We urgently need to take a new approach to wellbeing

The chief executive of Nabs explains why the industry support charity has developed a new, seven-pronged model of what wellbeing means.

Wellbeing seems to be everywhere at the moment. Increasingly it seems to be agreed that it’s not only important on an individual level, but also as an employer.

Unfortunately, it also appears to mean different things to different people and getting hold of how to apply it to your business (or own life) can be difficult. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile trying to better understand it.

Being happy and healthy ought to be our number one goal, but amongst the deadlines, commuting and endless social media posts of other people’s amazing, exciting lives, that can get lost.

This isn’t just bad news for our mental and physical health, but also for the industry. Adland is built entirely on the people working in it; their creativity and hard work are what our businesses and campaigns are built from. Indeed, for most organisations in the industry, their people are their most valuable assets.

Meaning that taking care of employees should be a number one priority. Perhaps this explains the almost omnipresence of "wellbeing". Good mental and physical health is a huge driver of engagement, creativity and productivity. But, it is becoming increasingly clear that many of us are still stressed, unhappy or ill.

This translates into both a human and financial problem. Recent research by Mental Health First Aid England found £35bn is lost every year due to poor health – if you break that down, it equates to £10.6bn in sickness absence, £21.2bn in reduced productivity and £3.1bn in replacing staff who leave their jobs because of mental health-related reasons.

A separate report commissioned by Theresa May in October found a staggering 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their job every year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the problem actually seems to be getting worse.

Gallop found there has been a 15% drop in people reporting being happy or thriving over the past two years. This is the biggest drop they have ever recorded.

It probably won’t surprise anyone reading this to know that the advertising industry seems to have an especially big problem when it comes to wellbeing. We have a higher than average turnover of staff; 30% against a national average of 10%.

Last year at Nabs, we recorded a 67% increase in calls to our Advice Line from people looking for emotional support. We need to understand the issue better. But, there is hope; research has found that interventions which reach 1% of a population can result in a 6% decrease in mental health issues, meaning small changes can make a big difference.

But, we need to think of wellbeing in a new way to do this. Humans are complex and the things that make up wellbeing are interconnected.

The reality is that being happy isn’t an either or. We aren’t all blissfully happy or dreadfully miserable all the time. It’s a spectrum, and just because one part of your life is great, doesn’t mean the others will be.

That’s why we’ve developed the SHEPARD Model. It’s based on cutting edge neuroscience and offers a framework - the first of its kind for the industry – that lets people and organisations see all the elements that make up wellbeing. 

Through our research, NABS has identified seven aspects to good wellbeing.

The SHEPARD Model for Wellbeing:

  • Satisfaction – people feeling content and assessing their lives as being filled with opportunity, potential, meaning and purpose.

  • Health – people believing themselves to be, and being in a state of wellness; in mind, body and spirit.

  • Emotions – people being able to regulate their emotions and feelings in a constructive and meaningful way.

  • Perceptions – people having positive perceptions of themselves and their environment.

  • Awareness – people being aware of, and making positive connections between their thoughts, experiences, responsibilities and impact of their relationships.

  • Rewards – people feeling financially secure and empowered, and having a sense of status and purpose.

  • Diversity - people having varied, positive relationships, creating a sense of learning, belonging, community, social acceptance and trust.

These elements are designed so people can judge how they feel about each aspect on a scale from distress, to languishing – basically meaning they’re just "okay" – all the way through to thriving. The idea is that by breaking wellbeing into sections like this, it allows people to better identify where they may need support.

For organisations, it allows them to consider wellbeing in a complete way as well as develop interventions and support across each. This means they will be better able to help their employees move towards thriving in all aspects of their lives, as well as understand the different factors that contribute to distress.

Nabs’ services are designed to help people move up the scale across the elements in SHEPARD, but we can’t do it alone. We need industry leaders to step up and help engage their employees about it too.

Without a focus on our wellbeing, the industry simply won’t be able to succeed. We know prevention and intervention can make a huge difference - we see it every day in the work we do - but we must work together if we’re going to make a real difference to people’s lives.

We want to work with the industry to improve the wellbeing of everyone in adland. Nabs’ services are designed to help improve wellbeing, so visit the website to find out how we can help.

You can also start improving things for the wider industry by becoming or identifying the Nabs Ambassadors within your organisation. But, start by considering the SHEPARD Model and how you are doing on a personal level across all the elements, as well as that of your organisation. Together we can help get everyone away from just surviving their day to thriving.

Diana Tickell is chief executive of Nabs

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