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Wellbeing for social media professionals


Social media is in many ways a great equaliser. It offers organisations, no matter their size or budget, the opportunity to engage with their audience and to reach new clients, customers, supporters and the public.

It breaks down barriers and makes it easier for people to reach us and for us to reach them. Social media is where we can be a little less formal and a bit more human – whilst always remaining professional.

Wonderful things can happen on, or as a result of, social media. It’s a place where we can create ‘wow’ moments or simply provide a solution to someone’s question. But it can also take a toll on our wellbeing and mental health.

Working in social media often means working in an ‘always on’ culture. Instead of heading to a website or picking up the phone, many people’s first port of call to get information is via social media. And they expect a response almost immediately. Often their question is fairly simple to answer but sometimes it’s not.

The effects of Covid-19 and the impact of the current Cost-of-Living crisis are having devastating effects on individuals, families and communities. In the UK, currently 1 in 5 people are living in poverty. For those of us working social media for charities, local government, blue light services and housing, we are on the front line for those seeking help and support.

Now more than ever, staff wellbeing and mental health should be a priority for organisations. We hope this guide will provide tips, tools and techniques to help you develop a wellbeing strategy (or review your current one), to look after yourself and your colleagues’ wellbeing and to make use of Orlo’s features to help manage your workload and protect your wellbeing.

What is mental health?

We all have mental health, just like we have physical health. And like our physical health, our mental health can vary from good mental health to poor mental health – and everything in-between. Here are some helpful definitions from Mind, the mental health charity.

Mental wellbeing is the ability to cope with the everyday stresses of life, being able to work productively, interact positively with others and to be able to realise your own potential.

We all experience periods of poor mental health. This is when we struggle with low mood, stress or anxiety. We may become short-tempered, feel restless or upset. Mental health is a spectrum of moods, and we all have times when we feel great and times when we don’t.

A mental health problem is when difficult feelings or experiences go on for a long period of time, affecting our ability to enjoy life or to feel joy. Common mental health problems include depression, anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Severe mental health problems include less common conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Work-related stress is the most common cause of stress. The Workplace Health Report revealed how 76% of UK professionals are currently experiencing moderate to high levels of stress and that the top cause of their stress is their workload.

Stress in the workplace is unavoidable. Most people have a limit of stress that is acceptable but when it becomes unmanageable, that’s when it’s damaging to your health and may lead to burnout.

Whilst burnout isn’t officially recognised as a mental health diagnosis, it is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon.’ The symptoms are mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by long-term stress in the workplace.

Spotting the signs of poor mental health

How do you know if someone in your team is experiencing poor mental health? Or how do you recognise the signs for yourself? Typically, it’s a change in behaviour. If a colleague who is normally full of energy, talkative and usually positive becomes withdrawn, quiet and looks sad or tired, these could be signs that they are stressed or struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.

Typical signs include:

Seeming ‘down’ or ‘sad’
Lacking energy
Withdrawing from conversation or activity
Feeling or looking anxious
Trouble focussing or concentrating
Low self-esteem and self-doubt
A loss of interest in things that they enjoyed before
Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems

There are also signs that are not necessarily typical, such as:

Being irritable, agitated or even aggressive
Forgetting things
Sleeping either too much or too little
Eating too much or too little
Neglecting personal appearance or hygiene

If you identify any of these signs in a colleague, either seek out the support of one of your Mental Health First Aiders or try to initiate a conversation yourself.

Mind, the mental health charity, has helpful tips on how to start a conversation about mental health. They include things like, finding a quiet place, actively listening, not interrupting, reflecting their words back, reassuring them and signposting to sources of support.

The most important thing that you can do is to listen, rather than actively give advice as you’re not a trained professional. Signpost them to available support within your organisation, such as a Mental Health First Aider or external support, such as an employee assistance counselling helpline.

Creating a Wellbeing Strategy

A joint report by the Mental Health Foundation and London School of Economics and Political Science found that mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £117.9 billion annually. A study by Deloitte found that for every £1 spent by employers on investing in supporting employee’s mental health, they get £5 back in reduced absence and staff turnover.

Investing in employee’s mental health and wellbeing is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense too. One way to ensure that you’re meeting the needs of your staff is to have a wellbeing strategy in place.

A wellbeing strategy should be holistic and address psychological wellbeing, physical wellbeing and financial wellbeing. It could contain a short-term response as well as a long-term prevention.

Some areas your strategy may want to address are:

Health promotion – initiatives supporting mental and physical health, such as having mental health first aiders, employee assistance programmes, private medical aid, gym membership discounts etc.
A good working environment – offering flexible working, financial support towards working from home (a suitable office chair, a monitor etc), training for line managers, initiatives to help staff feel valued etc.
Personal and professional development – offering mentoring or coaching, training in financial management and budgeting, effective professional development plans etc.

Your wellbeing strategy will be unique to your organisation, based on the needs of your staff and the initiatives that you chose to implement. Your strategy should also be a ‘living strategy’ in that it should be continuously developed to meet the needs of employees. For example, the Cost-of-Living crisis will be affecting staff wellbeing and the strategy should reflect this.

Tips for self-care

Just as it’s important to look out for the wellbeing of our colleagues, it’s imperative that we look out for our own wellbeing too. Here are some tips for self-care.

Define your boundaries – a boundary is a limit that you set on what is acceptable and what is not. For example, you may set a boundary around work WhatsApp group messages after 5pm (only urgent messages allowed) or sending emails over the weekend. Define what your boundaries are, put them in place, communicate them to others (this is where the Manual of Me can help) and then stick to them.
Protect your lunch break – make sure to put your lunch break in your calendar and block it out so that no one can put in a meeting. It’s so important to take a break from work and away from your screen. Senior leaders should encourage this or, like some organisations have done, make it mandatory that there are no meetings between 12 and 2pm.
Learn to say ‘no’ – many of us want to show willing and please people by saying ‘yes’, even when we’re already stretched. One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to learn to say ‘no’. Be honest about your current workload and why you’re unable to take on anything else, as it would mean working evenings and perhaps weekends. If it’s urgent, a good manager will take something else off your list so that you can complete the urgent task.
Have separate devices – if possible, have separate work and personal phones. This helps to separate the personal from the professional when it comes to checking your own social media in your personal time.
Do what makes you happy – carve out time, whether it’s before or after work, or during your lunch break, to do something that makes you happy. It may be a walk in the park and being amongst nature, it could be reading a book, playing a sport or going to the gym. Whatever it is that you love doing, it’s important to take time for yourself and build it into your everyday life.
Pack away your workspace – working from home is great for getting back time that would be spent on travel, for example. However, it can encroach on work/life balance if you’re not careful. At the end of each working day, pack away your office – even if this simply means putting your laptop and notebook out of sight.

How to look after your team

For those working in customer-service focussed roles there is a duty of care to your customers and clients. The effects of Covid-19 and the Cost-of-Living Crisis has seen the customer service team at Housing Association, United Welsh, picking up the pieces for many of their social housing clients.

They are dealing with increasingly more incidents of talking down desperate, sometimes suicidal, residents who are struggling to pay their rent and bills. The customer service team is now a fourth disaster response team.

Just as they have a duty of care to their residents, United Welsh has a duty of care to look after their staff and to ensure that they are supported when these distressing incidents occur.

Gavin Short, Customer Experience Manager at United Welsh, shares how they are putting their colleagues’ wellbeing front and centre.

Debrief after a difficult interaction – it’s so important to have a debrief with your manager or a colleague after a difficult interaction. Just getting it off your chest and talking through how you handled it, and how you’re feeling, can be hugely beneficial.
Mandatory break – after the debrief, we ask our team member to take a break. Whether they go outside for a walk, make a cup of tea or watch a bit of telly, it’s vital that they take the time away from work and their screen.
Check-in after a couple of days – we make sure to check-in two to three days later to make sure that they are ok and that they are not still affected by the interaction. If they are still affected, we signpost them to appropriate support.
Access to a wellbeing service officer – all of our staff have access to a wellbeing service officer, who is trained in mental health first aid. We encourage our team to talk to them after a difficult or traumatic interaction.

It’s so important to create a culture of openness around mental health and wellbeing so that there is no stigma around seeking support when you need it.

How Orlo’s features can help protect your wellbeing

Working in social media means having your finger on the pulse of your sector and looking out for reactive opportunities. It also means being exposed to things that are happening in the wider world, such as a natural disaster that has devastated lives or an outbreak of war – and the emotional images and videos that may emerge.

Monitoring channels and scrolling through feeds will inevitably expose you to everyday racism, sexism, hate speech, homophobia and more. Whilst it’s important to ensure that you are fulfilling the requirements of your role, it’s equally important to protect your own mental health and wellbeing.

Ben Kelly, Product Manager and Mental Health First Aider at Orlo, shares features Orlo has built to help protect your wellbeing in your social media role.

Profanity filter – this can be used to blank out selected offensive words or prevent them from ending up in the Orlo inbox at all.
Message redaction – admins or other approved team members have the ability to monitor incoming messages and redact those containing offensive content to protect the wider team.
Message routing – this feature allows you to auto-route messages that contain sensitive content to specially trained staff.
Option to block profiles – if you have a follower who consistently breaks your community guidelines, or has sent offensive messages, you can block their profile so that they are unable to contact you anymore. There is also an option to hide messages with certain content or from certain people.
Topic Analysis – tags can be used to monitor which agents are dealing with which subjects and ensure no one is dealing with a disproportionate amount of sensitive topics or alternatively make sure support is on hand for those that are.

If you’d like to find out more about these features, get in touch with the team at Orlo.

Helpful wellbeing resources

Not only is wellbeing an important topic, it’s a vast topic. We hope this guide has provided you with the information, tips, techniques and tools you need to help you protect your wellbeing, and that of your team. Here are some additional resources and templates to help you on your wellbeing journey.

Wellbeing guide for comms professionals – CharityComms

Stress and how to cope with it – Mental Health UK

Mental Health First Aider training – MHFA England and St John Ambulance

Wellness Action Plan (template) – Mind

Wellbeing Strategy (template) – Bailey & French

Manual of Me (includes a template) – CharityComms

Reasonable adjustments for mental health – ACAS

Framework for positive mental health at work – ACAS

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Kirsty Marrins

Digital Communications Specialist

Kirsty started her career in the finance sector but soon realised it wasn’t for her. She moved into the charity sector in 2007 and has never looked back. She’s worked in a number of in-house communication roles before going freelance in 2015. In 2018 she took on an interim Social Media Manager role at the British Red Cross and worked on two emergency appeals. Kirsty was the interim Social Media Manager at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH) in 2021/22 where she worked on a number of high profile campaigns. As well as specialising in social media, Kirsty is a copywriter and writes regularly for Third Sector and Charity Digital. After a high-profile charity Twitter crisis, Kirsty realised there was very little resource and support, in terms of wellbeing, for those working in social media. So in 2019 she authored the Wellbeing Guide for Comms Professionals for CharityComms, which is still their most-read resource. She has also featured on a number of podcasts, including CharityComms, Do more good, Third Sector, Tech for Good Live and more.

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