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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with AMA CultureHive banner

Are we serious enough about how we’re feeling and coping at work – from our life–work balance to our ability to maximise our creativity? Carol Jones addresses some common issues.

A photo of a ball with a smiley face on it on some grass

© Mike Hoff

How are you feeling today? It’s usually a question we answer with a quick “I’m fine thanks”, and then we start the day juggling multiple priorities, while checking up on how we’re feeling is put firmly to the back of our minds.

Physical first aid in the workplace is covered by extensive legislation but the same can’t be said about mental health and wellbeing

We know that health and balancing work and life is increasingly recognised as essential to our happiness and our ability to make the most of our talents and creativity. Yet taking care of ourselves and our team still often languishes at the bottom of most people’s to do list. 

Sharing experiences

Earlier this year we put out a call for contributions to a new blog series for AMAculturehive called ‘How I Cope’. The idea was a simple one. By asking colleagues from across the sector at all different levels to share their experiences of self-care and wellbeing, exchange tips and helpful advice, we’d create a space to support each other and the health of our sector in general. 

We wanted to know things like: What can workplaces do to nurture their staff’s sense of wellbeing? What challenges do we face in changing the way we work? What techniques and tips can we share to help each other?

Responses to the call-out were immediate and fulsome – from interns to CEOs, across many artforms and from people working in organisations big and small. Some made me squirm with recognition and many are candid and open reflections on how they cope… or sometimes don’t. All of them made me sit back and think.

We will continue to share these stories. I’d encourage you to check them out, and to think about what your organisation can do to ensure the wellbeing of colleagues. And do send in your own contributions.

Mindless or mindful?

Alongside that, we're publishing a series of thought pieces by cultural practitioners who are mental health advocates keen to create a happier, healthier and more productive workplace. We started with a provocation from marketing and enterprise consultant Sebastian Cater who explores how we can make mindfulness less of a dirty word at work. Sebastian suggests creating a manifesto that lists all the mindless ways in which we work – your own personal ‘Mindless Manifesto’: Feeling compelled to answer every email within minutes? Tick. Feeling obliged to go to every meeting we’re invited to, even if it means having no desk time? Yup. Work at our desks over our lunch breaks just to clear that email backlog? Try and stop me!

He comments: “There are those things we do out of hours, in our personal time, to try and avoid getting overloaded the next day – like staying late, just an extra hour or two, to clear the action list. And maybe taking some work home, just so we can do some thinking away from all the craziness at work. Don’t forget that we need to check those emails first thing in the morning, while it’s quiet.”

Does that sound familiar? Sebastian takes us through ways we can turn our mindless manifestos on their heads and create a ‘Mindfulness Manifesto’ instead for ourselves, our teams and our organisations. Read the article on AMAculturehive. You can find other helpful resources on AMAculturehive too, including guides, policies and examples of best practice. 

Wellbeing policy

China Plate, the independent theatre studio, is committed to facilitating professional, ethical and productive working environments for artists. As part of that commitment, it started work on the development of a Wellbeing policy that would stimulate creative freedom and risk-taking and also safeguard the physical and mental health and wellbeing of their teams. 

Originally, the policy was created for internal use, but it’s now available as an open resource providing practical guidelines that allow for relaxed, robust and open dialogue to happen around wellbeing and care. You can find out more and download the Wellbeing policy on AMAculturehive.

Mental health first aid

Do you have a mental health first aider? The answer is probably no. Physical first aid in the workplace is covered by extensive legislation but the same can’t be said about mental health and wellbeing. 

Creative Freedom, set up last year to change the conversation about mental health across our sector, has developed a manifesto for mental health in conversation with people in the arts, cultural and creative sectors. It has launched a simple framework for organisations that want to seize the initiative and take positive action. You can find its Mental Health Manifesto on AMAculturehive.

There will be an opportunity to meet the Creative Freedom team at the Art Fund Wellbeing Pod at this year’s AMA conference. The pod will be a place to share and think creatively about how to take care of yourself, enabling you to bring your whole self to work. There will be talks about wellness and space for sharing your experience and creative approaches to wellbeing.

How are you feeling today? Time to think more, share and make the sector stronger. 

Carol is Editor at AMAculturehive. 

Tw @Carol123Jones | @amadigital

This article, sponsored and contributed by AMAculturehive, is part of a series sharing resources and learning from the online library for the sector.

The AMA conference is on 9 to 11 July in NewcastleGateshead.

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Photo of Carol Jones