Octopus Group’s Nicole Jones ICW PRWeek: the challenges of COVID, mental health, and what we are doing to help

The health and wellbeing of our Octopedes have always been a top priority, with four specially trained Mental Health First Aiders on hand for staff to chat things through with if needed. And this last year in particular, has of course been a challenging one for all of us, proving the need for more hands on initiatives and programmes.

Nicole, our Senior Copywriter and Mental Health First Aider, speaks with PRWeek about how Octopus are approaching some of these issues, and what we can do to support each other.

“In the initial panic of the first lockdown, I was very often speaking to people who had previous mental health conditions, and they were immediately worried about how they were going to cope. Then there was a second wave, of people I’ve never spoken to before in a mental health capacity.”

“A lot of the focus was on how stressful this is for parents and families… and that was definitely true. But… I was speaking to people who were stuck in one bedroom in a six-bedroom house-share. They weren’t having a lovely time in the garden, they weren’t spending more time with their families. All of the joy had been sucked out of life – ‘I’m working and living from my bedroom.’ That’s obviously a recipe for really bad mental health.”

“This was tricky, because all the things you would usually say – make sure you get outside, make sure you exercise, make sure you see your loved ones – all of that was stripped away. A lot of the support you can give people is essentially listening and acknowledging.”

“I think a lot of people’s plans for recovery, and their plans for returning [to normal], all hinged on the fact that by the summer we’d be over the hump of this. But I think the first realisation hit that, no – we’re in this for the long haul and we’re specifically in this for the winter.”

“There’s no point saying to a 22-year-old account executive, who’s nervous about the economic climate and job security: ‘Make sure you’re getting a good work-life balance.’ Seniors have to lead that; people at the top have to look down and say: ‘Your mental health is a priority.’

“It’s really tricky in an agency setting because we want to do well for our clients, and we want to work really hard, and a lot of people who work in agencies are used to working long hours. But fundamentally, the leadership has to come from the top down.”

“It’s that really cheesy phrase I keep reading on Twitter: that we’re all in the same storm, but some of us are in yachts and some of us are in lifeboats. Some of us have home offices, some of us don’t. Some of us have kids, some of us don’t. Maybe you’re the account director who’s picking up a lot of the stress while your other colleagues are dealing with their family stuff.”

“It costs nothing to be kind, patient and forgiving. One thing we’re really keen on at Octopus Group is recognition. It’s a really simple human thing, but we try to make it a big thing on our internal communications platforms – recognising people, saying thank you for jobs well done. We all feel a bit hopeless and a bit miserable sometimes. And if this is what it’s going to be like for the next six months, it’s just those little bits of recognition to make sure that people feel seen.”

 

Have a read of the full interview with PRWeek here.