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Unrulies Speak Out About Managing Their Mental Health During COVID-19

World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

To mark the event, we reached out to Unrulies in London, Hamburg, Tel Aviv, Singapore and New York to find out how they’re managing their mental health during the pandemic.

Q: How have you found working from home over the past six months?

Kristy Mei, Associate Marketing Manager, New York: “It wasn’t great in the beginning from March to June as both my boyfriend and I worked from a small NYC apartment. We were talking over each other during calls and neither of us had a desk set up. I would work from the couch and then watch TV on the same couch– so I hated that there was no separation of work and personal space. Luckily, we’re now both able to work from his office.”

Gal Topaz, SVP International Operations and Sales, Tel Aviv: “I’ve found that working from home increases my productivity. I’ve also been eating much better and the time I save on traffic goes towards exercise.”

Kelly Jacobson Collins, Product Compliance Director, London: “I’ve always enjoyed working from home as it gives me the opportunity to focus and be flexible. I was simultaneously home-schooling a seven and nine-year-old, so it was exhausting trying to prioritise at times. Yet my role (working with the West Coast of US) gave me the opportunity to home-school in the morning and then work in the afternoon and evening.

Jonathan Koh, Senior Marketing and Communications Executive, Singapore: “It started out pretty well, but things started to get challenging largely due to the ‘Circuit Breaker’ (a nationwide stay-at-home order implemented by the Singapore Government), which prevented us from dining out or even meeting people from other households. That was probably the toughest two months of this year so far.”

Q: How has your daily routine changed over the past six months? Are you doing anything differently to how you were at the beginning of the pandemic?

Janette Hoefer, Marketing and Communications Lead, Hamburg: “Definitely. For example, I have a much more elaborate morning routine. It includes a few minutes of meditation, some movement and stretching, journaling and goal setting. Habits I often aspired to before but never found the time to implement.”

Nicola Spooner, Global VP Strategy, London: “I have learnt the value of outdoor space and exercise. As a family we used our lunchbreak each day to walk around the park and get fresh air and chat about what was going on. It was a part of my routine that energised me. We also had a great summer in the UK (which never happens) so being able to spend time seeing that each day was special.”

Q: How are you managing your mental health? Are there any techniques, routines, processes that have particularly helped?

Karina Stelling, People Team Director, Hamburg: “I am not really an early morning person, so I need my time when I get up and I try to ease into the day with some coffee and a check-in with friends and colleagues. I’ve also started to meditate a lot at the end of the workday using an app, which has really helped. Being alone but a highly social person, my greatest challenge has been not having the usual chit-chat with colleagues throughout the day, so I depend a lot on calling people and all the messenger apps to stay connected.”

Janette: “The fact that I now feel like a have the time for a few minutes of meditation every day helps a lot. Also, right at the beginning of lockdown I made a deal with myself to leave the house for at least an hour a day to move my body. So, I am going for an evening walk a couple of days a week when I am not at the gym. I think that it is crucial for my mental well-being.”

Nicky: “Getting time away from my screen each lunchtime is important for me. Also, trying to be more flexible in my working has managed my stress levels. For example, when Freddie needs me to be around, I know I can take advantage of Unruly’s flexible working hours to make that day work for me. Finally, putting in time for coffee a couple of times a week with colleagues that I miss, just to catch up and chat, has been a real boost for my mood and reminded me that we are all in this together and are all there for one another.”

Jonathan: “I’m very thankful for video conferencing technology, which has kept me sane during the two months of isolation. Instead of hitting the bar, drinks over ZOOM calls became a weekly thing. Apart from that, I try to keep myself occupied through various activities, be it playing the guitar, cooking, yoga or even brain training apps – I recommend Luminosity and Elevate!”

Q: According to the World Economic Forum, mental health illnesses are on the rise across the world. What do you think needs to be put in place to help address this?

Karina: “At work, I’d say it’s really important for employers to have systems and processes in place that employees can use if they feel the need to — like a helpline or an Open House, where they can drop in if they want to talk and actively practise a culture of openness.

“The problem is, those seeking help with their mental health (and that’s the hardest but most important part) are sometimes forced to wait a long time to speak to someone. Unless, of course, they can pay for it themselves, which comes with a price tag. 
I would love to see mental healthcare accessible for everybody. When you break a leg, you don’t have to wait to be treated — you seek help and receive it, and your leg will heal. Mental illnesses are often still not seen as an actual illness by many. That’s why I believe the World Mental Health Day is so important. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”

Kelly: “We need to do more to help our children and young adults. A year in the life of a seven or 17-year-old is far more impactful than a year in the life of a 37-year-old! I’ve had to support the mental health of my children throughout the pandemic, and there is a chronic shortage of help for them. I phoned the doctor, and they could offer me help, but not them. Given it was my son who couldn’t stop crying, it was him who needed help! It was very difficult to watch.”

Nicky: “I think that taking the time to understand everyone’s story and situation with the global pandemic is essential to employers. We’re all dealing with different pressure points and concerns that in many cases cannot be easily resolved or dismissed. Knowing that your employer is on your side and there to listen can truly make a difference to employee anxiety levels.”

Q: Tell us about something positive that’s come out of this situation for you.

Kristy: “I’ve really enjoyed spending time with my boyfriend over the past six months. We are in the same space every day, but that hasn’t taken much out of the relationship. Even though we are close in proximity, we are both working for different companies and on different types of projects, so, at the end of the day, it still feels good to just hang out together and be present.”

Gal: “I’ve really valued the time I’ve been able to spend with my wife and kids. Every day I look forward to our mealtimes, where we can just be in the moment together, enjoying each other’s company.”

Janette: “I have learned a lot about myself and how to handle challenges of all kinds during this time. Through that, I have come up with a lot of tactics and routines that improve my work and personal life. Do I want to stay at home alone forever? Of course not. But I think a hybrid model with offices as a place to interact and share — instead of a place where you must sit for eight hours straight — could be a terrific solution for a lot of companies and industries. Of course, this can only work if employees also act responsibly and independently, and in a fair and motivated manner.”

Nicky: “I’ve done some of the best work of my career during lockdown, as necessity is the mother of all invention! When we couldn’t run our U7 events in person, the team and I had to think of how else we could engage with our valued clients and be useful to them. The output has been well received and the contact we have had with those client council members has grown in frequency as a result. I am still looking forward to returning back to in-person events, but I think it’s opened my eyes to what else we can do as a business that is truly meaningful.”