Lonely? You’re in good company.

by Lisa Donnelly, Account Director

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is loneliness. I’ve been reflecting on the impact of the pandemic, and how a return to the office has changed the team at Clark. I recently heard a quote which I will paraphrase; “loneliness is like hunger or thirst – a natural signal from the body that requires attention.” We’re quick to get a drink or something to eat, but we tend to push down feelings of loneliness or wait for it to get really bad before we reach out.

In a work sense, I’ve missed being around the team at Clark immensely. We’re back to the office on a hybrid model, and the days I’m around the team are full of chat, ideas, laughter, and collaboration. It’s allowed us to get to know our new team members, provide more training and support for our account executives as they start their careers, bounce ideas around, and for me, it makes everything feel less serious than it does when I’m sitting alone in my living room.

Last week we had our annual full company meet up in Edinburgh to discuss the year ahead, and to celebrate the year that has passed. Clark has grown to a team of 17, a far cry from five of us beavering away at the height of the pandemic, and it was a joy to see that many people sitting around the table, playing musical chairs to catch up with as many colleagues as possible.

There has always been a real commitment to looking after our people at Clark – they are our greatest asset. I appreciate I’m biased as I am about to reach my five–year anniversary, but culture has always been a priority here, and it’s built on trust. Long before the pandemic, we operated a flexible working model, paid competitively, provided extensive training plans as well as little extras like Spotify memberships, enrichment funds and team days.

But as we have grown, so has our commitment to being the best place to work. We have appointed Business Champions in three key areas: mental health, sustainability and diversity and inclusion. Since I stepped into the role as mental health champion last year, I’ve trained as a mental health first aider, carried out a mental health workshop for the agency, and in the coming year we will be rolling out a series of additional benefits. This includes monthly mental health drop-ins, duvet days (to be taken on days where you wake up and just *can’t*) health insurance (including counselling services), the cycle to work scheme, a mental health resource bank and a 2-week ‘work from anywhere’ policy for the whole company, but especially so that team members with family abroad can visit for an extended period of time without using up all their holidays.

While the pandemic separated us all physically, it also forced us to make the move to fully remote working and allowed us to truly test our culture of trust. Now that we are back in the office, I think we have reached a perfect balance of noisy, exciting, collaborative days full of cakes and brainstorms, and days that we all appreciate a slightly longer lie, and not having to take our slippers off.