Protecting Mental Health and Nurturing Our Industry’s Brilliant Creative Minds in a New World of Hybrid Working

Cirkle CEO and Alliance of Independent Agencies Co-Chair, Ruth Kieran, on what the pandemic can teach us about how to protect our industry’s Brilliant Creative Minds and nurture creativity in a post-pandemic, hybrid era.

There’s no doubt that employee mental health has suffered over the last two years – most people will have had periods of feeling remote and detached, with ever blurring lines between work and home and the relentless Zoom after Zoom after Zoom.

Whilst many have reaped the benefits of working from home, remote working can, if not carefully managed, chip away at workplace community spirit and connection.

There is also the risk that by being remote, work becomes more ‘transactional’ between employer and employee and less a place of colleague friendship and camaraderie. A sense of collective purpose and fun can be much harder to foster as a collection of geographically distant agents, momentarily brought together on screen.

This is particularly the case for new recruits, who onboarded and briefed remotely, can, if not handled properly, suffer from lack of training – both ‘on the job’ gleaned from sitting next to senior colleagues, and more formal learning opportunities.

So, as a more hybrid future beckons, we need to invest even more in our creative workforce. We need to build confidence and connection and enable people to enjoy the ‘best of both in a world of home and office working. In doing so we can create workplaces that foster creativity and are more productive.


Paradoxically, the work culture of the pandemic itself can provide some clues for how we might be able to do this. By beaming us straight into each other’s studies, kitchens, and bedrooms, it turned employees into people. It gave us an intimate insight into the lives of those we work with – people with homes, families, pets, and housemates, individuals with tastes in home furnishings and wall coverings, and a preference for things to be neat or messy. It taught us to take a personal interest in the fellow human beings we are working with and treat them as people.

As one of the core pillars of the Brilliant Creative Minds Code of Conduct, which I urge all creative leaders to read and take note of, the recognition of the individual must continue to be nurtured. In the words of Albert Einstein: “it is important to foster individuality for only the individual can produce the new ideas.” With this focus on the individual, we can start to protect our employee’s mental health, in turn nurturing creativity, whilst drastically improving the creative output at the same time.

Empathetic, supportive collaboration, and leadership are key drivers in good mental health and wellbeing at work. And it’s vital that everyone feels supported to deliver their best work as we move to the post-pandemic era and that the unique needs of each employee are recognized. At Cirkle we offer tailored support for individuals experiencing mental health challenges including fully funded hypnotherapy sessions and access to free counseling sessions and offer sleep advice and resilience training to all our staff.

The pandemic has shown us just how closely world events impact our people – and that employees are only products of the lives they are living. On a weekly basis over the last two years, we have asked employees to rate their happiness. Time after time we see that, regardless of pressures within the business, it is the things happening outside of the business – the weather, the political situation, or the latest sporting result – that motivate or demoralize our people.

Whilst we can’t protect people from the latest Covid rules, political turmoil, Global disaster, or challenges they are facing personally, we can give them one less thing to worry about by recognizing our employees as people. By cherishing each individual in our workplace and by making work a safe space for them, we can create workplaces – real and remote – where our people and, in turn, our companies, can thrive.

Brilliant Creative Minds is our industry’s collective action to protect the UK’s creative output from poor workplace mental health & wellbeing. It is spearheaded by Social & Local CIC, Crown Commercial Service, NABS, IPA, the Alliance of Independent Agencies, the Advertising Association, and ISBA.

We are calling on the industry to pledge commitment to mental wellbeing and creativity by embedding its principles into workplace culture.

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