4: Create some habits that help you on a daily basis.

Writing to-do lists, getting in early, allocating time for emails and catch ups, managing others’ expectations and actually leaving on time. Again, it’s all about what works for you.

#5: Remember you are more than just work.

I like to read, I read a lot! I like to play badminton and lift heavy things at the gym. Finding time and space for your own pursuits makes even a tough day at work a satisfying one. Our work is important, but we are not saving lives and it doesn’t define us.

#6: Get offline.

Social media can be triggering and emails on your phone mean that even when you are relaxing, you know you are on call. That little red notification would drive me round the bend! It’s alarming how tough I found that at first but being able to put some distance between me and the work made me better when I was present.

#7: Champion it.

It can be scary to talk about mental health or feeling stressed. Will it impact career progression or alter people’s perceptions? But with 91% of people in the ad industry saying that at some point in the last year they struggled with their own mental health, I think we can all agree that we’re in this together. And even if you don’t have any issues personally, I’ll bet you someone you work with might, and could really benefit from your understanding.

Inevitably everyone’s road to resilience will be different. But I do wish someone had explained mental health and resilience training when I started. Actually, go back further: I wish I had known more back when I was doing exams at school!

Resilience is a skill we should value just as much as Excel or PowerPoint wizardry. Like many agencies in this industry, Space and Time is dedicated to making the workplace somewhere that works for everyone and where mental health is given just as much importance as physical health. Looking after staff in this way not only ensures that clients are getting the best service possible, but we all have a nice time while we are it!