Being pretty new to agency life, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d always heard that it was so fast-paced, had a heavy workload and was always incredibly stressful. Even with all of this, I decided to move from working in-house to agency-side.
I chose well. Yes, working at Blue Array is fast-paced, there is always something to be done and there can be stressful times. But, and most importantly, there is a whole team behind me, ready to help in any way they can. Open, honest and clear communication plays a vital role in this, so when I heard the office was closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was worried that the levels of communication and collaboration that we are used to would become more diluted and therefore more difficult.
At a previous job I had the opportunity to work from home for a couple of months whilst recovering from an illness, so I was not new to this. The difference here is that the whole office was closing, thus every member of staff would also be working from home.
As much as my productivity improves with fewer distractions in a given day, I’m also a “people person”, which means I enjoy social interaction and being able to go have a chat with someone. Whether it’s about a problem we’re facing or just simple watercooler talk, that face-to-face connection is really important to me.
Losing that connection definitely makes an impact on my mentality; it’s shown that face-to-face communication can release a concoction of chemicals that help combat stress and anxiety. A simple handshake or high-five can be enough to guard off depression, so even with the amazing communication options we have thanks to technology, we can’t fully replace that social contact if we want positive mental wellbeing.
Loneliness should also be considered and although usually associated with the older generations (with more than 50% of UK residents over 75 living alone), young people are actually the loneliest age group in England. According to a report from the Office of National Statistics, young adults aged 16 to 24 years reported feeling lonely “often/always” more frequently than any other age group. Though I am personally just outside this age group, many of my colleagues are, and loneliness can still affect anyone. This makes not only staying connected, but feeling connected a priority.
Open and often communication
So you’re probably wondering how I keep positive and strengthen my mental fortitude all whilst maintaining this connection with my colleagues? Firstly, it’s important to keep open and frequent communication, with not just friends and family, but with colleagues too. Instead of building those relationships physically, I have taken to doing so in other ways. Friends who I usually go out for lunch or dinner with, I’m instead calling or playing games online with them. Family are getting more video calls, and I have regular chats both over Slack and video calls with my colleagues.
Maintaining and building strong relationships is of utmost importance; sharing problems, talking about my day and helping out others all work towards keeping me positive.
Mental health and fortitude
Next, I practice mindfulness and self-hypnosis techniques. I am lucky enough to have had sessions with a fantastic hypnotherapist who taught me how to relax properly, be mindful and strengthen my fortitude. Noticing the details of the moment you’re in and allowing yourself to absorb this and be in the moment really helps me to unwind and reset. Even five minutes away from a screen whilst making a drink or grabbing a snack can be perfect.
Use your extra time productively
Use the extra time you usually spend commuting on something for you. Some meditate, some go for a walk, others are taking the time to learn something new. For me, I’ve ordered a book called “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott and am looking into developing myself personally. Using this time productively and leveraging other benefits of being in my home environment (my own music choices and access to an oven for lunch!) helps seeing the silver lining of the situation.
Sometimes a pair of headphones is a necessity. Obviously, being in my own home environment, there are going to be distractions. from time to time. Netflix and other streaming services are readily available, I’ve got gaming devices in every corner of every room and even a few pets. Separating myself from these distractions and allowing myself time to do these things in the evenings or during lunch gives me something to look forward to. I also know I have work I need to be doing and that Blue Array trust me to do this. So I put on some headphones, some chilled lo-fi beats (thank you chilledcow) and focus on the task at hand.
Working with clients
Working in an agency means we have clients and thus client meetings. Luckily, the clients I work with are very understanding of the current situation and some of them are in the same boat. We are conducting our meetings virtually and are aiming for as little disruption as possible.
Whilst this is great and the best we can do at the moment, this does mean that the benefits of meeting in person are lost. Reading body language and facial expressions becomes more difficult; even though I do this subconsciously, understanding how the client is reacting can be of vital importance in assessing the situation.
In a study by Forbes on meeting face-to-face for business purposes; the majority of respondents thought face-to-face meetings were best for Persuasion (91%), Leadership (87%), Engagement (85%), Inspiration (85%), Decision making (82%), Accountability (79%), Candor (78%), Focus (75%), Clarity (74%), Brainstorming (73%), Strategy (73%), Reaching a consensus (71%) and Urgency (49%).
It’s also shown that a simple handshake or high-five releases oxytocin, which not only increases your level of trust, but also lowers cortisol levels and thus lowers stress.
With video conferencing being a second-best, nurturing the relationship with clients is of high priority. A great relationship, alongside high-quality work will naturally encourage people to want to continue to work together.
If we continue to work together, be clear with our communication, avoid distractions, be honest and supportive, then with a little understanding, we will get through this.