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Season 2 Episode 13: Dan Holden

By October 28, 2020 No Comments

Episode 13: Looking After Your Own Wellbeing

With Dan Holden

Episode Summary:

The CIPR Health survey, published in August 2020, highlighted that 83% of respondents had felt an impact on their mental health because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While internal comms professionals have been tending to their businesses’ needs, have they been looking after themselves?

Dan from Horizon Comms joins Remote Control to discuss practical tips and provide advice from his own experiences about how IC pros can take care of their own wellbeing.

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Episode Transcript

Jack Ford:

Hi, Dan. Thanks for joining us for season two of Remote Control. Great to have you on. I think since we talked about coming on, you’ve taken up a new role in the CIPR Inside group. Is that right?

Dan Holden:

Yeah. Thanks, Jack. I’ve been on the committee for two years, and as you said, I have volunteered myself for the role of treasurer for 2022. Yeah, it’s certainly going to be a busy time for us next year, but, yeah, really looking forward to it and the challenges ahead, and more importantly, helping the IC community. As we know, this year’s definitely been an interesting one, and I think certainly next year is going to still give us plenty of challenges and importantly, opportunities ahead for the year, which it will be great to get involved with.

Jack Ford:

That sounds very exciting. I guess this year that community has probably had to come together more than ever, has it? Have you found that within that committee or within the group?

Dan Holden:

Absolutely. I think as well, there’s a couple of bits there. As a group, we’ve definitely bonded. We stood up as a new committee at the start of the year. Then very quickly, as we know, all got onto the virtual world. So we’ve really had to adapt ourselves to working virtually as a new group, which is when we’ve never met face-to-face, deliver content events. I suppose the same as in the day job, but we’ve really supported each other and had to, especially when everyone on the committee’s got a day job predominantly focusing on internal communications. Then to have the motivation to think about then doing internal comms in the evenings and weekends certainly puts an added pressure on, but everyone involved is passionate about the subject, to deliver events, think about blogs to help each other, and some of the resources that we’ve been able to put together both through the CIPR and in partnership with a few others.

Dan Holden:

Underlying all that, it’s really as well a committee that we can rely on each other. It could be just actually some of our committee meetings have been more around checking in, making sure that actually everyone’s doing okay themselves, both personally, family, and to sometimes even not talk about internal comms, and to just make sure that we’re there on hand. We’ve all been learning this year. There’s certainly been no guidebook to help us through COVID, so having just that WhatsApp group on hand to go, “Oh my goodness. This has just landed on the door following last night’s press news. How on earth is everyone else tackling?” So even maybe just have those quick, five-minute calls just to share some ideas just to help give you a bit of focus, and make sure that you can calm yourself down, and have that support virtually.

Dan Holden:

It can often be uncomfortable or hard to speak to maybe people internally when everyone’s busy, and you’re wanting to make sure that you and the team are doing the best job that you can. So it’s that extra network of support. Yeah, certainly as a committee, it’s been all guns blazing, but importantly, we’re there for each other.

Jack Ford:

That really sounds invaluable support or a support network like you mentioned when things have been so busy, so new, and so ready to change. Certainly, at the start of the pandemic, it was almost every day, something new, new advice or new guidelines were coming in. So, yeah, having that network on hand must have been, yeah, really helpful. I can totally see how that would have been something that was used quite regularly and helped guide and steer that group into making the decisions that they needed to.

Dan Holden:

Absolutely. Also, if I step outside the committee role, I think the IC community as a whole has always been… I’ve mentioned it in a couple of blogs, but have always been an amazing group. I often say to people who are kind of new into the profession, “In a way, you’re not really competing with each other in terms of internal communications. Often, my op team are looking at new ways of sales and generating leads, but for us, communicating with our employees, that’s not quite necessarily the case. I’ve certainly seen a great virtual world appear over the last six months, whether it’s things like the Fort Group that’s on the Guild App. It’s a great example of something that’s grown to allow people to connect who are either looking for opportunities or know people who they’re trying to support into a new role and signposting to jobs.

Dan Holden:

Judicially, where I think we’ve all been kind of maybe a bit reserved in putting ourselves out there on social, there’s definitely been more of a step up. I’ve certainly made a lot of new connections this year in terms of IC of people just messaging direct after a bit of advice or just someone to chat to. These are people maybe who wouldn’t have reached out before. Yeah, it’s certainly a great community for internal communications online, sharing examples. Like I say, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to find the best way of dealing with this virtual world that we’re now operating in. In some cases, rolling off new platforms virtually within overnight or 48 hours where previously, we probably would have planned that over months. So the power of that community is definitely one that I think will stay with us. It’s definitely brought us closer together within the profession as well.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, that’s a really encouraging outcome, I suppose, of the crisis has been that togetherness that you’re describing. It’s something that would be great for it to continue if we’re in less choppy waters. Whenever that is, that sounds like it’d be really beneficial to the profession and especially people new into the role. I mean, goodness me, anyone new into an IC role this year must have been wondering what they did to deserve it, I suppose.

Dan Holden:

I think, yeah, absolutely. I’ve spoken to one or two people who’ve got straight into their comms exec kind of role and gone, “Wow, this really wasn’t what I was expecting.” I think they’ve certainly embraced it. I think what a great learning opportunity at the same time in terms of you’ll never have planned that 12 months before, but equally that people are under of tight deadlines, trying to interpret everything that’s going on in the world around them is unprecedented. It’s something that we’re all getting to grips with.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, definitely, I think a lot of our events on the CIPR Inside group have been more accessible. We’re reaching people that previously we didn’t. We did an event couple of months ago for those that are new into the profession, our Stepping Up series. It was amazing to have someone join from Dubai, someone join from South Africa who… Probably, six months ago, we wouldn’t have that either. It was a very UK-based audience. We’re seeing even at the senior levels of things like charter-ships, more people coming globally together because we’re all in the same situation across the globe. Yes, there’s cultural differences that we need to consider, but actually, whichever country you’re in, we’re all kind of facing the same situation. So that community, I think, link’s definitely increasing.

Dan Holden:

Just last week, we posted out some of our measurement reports. I had one go out to Botswana, again, one to Dubai, States, Canada. So it’s really showing that actually, we’re coming together, I think, a lot more closer as a profession. That can only be a good thing for us long-term. I’m convinced that those conversations will carry on, and actually, we’re starting to get insights into different ways of working that we didn’t think about. So for me, it’s a great opportunity.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, that’s really good. You mentioned there about some of the opportunities to learn with the tight deadlines, that the pressure of change. I think that’s really where I wanted the focus of this conversation to be around was I saw some of the posts from your Horizon Comms blog around well-being. A couple of the episodes on Remote Control have been around how internal comms teams can help make sure that the mental health and well-being of the employees is looked after or still on the radar, but it’d be really interesting to hear your thoughts on how you think the internal communications teams themselves and the profession themselves have taken the time to look after their own well-being when it’s been so busy. It feels like maybe it could easily be neglected.

Dan Holden:

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, and it was an interesting one when I did some of those blogs because, originally, the focus was on how can I share my experiences with others, of support well-being initiatives in organizations. Where actually what was becoming quite apparent, and I was experiencing myself as were plenty of other people and stuff are, is that being, I suppose, people people, we’re always thinking of others, and working the extra hours to make sure that we’re doing the best we can for our colleagues, to make sure they’ve got the right information, everything’s timely. That, like I say, your own well-being often goes on the back foot. It’s almost sometimes when it’s a bit too late that you, weeks down the line, thinking, “I’ve just been running at 110 miles an hour and not had the chance to stop yet.”

Dan Holden:

I say it’s absolutely vital that throughout this, you have to give yourself that time to put yourself first and to have those breathing spaces. I think that’s definitely… I know as a Inside committee, where we changed the focus of our meetings to stop thinking about planning content six months out and what the next event is, but actually just to really check back in how everyone’s doing and to try and also support others as well, like to pick up when someone isn’t quite themselves. Is there a way that you can support?

Dan Holden:

I think it’s very easy that we end up working at home, dealing with the influx of emails, trying to turn around content, doing video recordings remotely. Then before you know it, you think, “Actually, it’s now four in the afternoon, and I didn’t even stop for my lunch break.” So I think some of it’s we’re pushing out content to help with well-being, reminding colleagues to take breaks, to go outside, and that the business doesn’t expect them to be working 24/7. That actually, we need to make sure we’re doing that ourselves. We need to step away from the computer and give ourselves a lunch break. Our bodies will only function as well as we’re looking after them, and that’s both mind, soul. So it’s important that we take on our own advice.

Dan Holden:

I found sometimes I get to the end of the week, and you’ve been so engrossed in drafting, proofing, and publishing content that, actually, have I taken the view of the employee and sat, read what that advice is saying, and thought to myself, “I’m actually taking on board some of those points.” I think that’s a common… right across the internal comms board at the moment. There’s some great groups that have set up that provide support, both formally and informally. They’ve been an absolute blessing for me to have those communities again on hand and actually have someone else go, “Are you looking after yourself?” Rather than me telling others are they looking after themselves.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, it definitely feels that everyone kind of needs that nudge to maybe look at their own situation and being concerned. Like you say, being people people as internal comms teams professionals, that it’s very easy to slip into the trap perhaps of just focusing on everyone else and just having someone check back on you would be a nice reminder. I wonder if there’s anything that you seen in terms of being that person to nudge someone else. What type of signs could people look for to see this one’s maybe not themselves? It seems like it might be harder in a remote environment because you can’t see perhaps their body language outside of a 30, 60-minute video call. I wonder what else we could look for to try and just check in on someone.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, it definitely being, like I say, that virtual space is… Like you say, you’re not picking up body language as much when we’re grabbing a coffee in the breakout area. So interesting just last week, I did my mental health refresher course. A couple of years ago, I did the two-day first-aider called Mental Health. It was interesting last week, and that same topic top of the agenda there about how do you spot those signs.

Dan Holden:

Firstly, if anyone is thinking about it, I’d highly recommend those courses. That was run through Mental Health First Aid England. I think it really gets you thinking about the well-being of others. It’s kind of thinking, “Actually, are people maybe starting to switch off their video cameras with you more often than they were before? Is it telltale signs that maybe people have gone from getting into that mind space of I’m up still regularly? I’m up, showered, dressed for work, and ready for the day ahead to have you noticed a change in colleagues actually going… They’re kind of in their PJs for most of the day, which wasn’t like them maybe a couple of years ago.”

Dan Holden:

Thinking about the environment they’re in. It’s being aware of I’ve got colleagues who live on their own. So it’s being aware that actually if they’ve not got meetings in the diary, that perhaps they aren’t talking to people as often. Have you gone from hearing from someone each day, who logs in first thing, sends you that quick direct message going, “Oh, morning. How’s everyone,” to going, “Actually, I genuinely don’t hear from them now until I message them first.” It’s those really subtle things that are hard each day to notice changing because, like I say, we’re probably all logging in, busy as ever to actually going, “Oh, yeah. Actually, that person isn’t quite as maybe upbeat themselves,” to even things like tone of voice on the phone. Are they chipper as they were when you used to speak to them? Are calls just as long or perhaps are they being quite, not rude, but short on the phone and keen to get off?

Dan Holden:

And thinking about what people were up to at the weekend. Are they starting to say that they’re not going out for fresh air or walks, and actually, they’ve been in all weekend is definitely going to change how someone emotionally is going to be feeling for the week ahead? I was certainly very guilty of only just this week, I’ve taken my first week off since March. Again, that was through no fault other than my own of not thinking of, “Actually, I’ll take a week off to recharge the batteries.” It was only when someone said, “Actually, I think you need to give yourself some downtime. You need to have that switch off from work.” That’s something we probably don’t notice ourselves, and it does take someone external to kind of recognize the situation you’re in and to recognize the change in your own behavior.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, really think about, I suppose my personal advice and experiences, what are those subtle changes you’ve noticed with someone on video? Actually, are they the same as what they were maybe a month or two ago? I think there’s some great tips that I’ve certainly picked up that I’m more than happy to share about what things I think you can do as a team or with colleagues to really help in that space.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, that’d be great to hear some more about. I also saw one of your posts was around you talk about getting outside at some point during the day. That’s something I tried to do, and I think in the UK as the days get shorter, it’s not so easy it once the kids’ bedtimes are done, and just having to wrap up a bit warmer. Yeah, it’d be great to hear some of the practical tips, I think, things that people can do to maybe relieve some stress or just move their head into some slightly different place than being really busy all the time. Yeah, one of your posts went into a bit of detail, so if you’re able to chat about a few of those things, that’d be interesting, I think.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, absolutely. I guess two parts, I suppose. There’s things we can do during our working day that help support us and the other hard bit, I guess, is that switch off from when you finish the working day to then switching over. Some things that I’ve seen work really well is that actually, team catch-ups for a lot of the time were always video-based. Everyone logging into Zoom or Skype or whichever platform they’re using in the same for one-to-one meetings.

Dan Holden:

Actually, putting some of those during the day to just telephone calls, putting in your headphones, and actually having a half-hour walk and talk team catch-up. That, I’ve seen has been a really nice one because it’s forcing you and your colleagues to actually step away from your desk. A, stand up, which is great for your desk. We’re all probably guilty of sitting hunched over laptops and things at the moment, but actually just taking a half-hour stroll around the block or within social distancing and all the right ways of doing so, but it just gets you out. It could be talking about… doesn’t need to always be work.

Dan Holden:

One of the tips that I picked up from the event I did last year with Comms Unplugged is actually paying attention to what’s around you. Actually, talking out loud to each other like, “Oh, do you know I’ve just noticed…” Change in the color of the trees at the moment, I think, is quite a nice one as we’re starting to reach Autumn. And to really switch you off a little bit, but again getting you outdoors, a bit of fresh air.

Dan Holden:

Or if you’ve not got the ability to go out, saying to your team, “Actually, why don’t you nip downstairs, grab a brew, and we’ll just put the speakerphone on and just have a conversation while we’re sat on the sofas?” Again, it’s just changing your workspace that we would do probably in the office of nipping to the canteen. We wouldn’t sit and probably have one-to-ones at the desk next to each other. It’s just trying to replicate some of those changes.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, That makes a lot of sense actually. Just thinking about the change that that has, I mean you’re seeing it, I’m sure, but when you’re having a video call, especially as a team, not so much one-to-one, but a team call like that. There always tends to be someone on the grid that’s tapping away at emails or chats to other teams. I suppose being out and about, you’ve got that break from staring at a screen, but there’s also a potential to be a little bit more dialled into the conversation and a bit more focused on the team conversation. Whether that is about work or whether it’s about a general catch-up, you’re not distracted by the thousand other notifications that are coming into your inbox or Yammer or whatever it is that you use.

Dan Holden:

I think definitely notifications are the worst. I have days where if I’ve got no meetings, you’re trying to knock down to do quite a detailed piece of content or work on a project that actually don’t feel bad about going, “Right, on my instant messenger, I’m going to turn off the notifications. On my emails, I’m going to mute my computer so actually, I don’t get distracted.” So that you’ve not got popups, and I think I’ve definitely seen an increase in the amount of people who direct message and suddenly what was maybe a quick 10-minute call, suddenly people are putting in your diaries as half-hour. Even things simple as my lunch breaks, I put in as an out-of-office block. So if any meetings go in at that time, it automatically rejects it because I just want to make sure that I’ve got some time in the day for myself. Otherwise, it’s very easy for all those little, half-hour meetings to build up.

Dan Holden:

And also to never forget about all the little things to celebrate. One post I remember reading was that actually, it can be very easy sometimes in comms because so much is going on, so much changes that you sometimes feel that actually, you don’t quite achieve as much as you wanted to that week. You’re still waiting for sign-off or something’s rolled to the next week. Kickoff maybe a weekly team meeting or the start of the week about actually what was it last week or what was it from the day before that you managed to do. It could be just something as simple as I managed to tick this off the to-do list or you know what? I managed to take 10 minutes outside today when the weather was nice and noticed that some of my flowers have come into bloom. It just puts you just in a little bit of positive mind. It doesn’t always need to be the big things of we delivered our town hall, and the feedback was really good. Never forget about those small things, which often, I think, we do overlook especially during the busy weeks.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, celebrating those little wins. There’s something that we use. It’s not quite based on celebrating your own wins, but we have a system called Highfive where you can just give a really informal, quick thanks or well done, congratulations to members of the team. It’s a bit of fun. It encourages you to use a meme or a GIF and text box there to write in what you think they’ve done well. It’s nothing that contributes to a review or anything like that further down the line, but it’s just a nice way to say thank you in a open setting. It’s kind of a bit of a feed that comes through with those high fives. I suppose it’s a little bit like that, but just focused on someone else again, as we talked about earlier.

Dan Holden:

Like I say, things don’t need to be so formal. Like you say, a quick high five is great. It’s the mental concept of praise and reward, and like I say, which we all appreciate. Like I say, probably we don’t go out seeking it, but it’s a nice feeling when it does. I think the other thing that we definitely noticed within internal communicators is, I think my first blog that really shocked me as to the amount of responses I’ve got back of people who’re saying, “God, I feel the same,” is that feeling of overwhelm by everything going on because we’re maybe not having those conversations that you can vent or when you get that email that irates you, you might quickly vent for a minute or two and gets it out of your system. Instead, you’re getting it on the screen, allowing things to build up without talking.

Dan Holden:

So another one I found was 10 minutes at the end of each day, I just write down my three things I want to do for the next day. It was advice I got from a boss a few years of take everything in threes. I’ve seen colleagues to-do lists that go over pages and pages, which it’s probably the same for all of us, but the reality is that you’re looking straight away at many pages of A4 going, “How on earth am I going to ever get through this?” That list just builds and builds. Where for me, I go, “Right. If all else, that’s three things on the Post-It Note that tomorrow I want to tick off. That could be as simple as booking my annual leave, publishing that on the intranet, and getting that comms plan over to colleague. Yes, you’re going to have more that you need to do, but you’ll feel a lot better if you’re going, “Oh, actually, I’ve crossed those things off. That’s that bit off,” and taking it in bite-sized chunks.

Dan Holden:

I know there’s some great apps out there for trying to keep up with everything on the to-do list, whether it’s things like Trello or your maybe Microsoft to-do list. I just find they end up overwhelming me because I’m constantly trying to make sure they’re up-to-date and going, “Oh, I need to add that and add that,” but I go actually, “What is my focus for tomorrow? They’re my three things. Yes, I’ll probably get three things done as well, but actually at the end of the day, oh, good. That’s done. What’s next?

Jack Ford:

Yeah, that makes total sense. Yeah, I can relate to a short to-do list. I’m looking at my notepad there, and I too, I’ve just been on holiday last week actually. I’d made a little to-do list for when I return. Yeah, there’s maybe four or five things on there, which were, right, if I do these in the first week when I’m back, that’s a good first week back. Yeah, good to say I’ve already got one ticked off.

Dan Holden:

Good.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, it always feels good to do that and same with those type of apps. I do use Trello. Yeah, I know what you mean about being overwhelmed. I don’t think that’s Trello specifically. I think that’s kind of any type of system out there because the need is to make it almost a complete recording of plans as opposed to an initial focused to-do list. Maybe there’s a way to use it where you could kind of triage the huge list into a separate board so that you only tend to look at the shorter to-do list, but, yeah, I totally understand what you mean about getting overwhelmed. It does feel like as soon as you decide to have your work live online, you need it all to be there. Then you’ve fallen into the trap of being overwhelmed by everything again.

Dan Holden:

Oh, definitely. Like I say, the tools out there, like I say, are absolutely great. I use Trello quite a lot for very project-based work that are looking at, okay, what’s on this month, what are the big-ticket items. Just personally for me, I found getting into things like checklists, and all those other to-do lists, and setting dates, I was… I know these tools are absolutely powerful, and everyone works slightly different, but I just found, actually, I’m losing sight. Suddenly, you’re looking at to-do list going, “Oh, no, because I’ve not updated dates, I’ve suddenly got 21 things that are all flagged and due today or expired.” Where the reality is so much changes, especially at the moment. Yeah, it’s really just honing in on actually what are those priorities.

Dan Holden:

A big part of it as well, I think, is boundaries. I learned that last year during a course called Compass that Joe Hooper for the Mad and Sad Club runs. It really gets you to think about almost some guidelines about what is it that’s important to you, to make sure that actually, you know what, I’m okay logging in a bit early. But it’s important for me that five o’clock, I’m starting to shut down the computer, and not get caught, and to think about actually Sundays as my day for family or my hobby.

Dan Holden:

For me, I had to really think about that. Doing a lot with the CIPR Inside, it was very easy this year for things to spend all day dealing with internal comms, quickly having dinner with my partner, and then suddenly going back into an internal comms space to help with the committee. So having, I think, boundaries of, actually, you know what? Monday, Tuesday, I’m not going to do this. I’m going to focus on me, the family. It’s important. It sounds simple, but yet, it’s those kind of things that we start to let slip when we’re trying to deal with everything that we’re doing in the day.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, I think something that I noticed, which was actually I noticed that the outcome was that I’ve not listened to the podcast I used to listen. I fairly religiously listened to a football podcast, a Adam Buxton Podcast, and a few others. Suddenly, I had no commute. My commute was about half an hour, 40 minutes each way. Perfect amount of time to listen to all or most of a podcast a day. Then suddenly, my commute was going across the landing to the spare room. It was kind of thinking, “Oh, actually, at the time when schools and nurseries were closed for me, it was the transition from working very hard up until five, and then coming down to be part of the family again with no switch-off did take me a bit of time to get used to and wasn’t what I’m used to usually with the half-an-hour, 40-minute…” I’m not sure I should say relaxing in the car, but certainly not fully-

Dan Holden:

A different focus.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, a different focus. That suddenly wasn’t there. It was very much almost like a switch of being not at work, at work, not at work, that work, and that type of thing. Yeah, it wasn’t as easy or it wasn’t as smooth as I’d given any thought to it before.

Dan Holden:

No, I think it’s interesting you say about not listening to podcasts. I almost found, I suppose, almost FOMO. I remember writing about it earlier was that I think, suddenly, there was a lot. When everything kicked off and people were at home, there was suddenly a lot more content in terms of webinars, online events, and content available that I almost, I suppose, had that feeling of like, “Oh, no.” Perhaps where before, like you say, I would sit and spend Monday night at home just maybe catching up on telly. I was almost feeling that I was putting pressure on myself to go, “Oh, but someone published that webinar today about, I don’t know, internal comms in a crisis.” You go, “I don’t want to miss it, so I need to watch it.” Where actually the reality is that content’s going to stay there, and actually, do I really need to watch it there and then?

Dan Holden:

A lot of, I think, internal comms people as well, it’s reminding about thinking about your continual professional development plans. Actually, yes, there’s lots of great content out there. It will still be there next week and the week after, but don’t forget to think about what the development is you set yourself for the year ahead. Yes, it’s really busy at the moment, but you kind of keep to that plan that you set yourself. A, obviously, review it and make sure it’s still relevant, but if you set yourself that, by the end of the year, you want to achieve A, make sure you are still in the background working on that. I think I went a couple of months without even thinking about my CPD. Then suddenly, it’s like, “Oh, actually, I don’t want to get to 12 months down the line, and I’ve missed out on something that I could have been developing alongside all this.”

Jack Ford:

Yeah, that’s a really good point. I suppose it almost maybe focuses what content you are paying attention to if you had, at the outset, a particular goal to get towards. You can really focus on what that is.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, absolutely. Things will change. The nature of that plan should be just to keep you on focus. It might be that you’ve gone from an in-house role to maybe freelancing or maybe you were freelancing, and you’ve taken an interim. So it’s thinking about actually alongside everything that’s happening, all your quick responses we’re having to do.

Dan Holden:

Part of that as well is well-being sitting within that plan. For me, this year, it was making sure that actually I had an aim around looking after myself better and actually going, “I can’t do it all. I can’t do the hobbies, the daily job, and think about development for the future. I need to make sure I’ve got some downtime built into that as well.” Well-being has to… For me, it always sits front and center. That was probably only really last year that I started to think more about myself rather than just the well-being content perhaps I was sharing with colleagues.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, but there’s loads of great groups out there. Comms Unplugged and CIPR Health are two that I regularly go to in terms of both for professional resources, but also for my own well-being as well. They’ve been really good at thinking about communicators, but also how you look after yourself, where’s the support services that are available to help you when you kind of feeling down at home.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, I noticed in one of the blogs actually, you listed a few groups. Yeah, another guest I spoke to recently, Victoria Ford, she also mentioned Comms Unplugged as a really valuable group or committee, not committee, but group to connect with. So that’s interesting that came up in yours as well.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, absolutely. I went to their event, See You in the Field 2019 now. It was a real two nights, appreciate it’s not for everyone, but camping. It’s open in marquees. It’s really about, A, you developing as a comms professional. There’s workshops on different topics, but also importantly, there’s the well-being aspect that sits there. That can be anything from laughter, yoga through to just walks out in nature, and thinking about gratitude that’s around you. I remember it well. It was on that drive home from that event how I was like, “I’ve really not paid attention to my own well-being. Like I say, I’ve done in the workplace around employee assistance programs, well-being at work, managers, colleagues, but actually, I probably never really sat and looked at myself.

Dan Holden:

From that, I took a lot in terms of I do a monthly fresh air Friday session, which is about just taking an hour out the focus on you and others. You’re talking about things like gratitude and having space to think and just switching off. Definitely, it has been really important for me. It was probably even two years ago, I would have ran at full steam. At weekends, making sure I was busy doing the hobbies and things that interest me, and making sure that, oh, I’ve got nothing on tonight, so what can I be doing? What can I be listening to?

Dan Holden:

Where now, I’ve kind of really tried to reverse that and getting better at going, “Actually, I’m happy tonight just to sit on the sofa, and have a cup of tea, watch some trash telly, and go to bed early.” I don’t feel that sense of guilt that I’m missing out on an online event that I could be joining or writing a blog post or something like that. It’s just finding that balance of what works for you, but remembering to stop and think about yourself as well.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, trying to avoid that burnout, I guess. I saw a lot of it in the past probably three, four weeks where unconnected sources on the social channels I use and people that I follow, and I think even in news articles because we’re always talking about it feeling almost as if it’s really hard again, that potentially started off as a big shock and a big change, but something that everyone was in all together. Then kind of coming out of the total lockdown in the summer in most places and then the new restrictions, it certainly felt like even if it wasn’t restriction-focused, it did seem like a lot of people were finding it hard again. I know I certainly kind of got into feeling like, “God, it feels like a slog.” I didn’t necessarily have that previously. There’s a lot going on with family, and maybe it’s something to do with the weather always, being able to get outside more often.

Jack Ford:

Yeah, certainly, I don’t know if it’s burnout. I’m not too sure what it would be. It certainly does seem like quite a lot of people are certainly kind of almost hit a wall and needing something to just give them a bit of a boost again. Maybe it’s time off or realigning their focus perhaps.

Dan Holden:

I think that is something I definitely see, and I think, A, personally myself I’ve felt, but more importantly, colleagues around that we are… I think the first couple of months, it was all new to us. So you’ve got everyone’s… I don’t want to say excitement, but it’s those early days of having the benefits of not having that commute for a couple of weeks, and I would say spending.

Dan Holden:

Also, a lot of us, our home environments weren’t geared to working from home. So you can maybe, in the short time, go, “Actually, I’m all right working at the kitchen table for a couple of weeks.” Where now, people are going, “Actually, sitting at the kitchen table… It’s not the right work environment.” We push a lot in the workplace around things like impact assessments to make sure your desk’s right, your posture’s right. Where for a lot of people, they didn’t buy a house or rent a house with that in mind, so they just physically might not have the space for a desk or a computer monitor.

Dan Holden:

I think a lot of us have probably fallen into that second wave of going, “Okay.” Now, the novelty or the thought of waking up, crossing the landing from one bedroom to the second bedroom to now settee is you’re not getting that change of scene of even just, at lunch, you might nip down the road for a quick coffee. You might have nipped, even just as simple as walking up a floor to see colleagues in a different space. Where now, I know I’m getting up every day, and it’s the same room five days a week, which whilst, at first, it was like, “Oh, this is great. It’s at home. I’ve not had to worry about driving, catching the train three days a week.” Where now, I’m like, “Oh, it’s the same walls again.”

Dan Holden:

As humans, we want that little bit of change. We want to be able to have a little bit of freedom, but I think as well talking to a lot of people, it’s because choice is removed from us. I think if the opportunity was there to maybe one or two days a week choose to go in and see your team in the office, it probably would feel a little bit easier. It’s the fact that I know, oh, from the next three months, I have to stay in my room to work. I think that almost makes you feel a little bit more confined. That’s where I know a lot of people have got challenges. It’s hard.

Dan Holden:

A lot of it comes down to making sure that we’re talking. I’ve seen teams do virtual cuddle session where people in the team are just on hand on a call at a set time every week just to chinwag and be on hand just to help support people and talk to each other. I’ve heard of people just posting little items in the post when they know that the team are maybe feeling a bit down just to put a little smile on their face. It’s, I think, trying to avoid what I call forced fun of where suddenly, someone forces a big quiz onto you, and you’re like, “I’m really not in the right mind space for this.” And just having someone go, “Actually, you know what? Let’s just have a chinwag. How you feeling? Try and get it off your chest a little bit,” and to know that you won’t be the only one feeling that way.

Dan Holden:

It’s just important we are just checking in regularly with each other, and, linking back to what we were saying earlier, just recognizing some of those signs that actually someone just maybe needs that virtual hug or to even say, “Actually, you know what? Why don’t you just take the afternoon off? It’s been a busy week. We’re all working probably more hours than we would usually.” That’s vitally important.

Jack Ford:

Yeah. No, that makes sense. I suddenly got an overwhelming urge to give someone a virtual cuddle. That sounds lovely.

Dan Holden:

Yeah, and it’s those things that, in the workplace, you maybe would do if we’re face-to-face. It’s just trying to think of, actually, what are those things that we’re missing as people and as communicators. We’re normally in those meetings. We’re normally talking around the office, floor walking, checking in with people. Actually, how do you try and make sure that colleagues have that opportunity? Because it’s hard for people sometimes to speak up and go, “Actually, I’m not feeling great,” because they have worry that, oh, it would just be seen as moaning or that, well, everyone’s feeling that way. Why should I worry about speaking up?

Dan Holden:

I think we can all help each other out by going, “Actually, I’ve noticed that that person’s not feeling great.” Even something as simple as e-thank-you cards I’ve seen put a big smile on people’s face and just a personalized note, even maybe flagging to your manager or even a head of department to go, “Actually, I think the team’s feeling a little bit down. Actually, maybe just a quick note of actually, ‘You know what, everyone? Friday, I want you all logged off 30 minutes early,’ will make a difference.”

Dan Holden:

It’s those little things we can be doing to help each other out and sharing those ideas as a community. I’ve seen plenty of posts on LinkedIn of people going, “I can see that the team are flat. I can feel the business, the moral’s dropped. What can we do?” And sharing all these little ideas. Often, the best ones come organically from within the business. It’s not a top-down initiative that we’re pushing out to everyone. It’s just different ways that teams work. I’ve seen plenty of virtual book clubs appear in the business and again, people replicating donut sessions were a great one that I’ve recently got involved with of just some of these apps like Slack automatically pairs you with someone for a 15-minute coffee and donut. It’s all those little informal things we can try and do and see what works.

Jack Ford:

Oh, yeah. That sounds good. Definitely sign me up for a donut session. That just sounds brilliant.

Dan Holden:

As long as you’re buying, that’s fine.

Jack Ford:

Of course. So you actually teed discussion up a little bit earlier when you mentioned that you are happy to sit and watch trash TV. Now, the podcast is called Remote Control, and it’s kind of shoehorned that title in so I could start asking people what they watch on telly just to get some Netflix recommendations. So this is the point where I ask you for your recommendations. What’ve you been watching?

Dan Holden:

Been watching quite a mix, however, I suppose my complete trash telly series that I got into unexpectedly was Below Deck. It’s just come out on Netflix. It was on Amazon Prime. It is literally a fly on the wall about crews that are out on luxury yachts, short, 40-minute episodes, but yet, somehow, I got to the end of season eight and was like, “I can’t believe I sat and watched through all this.” I think the big thing was it was just easy watching. I didn’t have to think about it. I mean there was an element, I think, as well of seeing people out in the Mediterranean or out in the Caribbean. I mean I think I took the wrong career. I was watching these people do a three-day trip and come away with two-and-a-half-grand cash tip. I’m thinking, “Oh, okay. I’d happily do that for a week.” Yeah, that was my guilty trash pleasure, I think, for lockdown that I’ve just finished. Yes.

Jack Ford:

That sounds like a good bit of escapism definitely. Well, I’ve really appreciated you coming up to the podcast, Dan. If people want to hear or read more from yourself, where should they go?

Dan Holden:

Oh, yeah, absolutely. The website’s probably the best one. There’s links there to my social channels. That’s horizoncomms.co.uk. I try to keep up-to-date with blogs that I think are relevant and normally what people message me on Twitter or LinkedIn about. I’m always open to ideas of ways to help. I’ve also got a little online community that’s on the Guild App. Again, the website’s got a link to that. Anyone’s welcome to join it, ask questions. It’s a bit of a virtual space as well. Otherwise, I’m on a LinkedIn, Dan Holden, and Twitter as holddani as well. Really accessible, but the website’s got everything on just with links rather than trying to remember everything.

Jack Ford:

Perfect. Well, I’ll make sure I include a link to the website in the episode notes so that for everyone that’s listening, you can get that from the episode description. Well, just leaves me to say thank you so much for joining the podcast today. There’s some really great content in there about how people should probably be turning their attention towards themselves and some really great tips and steps that kind of go into more detail on your website. Yeah, big thanks, Dan.

Dan Holden:

No, real pleasure, Jack. Thank you for inviting me. Like I say, hopefully, it helps. I’m always open to ideas if people are finding themselves in a situation after a bit of advice. I think the more we share a bit of best practice, and it doesn’t need to be around campaign planning or strategy. I think some of that day-to-day job role is important, so thank you.

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Adam Gillin

Author Adam Gillin

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