Words by Becs Baker, Head of Talent at Pearlfisher.

At Pearlfisher, nurturing our talented teams, their creativity and the culture within our studio is top of the priority list and we make sure our teams take time out to feel inspired – whether that’s taking half a day to visit a gallery or working wirelessly outside of the studio every so often to get a change in scene. We have a range of resources set up to support our health and wellbeing at work – including visits from expert nutritionists, lunchtime yoga sessions and discounted gym memberships. However, since the pandemic, we have put more of a focus on how we can positively help nurture mental wellbeing, both in and outside of the workplace. 

Driven by her own personal interest, our Senior Client Manager, Channola Williams, recently completed a course in Mental Health First Aid (in partnership with St. John Ambulance). I sat down with her to find out more about her experience of the course and how her learnings might help support the health and happiness of our Pearlfisher teams across our London and New York studios.

1. What would you say is one of the best ways to ensure our teams feel connected and happy at work?

Working in busy jobs, I think it’s important we all look out for one another – we shouldn’t shy away from open conversations and should take time to ensure the people we work with are ok – especially if you notice a change in someone’s behaviour. It may seem simple, but I think it’s always appreciated, and so valuable, to ask, “How are you today?”. Just taking the time to check in with people at work, even if they’re not your direct team members, is super important.

2. What do you think is working well at the moment at Pearlfisher to support our teams?

I think I’m extremely lucky to work somewhere so friendly and where I am made to feel valued. I think we’ve all realised that we need to foster this as much as we can after the upheavals and uncertainty of recent times and with people still experiencing all sorts of pressures. Adding a 24/7, online CBT counselling service to the benefits we can already access here – as part of our Employee Assistance Programme – is a really great move. Just knowing that help is available whenever we need it, is really comforting.

3. What are the top priorities that all businesses and organisations should have in place to support wellbeing in the workplace?

Health and safety, and safeguarding, are integral to business management today but mental and emotional health now needs to be an indisputable part of that. We don’t just need businesses to end stigma by promoting a more open environment for employees to be able to talk more freely, but for every business and company to ensure that there are formal mental health procedures and actionable steps in place. With stress, depression or anxiety accounting for 50% of all work-related illnesses in 2020/21, actively prioritising the management and prevention of mental health issues should help staff avoid burnout and promote positivity and productivity.

4. The pandemic changed the way we work at Pearlfisher, giving us flexibility to work both from home and our studio in Notting Hill. What are the key things we implemented or could do even more of, to maintain our agency’s culture and in-person connection between our teams?

Our new flexible way of working has so many positive benefits but we need to be mindful that we may not see our team members for extended periods of time. Because of this, we’re not always aware of the pressures our colleagues may be under, and it’s important to make time for each other. Scheduling a Zoom or face-to-face coffee break, even for just 10 minutes once a day, or even a week, to properly talk – about anything you fancy  – makes all the difference.

5. From what you’ve learnt from your training, are there any particular activities, special initiatives or workshops that you think are valuable and beneficial in supporting a happier, healthier and more productive workforce?

I firmly believe that all businesses on top of introducing more formal structures should also think about collective company-wide wellbeing days and wellbeing training for their teams. Wellbeing personnel and systems will inevitably play a very real role in our future workforce and we should lay the foundations now.

We are very lucky that, at Pearlfisher, we already have dedicated people overseeing and supporting us over and above our day-to-day roles. It makes a huge difference to everything we do.

Inspiring talks from external creatives, workshops, and getting together to do something fun – like our annual Sports Day – are all great activities and initiatives at Pearlfisher that get us together and not talking about work! In our lives, the majority of our time is spent at work and with the people we work with so it goes without saying that it’s essential to love what you do to stay challenged, inspired and grow as a person. I’ve been at Pearlfisher for over 2 years now and it’s so nice to be a part of the great friendships and caring environment our teams have created. Supporting people’s mental health at work should never feel forced – just natural, I think this is one of the key things about maintaining a happy, healthy and productive team!