A happy approach to mental health

MD Sue Benson explains why her ‘happy approach to mental health’ is so important to her and the business.

Around this time four years ago I felt the first physical signs of anxiety; the racing heart, pins & needles in my hands, tension in my legs and the feeling of dread. Frankly, it was horrible. But it was the wake-up call I needed to reassess our approach to mental health as an agency. Up until that point I thought our approach was pretty good for a small company – we had the fruit bowls, encouraged exercise, provided resilience training and took our people’s issues seriously. But in hindsight, this was a reactionary not a preventative approach and openly discussing stress or anxiety wasn’t something we did. 

So I embarked upon a journey to explore what best in class wellbeing looks like. Through this I decided that if we were going to make a real, impactful change we had to build wellbeing into the heart of our business. So under a new vision that included becoming a wellbeing-led company, I introduced a whole range of policies that addressed physical, physiological, emotional and financial wellbeing. But more importantly, I started talking openly about mental health and encouraged others to do so too, if it helped them. Although this was an emotional process it transformed our business and has become a big part of why hugely talented people are attracted to joining The Behaviours Agency and part of why they choose to stay. 

A new era of happiness

The thing with attracting talented people is that they really challenge your thinking. When Stephen Brunt, our Planning Director arrived he did just that. He picked up on my passion for both client and team happiness and redefined our vision. We now aim to be The happiest little agency in the world – you can read more about that here.

With this new approach to wellbeing being rooted in happiness psychology, we made a pledge to our colleagues that we’ll make everyday a happy work day. In practice that means: we want our people to feel an overwhelming sense of enjoyment at work, being able to gracefully handle setbacks, connecting amicably with their colleagues and clients; and knowing that their work matters to them and us. Right at the heart of the pledge is mental health but surrounded by the infrastructure and cultural drivers that enable our team to thrive. I couldn’t have anticipated the extent to which that pledge would be put to the test but a global pandemic certainly proves that putting happiness at the centre of your thinking pays dividends.  

Tackling mental health in your business

Here are some of the takeaways that we’ve learnt from embarking on our journey to becoming a wellbeing-led company:

  1. It has to come from the top down to be believed. 
  2. Make each employee responsible for their own mental health but create structures that enable them to manage it so they flourish.
  3. Think prevention rather than cure.
  4. Create a culture where taboo subjects are out in the open – brace yourself TBA team, it’s the joy of the menopause next!
  5. Focus on clarity – make sure your team knows exactly where you are going and the role they play in you getting there. 
  6. Embrace happiness, it’s the step beyond wellbeing.

Thanks to this focus on happiness (and an HRT patch) thank god, I no longer suffer from anxiety. I wanted to highlight these issues today in the hope that as an industry we can be that little bit more aware and a lot more supportive. 

Sue Benson

By Sue Benson

Managing Director