Meet the therapist: My year of supporting marketers
by Isabella Barrand, Mental Health and Wellbeing Specialist, What's Possible Group

Isabella discusses what supportive mental health and wellbeing initiatives indy media agencies should implement.

29th April 2022 Read time: 5 minutes Watch time: 52 minutes

There has never been a better time to implement mental health and wellbeing initiatives in marketing agencies. Creating a workplace culture that values mental health and wellbeing is paramount. In uncertain times, keeping marketers motivated and creative will be something many agencies grapple with this year.

Isabella Barrand is the Mental Health & Wellbeing Specialist at the What’s Possible Group. She was appointed to provide support to staff due to the mental health crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She joined the What’s Possible Community to highlight why creating a balance of offering support and creating opportunities for connection is important in marketing organisations. 

Providing support

Isabella joined What’s Possible Group in February 2021, a year into the pandemic. She found that the HR team and individual managers dealt with the organisation’s mental health and wellbeing needs.

She says that implementing a structured approach to mental health and wellbeing initiatives in an organisation can help protect HR teams and managers.

My initial reaction to being in the business had to be to relieve those people who were doing the supporting roles of emotional work and managing everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. And offer an educated, specialised support service for the people within the business who were struggling,” Isabella explained.

She has since been providing counselling and mental health support to growth-minded marketers of every kind. To her knowledge, she is the only in-house, dedicated mental health and wellbeing specialist in the independent media agency space.

She encourages other organisations to consider adding an in-house offering and promote wellbeing access support through employee assistance programmes (EAP). Isabella has implemented an initiative that ensures every senior leadership team member and manager in the business undergoes mental health awareness training.

Keeping marketers motivated and creative

We are living in uncertain times. Two years of a pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis is now very apparent, and the news talks of war. Marketers may be feeling the effects of all of this on their mental health and wellbeing and struggling to stay motivated and creative.

Isabella believes giving marketers freedom and autonomy to be creative is essential. She says that agencies are even altering their relationships with clients who impact the mental health and wellbeing of agency marketers.

To keep marketers working collaboratively and feeling connected, as well as less worried about the current state of the world, Isabella says there are simple initiatives that the business can run internally:

  • Online coffee and chat sessions
  • In-house focus groups for different pitches
  • Hosting webinars on topics of interest
  • Open forum discussions about things that are worrying them

The people who attended these felt less alone in their worries and felt they could voice their feelings in a safe space and not necessarily feel the emotional weight because it was shared – even just for an hour on a Thursday afternoon,” Isabella said.

At the What’s Possible Group, she has helped develop an employee-centric working model that allows workers to make their own choices around when and where they work to align with how work has changed in the last two years.

As long as it’s collaborative within individuals’ teams and that it continues the output that teams are expecting and expected of, we are being successful in supporting creative output,” she says.

Connectedness and combatting loneliness

Isabella has also introduced employees to a volunteering and climate impact app-based platform named onHand that helps employees learn about and get involved in social issues ranging from food poverty, and caring for the elderly, to helping fight climate change. The organisation also plants a tree for every person registering on the app.

There’s plenty of studies that show that volunteering is associated with enhanced wellbeing. It includes improved life satisfaction scores and increased happiness, and in some cases, it even decreases the symptoms of depression. That increased connectedness with local communities also boosts the wellbeing of that local environment as a collective,” Isabella concluded.

The What’s Possible Group have impressed with how many missions their employees have completed on the app. It has culminated in the group winning the 2022 (Not So) Random Acts of Kindness award from onHand. They have planted an extra 48 extra trees as a reward.

Isabella is an individual therapist who is doing her part in tackling the side effects of a disruptive and tumultuous year for people’s mental health and wellbeing. She concluded her visit to the Community to let us know what businesses can do to raise further their awareness of what their employees may be going through.

She highlighted that combatting loneliness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week (9th to the 15th of May 2022). Isabella strongly encourages business leaders to investigate the research compiled by the Campaign to End Loneliness titled loneliness beyond Covid-19.

I think it’s a really important theme in terms of having a conversation around what loneliness is and how can we treat it – how can we respond to it as a wellness issue,” Isabella said.