IAA Young Professionals Makes Strides Towards Better Wellbeing In Adland

The business people standing on the white wall background

International Advertising Association (IAA) Young Professionals is making strides towards better wellbeing in the advertising industry, attempting to bring an end to the stigma surrounding mental health.

With 56 per cent of the advertising industry experiencing mild to severe depression compared to the national average of 36 per cent, the next generation of Sydney advertisers has stepped up to make actionable steps towards better wellbeing in the industry.

The IAA Young Professionals Australian Chapter gathered at RXP Groups’ Experience Hub in Sydney last week to bring an end to the stigma surrounding mental health and improve wellbeing.

IAA Young Professionals Australia Chapter president Emmalee Fagerstrom opened up the event with a strong desire to leave with actionable steps: “We’ve come here today to discuss mental health and wellbeing, be vulnerable, and leave with action.”

The panel discussion, moderated by R U OK ambassador Craig Mack, comprised of four industry leaders; Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith, Cadreon Australia CEO Patrick Darcy, author of Mental Spinach Jess Pollard, and UnLtd CMO Nina Nyman.

Mack, after opening up about his personal struggles with mental health and his inner critic, began the panel discussion with a simple and actionable thought.

He said: “There are 1000 ways to ask ‘are you okay?’, and 1000 ways to notice.”

The panel discussion focused around three key elements of industry change that we can all action today; switching off, breaking down stigma & creating diversity in wellbeing policies.

We need to place boundaries on technology to become happier and more efficient people.

As an industry we have an ‘always on’ mentality, leading to high expectations from our clients to be available 24/7.

Darcy, CEO of Cadreon Australia, said this was a key factor to our industry’s burnout culture.

“There is an imbalance of client expectations, and what we are remunerated.”

Technology has also changed our meaning of ‘busy’.

Rigg-Smith, CEO at Mindshare, explained the correlation between our mental health and technology.

She said: “Because technology pervades all parts of our life both in and outside of work it is hard to quieten the mind and subsequently even when teams aren’t in the office they can still feel the pressure of being ‘busy’ because they are accessing technology, potentially emails at all hours which is not giving them the mental breaks they need.”

In order for our industry to ‘switch off’, we need to set boundaries and make a point of leaving work at work. Twitter has already implemented this with a ‘no emails between 8 pm and 8 am’ rule.

We still have a lot of work to do around breaking down the stigma.

Even though 89 per cent of our industry are happy to work with someone with depression – only 29 per cent of us would tell someone at work if they’d been diagnosed with depression.

This was a statistic reported by Nina Nyman, CMO at UnLtd. The stigma isn’t in relation to our co-workers, it’s within ourselves.

Cadreon Australia boss Patrick Darcy expanded on this, explaining his inner monologue has changed from
“I’m a senior leader at work, I can’t be the one to say I’m not in a good place”, to an understanding that “your people won’t find the courage to talk about mental health, if leadership won’t.”

Industry leaders need to lead by example and act on their own wellbeing in order to break down the stigma effectively – only then our industry will follow suit.

We need to implement a diversity of wellness policies moving beyond meditation 

Jess Pollard, author of Mental Spinach led the discussion on mindfulness not being a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

She said: “Like fitness, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution – we all have different ways of beginning the journey of calming our minds.”

Nyman from UnLtd agreed, stating “mental health needs a rebrand. It’s not just therapy.”

Different people need different things, so we need to allow flexibility when it comes to designing and implementing health and wellness policies.

The IAA Young Professionals Australia chapter will continue to make actionable steps towards industry change.

In July, this conversation will extend to diversity in advertising, with more information on the next event to be released soon.

At B&T, we believe initiatives like this can shape and influence culture. That’s one of the reasons we created Changing the Ratio, Australia’s diversity and inclusion conference for the advertising industry. Check out the 2019 schedule today.

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