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The Antidote to Burnout


Simon Dewey, co-founder of Covert, on why employee wellbeing is so important

The Antidote to Burnout

The results from the Never Not Creative and UnLtd 2020 mental health survey identified that people in the media, marketing and creative industry were 20% more likely to experience signs of depression than the general public. 

This was a key area that we knew we wanted to do differently. We both knew the effect this industry could have on our mental health, and so employer wellbeing was a cornerstone of the studio's inception. We knew that by investing in our employees we were investing in our business.

Of course, that isn’t to say that our studio is without the issues that many studios face, but we work to ensure that self-care has become part of the norm at the studio. It isn't a box that’s ticked once a week - it’s about all day, every day care. The team's wellbeing needs are met continuously - we check in with them regularly, offer training, encourage them to develop their skills and embrace their own personal RND. As a result, the team enjoys what they do and produce incredible work because their mental capacity is not overloaded.    

Founded in pre-Covid times, we have always had a WFH set up. We never did and never will set up an office - we don’t want the talented team's creative flow to be stifled in one space. As the studio grew though, we recognised that if your home space is also your work space the work/life divide can become blurred and so we now ensure that the team is equipped with both the physical and mental tools needed to separate the two. I believe that’s also another key aspect to a great wellbeing culture: to not be stagnant, to recognise where things aren't working and work with the team to change it. Empower the team to talk about their experiences, recognise them as individuals and know what works for one person may not work for another. 

Holiday (let’s face it, the standard 20 days allowance is rubbish and when I was working for companies this was something that I struggled with the most) is another key area for Covert. We offer 30 days holiday allowance and a 2 week closure over the Christmas period (whilst also recognising other holidays such as Thanksgiving).  As the studio grew, we noticed that not everyone was taking time off and as numerous reports show work pressures and poor work-life balance mean people are not willing to take time off to reset. We therefore implemented a multifaceted support level on all jobs (Exec producers, producers, VFX supervisors) to try and mitigate pressures so that the team felt able to take time off without worrying what they were coming back to.

The team also knows that if they need a break or a bit of fresh air, that’s fine; they can go and take the dog for a walk, no pressure at all. We trust our team, trust that they know what they need to get done but also trust that they know when they are facing burnout. We found by giving them this autonomy it helped prevent burnout, the antithesis of creativity.  This means that as a studio, when we are thrown a curveball (as naturally happens in this industry), the team can step up to the plate and do what’s needed to smash the job as they have the bandwidth to cope- they aren't teetering on the edge of crash point all of the time. 

Every Friday we open up a slack huddle where the team can drop in and out and just have a non-work related chat and test each other's GIF knowledge. As well as this, once a year we close the office for a few days and get the team from all over the world together for a Covert retreat. 

Employee wellbeing was at the forefront of the studio’s beginning and we have tried to cultivate it so it has become embedded into the studio’s culture. It’s not a new strategy to counteract the much needed discussion around mental health now, but it is and always has been part of the studio’s DNA. What we have done isn't anything special - it’s just being conscious and respectful - and in doing so, we feel we’re working towards the antidote to burnout .Our employee retention is great, morale is high and as a result this has become a self-fulfilling embodiment of the company ethos we dreamed up, all while producing incredible work! 

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We Are Covert, Tue, 17 Jan 2023 10:15:00 GMT