In the many years I’ve worked in the creative industries, the peaks and troughs have been plentiful – moments of pride, joy and hilarity, often followed by hysteria, palpitations and brow mopping while working through an impossibly long list of ‘to-dos’. Stress is par for the course.


The rollercoaster analogy is a cliché, but it’s a fair one


So, it seemed fitting in the wake of World Mental Health Day, to share some musings on what I’ve learnt over the years, and how I feel about things now. There is a fine line between being driven and ambitious, versus being stressed and overworked.  

And, it’s easy for employers to judge absentmindedness, simple errors and sloppy work as performance issues – rather than a sign that someone needs a helping hand.


The ‘always on’ culture does draw a certain kind of person


One who feeds off the energy of it, but who often does so to the point they burn out and keel over. I’ve definitely been there. And, it’s easy to let that bleed into your personal life too; always exceeding, always delivering, always saying yes, always doing, always ‘on’.  


I wish I’d been quicker to realise it, but working harder is not necessarily working smarter  


As a runner and triathlete, I try and apply the same principal to my training; churning out junk miles isn’t going to get you to where you want to be. Training while juggling work with part-time study – and having a life while I’m at it – means that the time I do have needs to be used efficiently.  


Peaks and troughs are a given in this industry


Equally though, I think the term ‘work/life balance’ gets bandied about a lot. In reality, this balance means different things to different people.  

I’m sure others will agree, but the ‘peaks and troughs’ noted above are a given in this industry, and sometimes we need to go at things full pelt to achieve great things – winning pitches and delivering award-winning campaigns.  

Good things don’t always come easy. As Brad Stulberg controversially coined in the New York Times recently: 

“Maybe we all need a little less balance”  

What is important is HOW to work smart, fostering an environment at work – and in our wider lives – that allows us to deal with the stress that we (sometimes inevitably) have to put ourselves under. It's with that intense effort we deliver great work, or achieve great things while doing what we love.  

In the six months I’ve been working at Whitespace so far, I think we’re doing pretty well on this front. One of our ‘rules’ sums this up nicely:


Work hard and be nice to people


We recognise that things aren’t always going to be a barrel of laughs, but by looking after each other and ourselves, we’re getting off to the best start possible.  

Wellbeing is important to Whitespacers – yes, I can’t deny there is a freshly replenished stash of sweets/cakes/delete as appropriate on each floor daily, and we love when wine o’clock strikes at 5pm on a Friday. (And yes, I realise that as a nutritional therapist in training, I perhaps shouldn’t be advocating this!). 


An environment of wellbeing allows creativity to flourish


In our case, this is a result of a weekly lunch-time running club, yoga classes, hot desk zones, and a heap of spacious & inspiring creative break out areas. This has a knock-on effect…


Studies show that creativity actually improves wellbeing


In the ‘flow’ state creativity evokes, the science suggests that the feel-good hormone dopamine is released. Consequently, the stress hormone cortisol is reduced. This most commonly occurs during meditation, but:

If you can recreate that ‘flow’ state in your workplace, you’re onto something.

I won’t go into all the process chat, and drone on about the ways of working (blah blah blah), because everyone does things differently. As individuals, we all have an idea on what works best for us.  

But, while putting this piece together, I have learned the best way to stay healthy while being able to deliver results in this industry. The secret?


Not to get hung up on the perfect ideal of a ‘balance’ 


Does the perfect balance even really exist? The key is to be ‘present’ and self-aware. I try to create the right environment for myself, recognising that every day, my needs may be different.  


Tuning in to your own needs is important – listen to your body


And, when things get heated, become stressful, or go a bit wrong? Be kind to yourself. Do what you can, with what you have, to make things better. And lastly? Be nice to people – because they might be a little bit stressed, too.

This article was written by Sarah Ormerod.