AW360 speaks with BCM Group Partner and Managing Director Phil McDonald about what being mentally healthy means to him.
How long have you worked in the industry and what was your first role?
I’ve been in the industry 25 years now. My first role was as a production manager.
What does being mentally healthy mean to you?
Keeping everything in balance and in perspective. Being mentally sharp and on my game for family and work.
Can you think of an occasion when you realised your mental health was impacting your work or home life?
I had finished a very busy year, where I had been travelling every week away from my wife and boys. We were about to head up to the beach for Christmas holidays.
I was relieved the year had finished and was looking forward to getting away. The night before we went away my wife said to me, “can you stay off your email and do your best not be an ##hole for the next two weeks”.
It was the first time I realised the stress my job was putting me under was affecting my family and my mental health. Within four months of that holiday I had left my job and pursued a new opportunity to join the independent company I am now a partner in.
How did this stress manifest itself?
Constant frustration and lack of control in my work life began to have an effect on my general attitude. Small things that didn’t really matter started to annoy me. I forgot what was important, I was not focused at all and my attention span reduced dramatically.
How did you overcome these challenges? Who helped you and how?
My wife helped me realise that I had to change what I was doing and refocused me on what was important again.
What do you do now to practice better mental health?
I constantly re-assess priorities and keep perspective. I exercise more and I leave work at work.
What are the three things companies should do to create a mentally healthy workplace?
Firstly, create space for people to do their job well and provide clarity on what their role is and what is expected of them. Secondly, remove barriers and obstacles. Finally, don’t put people under unnecessary pressure to deliver. Expect high standards but don’t push people to the limit – it never works for them or the company.
What are you doing at your own company?
We have simplified the way the agency operates and work together so people don’t feel it is always up to them to deliver.
We also want people to get out during the day and refresh the mind, so we pay for twice weekly PT sessions at lunchtime for anyone who wants to go and get fit with workmates.
We fund “Fly Away” trips for staff and their family who have gone above and beyond, nominated by their fellow workers.
We allow people to have an extra “Take Off Day” to re-charge batteries, which is not included in annual leave.
And we have a trusted performance coach experienced in mindset management and psychology to help anyone who may need some professional advice to manage their mindset.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
One of the most important things that good agencies do before they start the strategy and creative process is to accurately define the problem that needs to be solved.
Too often the process starts trying to solve the wrong problem and the work eventually fails and/or the process takes much longer than it should. This creates stress and angst for everyone.
The same can be said for starting in this industry. Young people need to ensure at all times that they fully understand the tasks they have been given and their role in completing them. Communication and getting clarity are key. This avoids confusion, time wasting, stress and should ensure better outcomes and better work.