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The long-term fallout of the pandemic is becoming apparent for advertising and media workers, with the financial and emotional toll wrought by the outbreak quantified for the first time.

The harsh realities of the situation are laid bare by usage statistics from the National Advertising Benevolent Society (Nabs), the employee support organisation for the advertising and media industry, which has seen an upsurge in requests for grants in the first three months of 2021.
 

Advertising employees under financial and emotional pressure

  • Requests for grant support constituted the main reason for people getting in touch with Nabs, with 39% of calls to its advice line seeking financial support – a 6% year-on-year increase – amid the fallout from job losses and furlough programmes.

  • More positively, calls relating to redundancy have diminished since December 2020 to date, accounting for just 7% of calls and offering hope that the worst may be behind us.

  • Intriguingly calls to the advice line fell 29% year-on-year, while average calls per caller jumped 21% – trends attributed by Nabs to the growing complexity of managing tangled work and home lives.

  • As a consequence, the support organization is placing greater emphasis on coaching and masterclasses for affected individuals in addition to manning a telephone advice line.

  • This shift has coincided with a surge in demand for hands-on support, with people keen to improve their resilience, stress management, working parent life and mental wellbeing. As a result interest in wellbeing and stress coaching is up by 50% and 42%, while masterclass attendance is up 30%.

  • Key themes from these activities include an acceptance that priorities must be reconsidered today and in the future, as well as growing recognition of the importance of happiness.

Why it matters

  • Nabs chief executive Diana Tickell said: “The reduction in calls regarding redundancy is really encouraging for our industry, but we are seeing the longer-term challenges of the significant impact on individuals. It’s critical that we remember to support the wellbeing of all our talent who are still coping with the many challenges of living and working through the pandemic.”

  • Nabs is not immune from recent events either, having to do more with less by juggling a 35% jump in demand for its services through 2020 while weathering a £1.1m loss of income.

  • Growing awareness of the importance of mental health has seen agency leaders dedicate more resources toward supporting employees through the pandemic, clamping down on bad practices such as long hours to prevent burnout.

  • Such issues are just as acute among agency leaders, many of whom have had to shoulder responsibility for an uncertain future, fueling the growth of designated mental health first aiders, nutrition advice and personal development coaching at agencies such as Havas and M&C Saatchi.  

  • Mindful of these moves, The Drum recently ran its own mental health study to help quantify the scope and scale of changes to working practices and support networks across the industry, the results of which will be published soon.