Rocket, House of Brand, and Chello Talk Mental Health In Agency Land

Rocket, House of Brand, and Chello Talk Mental Health In Agency Land
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine



Three Australian agencies; Rocket, House of Brand, and Chello share their experiences and initiatives when it comes to genuinely prioritising the mental health and wellbeing of their teams.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Begins on Day One at Rocket

2022’s Mentally Healthy study into the mental health of the creative, media and marketing industry, showed there is no one thing that contributes to our stress levels at work. Rocket’s James Lawrence said, “The reality is that work plays a huge role in both a positive and negative way when it comes to mental health. We’re proud of the efforts we go to in this area and Mental Health Month is a great reminder to openly talk about what else we can do”.

From Lawrence’s perspective, the most important part of Rocket’s approach starts before anyone even joins the team and is guided by Rocket’s core value of ‘No Jerks’. Rocket believes working with good people who want the best for others is an essential part of creating a healthy culture. Rocket hires, coaches and on occasion, has let staff go, based on this value.

Lawrence acknowledges that the day-to-day of agency life can be demanding and not everyone will speak up when they are under stress or struggling with their mental health. For this reason, each member of the Rocket team completes regular pulse surveys. These surveys provide critical insights into Rocket’s performance on a range of factors including belonging, satisfaction, psychological safety, wellbeing and more. Most importantly, falling results are a trigger for immediate focus from the leadership team.

McKinsey research shows that the relationship with a manager is the top factor in employees’ job satisfaction. To this end, Rocket holds a quarterly manager’s session with every manager of people at the agency. This meeting is an open forum for managers to discuss matters relating to the general well-being of staff as well as coaching on how to do this.

Other initiatives Lawrence believes form an important part of Rocket’s approach to wellbeing include:

  • A fifth week of annual leave for all team members to take to decompress
  • Gym membership discounts
  • Flexible public holiday policy
  • Anniversary experiences chosen by the team member
  • Genuine workload and capacity management
  • A team member certified in mental health first aid in the team at all times
  • One on one’s for all staff every month
  • Ensuring staff know that it is their legal right to use ‘sick days’ for mental health purposes. And encouraging them to be used as such.
  • A quarterly town hall session where staff can ask anonymised questions to Rocket leadership in an all team staff meeting

The Rocket Agency team celebrating the agency’s fifth birthday

House of Brand, The 4 day Work Week And B Corp Accreditation

House of Brand has had a number of mental health and wellbeing initiatives in place for some time now, but the most significant step it has taken is introducing a 4 day working week in April 2022.

Nick Palmer, CEO of House of Brand, said “We’ve always placed a lot of importance on the mental and physical wellbeing of our team, but shifting to a 4 day week, or what we like to refer to as a 3 day weekend, has been a real game changer in terms of improving the work life balance for everyone at House of Brand”.

While this is the most substantial step House of Brand have taken in this space, Palmer goes on to list some of the other benefits which have been in place for some years now, all with a view to protecting and improving the mental wellbeing of the team:

  • An additional 5 days of ‘flexi-leave’ on top of statutory annual leave, which the team are encouraged to take as re-charge days or when they need a mental or physical break
  • A generous annual health and well being allowance that can be claimed against any health expenses, with the team encouraged to think about taking for mental health improvement too
  • A work from anywhere policy so that the team can work in a way that best suits them and gives them the balance they need in their lives to reduce stress
  • A working from home allowance that can be used for anything to improve their home working environment including just making it a more pleasant place to spend time

 

Line managers are replaced with Coaches at House of Brand, where everyone has fortnightly catch up conversations with their coach, who acts as a mentor and guides their development. Often the coach will not be someone they work directly with, to help foster conversations that don’t descend into one on one WIP meetings. A ‘temperature check’ is also a key part of these meetings to give the team a chance to express how they’re feeling.

Once a year the team congregates in Sydney for a Feedback Festival, where the focus is on the team openly sharing what is great about each of their colleagues. This, together with weekly Kudos sessions, creates a culture of continually celebrating each other’s strengths, and reminding people that they are valued, respected and appreciated by their peers and colleagues.

House of Brand has recently achieved B Corp accreditation, which Palmer said serves as clear testament to the focus they put on creating a great working environment and treating employees fairly. “We’re super proud of gaining B Corp accreditation. It’s an incredibly rigorous process that demonstrates a commitment to upholding ESG standards, and a big part of it is ensuring our employees are well looked after”

Chello, Mentally Healthy Minimum Standards and Genuine Communication

In late 2022, Chello signed the Mentally Healthy Minimum Standards as a commitment to establishing a more mentally-friendly workplace. Lindsay Rogers, Chello co-founder said, “whilst this didn’t mark the start of our journey, it really helped reinforce the importance of establishing more robust systems and processes in how we better understand and respond to the needs of our team.” Rogers goes on to say “It’s been important for us to create a number of different touchpoints for our team to raise any type of issue with the leadership team, to ensure we’re creating safe and comfortable channels of communications”.

Chello has employed a number of methods to help serve these goals:

Happiness Surveys: Chello uses weekly anonymous surveys as a means for team members to provide feedback, voice their concerns, or celebrate their wins. This ensures that even sensitive issues can be addressed and meaningfully resolved.

Weekly Management Meetings: These meetings are where they track hours worked, and overall team happiness, so that they can ensure their people are taking time in lieu if they’re doing overtime.

Fortnightly Walks: Chello incorporates informal “walk around the block” sessions every two weeks, where managers check in with their team members in relaxed conversations while walking. This promotes a more comfortable environment for communication.

Quarterly Check-Ins: The company conducts quarterly check-in sessions. These structured meetings involve performance evaluations, goal setting, and discussions about any challenges or concerns team members may be facing.

Rogers points out that social initiatives, such as Friday cheeseboards, quarterly social days, and annual retreats, significantly enhance team bonding and morale. Moreover, maintaining open channels of communication has enabled them to continuously adapt and implement meaningful changes

Tristan Velasco, also a co-founder, joined one of their NNC Circles —a peer support group that meets on a monthly basis — where participants are able to share experiences, stories and support each other.

Velasco shared, “I’ve never really done anything to work on my mental health and I felt it was important to experience what it was all about, especially if it’s an initiative that we were promoting with the team”. He continues, “I don’t think I realised how much you bottle up and having the opportunity to be vulnerable in front of people you don’t really know can be confronting. But you quickly come to realise the value it brings, not only can it put things into perspective, but you can also gain so much from other people’s experiences; whether they’ve experienced something similar, or to just have the opportunity to let it out”.

Never Not Creative is a community of creatives who organise a number of initiatives that help the industry develop better mental health awareness and support. Velasco said, “I think the work that the NNC team are doing is incredible, not only are they providing great support for creatives, but for agencies, it gives us a better understanding of how we can provide better support for our teams.”

Calling All Agencies To Share What’s Working And Do As Much As They Can

In a collaborative effort to champion the cause of mental health, these three agencies have formed a unique alliance. By sharing best practices and insights, they aim to inspire other organisations to follow suit. More importantly, they emphasise that mental health should be a fundamental aspect of agency culture, not merely a gesture.

As Mental Health Month takes centre stage, these three agencies invite others to join them in the mission to promote well-being, join the discussion and cultivate a positive workplace for their team members.




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