Driving culture change in the ‘Mad Men’ world 

To create a mentally healthy workplace, everyone in an organisation needs to play a sustained role, backed by a proper strategy and the right level of resources. A simple thing to state on paper but extremely challenging to deliver in practice. It’s a task made more difficult in our business, Publicis Groupe UK as we are undergoing radical transformation as we execute our ‘Sprint to the Future’ plan. Change is taking place at every level across the organisation, to stay ahead of the competition and to continue being relevant to meet the ever changing needs of clients. 

We realised and acknowledged that we could no longer accept the long held ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude and beliefs of the ‘Mad Men’ world and that working really long hours in peaks and troughs, doing whatever it takes to please the client, despite the effect on our employees are just part and parcel of agency life and our way of working. 

With this in mind and with the sponsorship of the Publicis Groupe UK Executive Committee, a full review of the approach we were taking to support employee wellbeing was undertaken, with particular focus on what was being provided in the area of mental health. 

A wellbeing audit was conducted, the results of which showed that each of our business areas were investing in mental health and wellbeing support for employees and that the types of services provided were extensive. These included access to a comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and access to healthcare professionals for those with Private Medical Insurance (PMI), as well as other wellbeing programmes such as mindfulness, yoga, massages, physiotherapy, running clubs. gym membership and cycle to work schemes to name a few. The conclusion made from the wellbeing audit was that valuable support was available to employees but there was a lack of awareness of what was available, the services were siloed and no standardised policy existed across all Publicis Groupe UK agencies, which meant that people’s experience of mental health and wellbeing support was not consistent. 

Set against the audit findings was also a newly stated ambition that the Publicis Groupe as part of our transformation journey wants to change the employer employee relationship. ‘People don’t work for companies any more. Companies, the good ones work for their people.’ This philosophy is now at the heart of the talent agenda. Having this philosophy forces the company to continually look for ways to do more for its employees, to make life at work more rewarding and enjoyable, which in turn helps to retain talent and positions Publicis Groupe as an employer of choice. 

Just over one year on from the decision to move forward with a new joined-up mental health and wellbeing agenda, Publicis Groupe UK in collaboration with the team at Robertson Cooper have achieved a great deal. There is now an overall strategy and plan with agreed KPIs in place for mental health and wellbeing across the UK business, along with a policy which provides practical guidance to all employees, signposting them to who to talk to and what to expect from people at different levels in the organisation. Training for People Managers is being initiated and our goal to put mental health first aid on a par with physical first aid has been implemented with Mental Health First Aid England providing accredited training to volunteers. Last but not least awareness of what we are doing to transform our offering has prompted a large number of people to volunteer to become Mental Health & Wellbeing Ambassadors. Their role is critical to the ongoing success of the initiative. They will execute the grass roots level activation of the overall strategy and plan, creating bespoke, relevant approaches in their agencies. Finally, given that we are in the media and creative industry the opportunity to create a new brand focused on promoting everything we are doing could not be passed by. So we launched “Headline – Let’s talk mental health”. We are taking iterative steps, which we believe over time will make significant strides towards building a work place of the future where people’s mental health and wellbeing is cared for, so that they are able to do their best work in the best workplace.