Employee Wellness

Mindful Managers

How Ogilvy’s Mindful Manager Program Improved Workplace Stress and Mental Well-Being

Hear from Erika Sheridan, Associate Director of People Experience at Ogilvy, on how their People Team was able to improve their employees' mental well-being and reduce workplace stress.

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Erika Sheridan, Associate Director of People Experience at Ogilvy

6 min read

At Ogilvy, our people are our greatest asset. They are the heart of our mission to inspire brands and people to impact the world. Ogilvy recognized that we couldn’t achieve this mission without creating strong environments for our people’s mental health and well-being—helping to avoid anxiety and burnout among our people. As a People Team, our goal was to reduce job stress, create space for well-being, and improve the work environment to address and prevent common mental health issues.

Every company’s people and talent strategy is unique but the success we’ve had through our Mindful Manager Program is instructive for many companies.

Overcoming stigma and giving permission

When it comes to addressing mental well-being, a key part of our approach at Ogilvy is overcoming the stigma by avoiding treating mental well-being as an afterthought; rather, it is a strong, relatable and important work tool to use every day.

We did this by creating a mental wellness program for high-potential managers. This included benefits such as reducing stress, increasing energy, increasing confidence in management and team-building skills, and creating healthier well-being habits.

Reduce stressful work environments by empowering mindful managers

Integrating wellness into our manager training was an integral part of our more approachable tactic for tackling stress and mental health in our workforce. With approximately 2,500 employees across North America, our managers play an incredibly important role in creating a supportive culture for our people across the board. This is why we started with our manager level, focusing on those who can create a sizable impact.

Research consistently demonstrates that mindful interventions for leaders result in a reduction of stress and an increase in leadership skills like relationship-building, self-awareness, and communication. Essentially, leaders who are more mindful or self-aware are better able to regulate their emotions and communicate more effectively. In turn, these types of leadership traits contribute to a more nurturing, healthy, and collaborative team environment.

How Ogilvy partnered with Calm Business to develop a Mindful Manager Program

Partnering with Calm Business was an important part of this strategy. Because of Calm’s well-known brand, most of our employees already knew about the mental health and wellness app and were excited to engage in Calm’s fresh and diverse content in a top-notch digital experience. Moreover, Calm Business’s preventive mental health solution is backed by science, with published clinical studies showing real decreases in stress, anxiety, and depression among users of Calm.

Working closely with Calm Business, we developed the Mindful Manager program to help our leaders cope with stress and create real space for themselves and their well-being. In turn, the more mindful our managers are, the better people managers they can be, and the more they are able to create a healthy culture for their team. Calm’s in-house Workshops and Customer Success team collaborated with us to develop a customized Mindful Manager training program to help us reduce workplace stress and build mindfulness habits.

A key difference in our approach is a focus on all managers, not just executive leaders. We wanted to include leaders responsible for the day-to-day management of their teams and who are truly on the ground with the most employees. This group of leaders is so critical to the success of those around them and to our work. Yet they often experience the most burnout and have the least support.

We ran a four-week program in North America with over 800 managers, who were specifically nominated to join the training. The program included:

  • A training series that included building self-awareness, developing strong relationships with others, and integrating mindfulness into daily work life.
  • For four weeks, all managers in the program were invited to meditate for ten minutes each day across time zones. We asked various executive leaders to lead the daily sessions so that we showed engagement and commitment from all levels. This provided our managers the permission to create space for mindfulness within the workplace.
  • We broke them into small weekly discussion groups, across disciplines and departments, so participants could connect in new ways and discuss how mindfulness was impacting their management style and day-to-day work.
  • We sent a weekly email with the planned activities and training sessions for the week to keep managers continuously engaged in the program.
  • We had both a kickoff and wrap-up session, with all 800+ managers invited to deepen their learnings and receive tools, tips, and tricks on how to continue their mindfulness journey beyond the program.
  • We conducted a pre-program survey and post-program survey by partnering with the Calm Science team to create questions truly focused on people’s behaviors and everyday habits/experiences vs. your “typical” work survey questions. This helped us quantify the results and success of the program and showcased its impact on the whole person vs. only how someone shows up at work.

Meeting people where they are: Calm is tangible and accessible in everyday work

A huge part of our approach to mental health and wellness is meeting people where they are. Calm was a tangible and accessible solution to supporting our people’s well-being. The program could be run within a world-class digital and mobile platform, which many had already had experience using. The biggest focus was finding only 15 minutes within their workday to participate. We created daily calendar invites to help solidify and encourage participation and ensure this would be seamlessly integrated into their day-to-day work. Giving that permission and encouragement to practice mental wellness during work hours made this program feel different. We even had a dedicated job code for the program (as an agency with billable hours) and for any time spent practicing mindfulness. This job code is still available to these managers today.

Beyond the program, our managers have continued to infuse mindfulness into their daily life and promote mental well-being as a preventive approach to mental health. For example, people continue to conduct daily live morning meditations, some individually but also some still together live via Teams. We have a standing 10-minute-per-day calendar invite to encourage this. Our managers were also given tools to conduct well-being check-ins during their 1:1s, and we’ve invited all employees across North America to regular Calm Workshops on a diverse array of topics, including everything from Bringing Self-Care to Life to Building a Gratitude Roadmap. Our People team is constantly working to prioritize mindfulness and mental well-being in our programs, communications, and employee listening and engagement strategies.

We strongly believe that mental health and mindfulness are a journey, and if we are going to support our leaders in this journey, we need continuous tools and resources. Calm Business has provided this and has helped build habits for our managers that will create lasting impact and empowerment. We’ve already heard positive feedback from people who say they can absolutely feel the difference on the days they’ve missed a meditation.

Mindful Manager Program with Calm resulted in a 60% reduction in stress

As a result of the partnership with Calm Business and our Mindful Manager program, we saw significant improvements in leadership skills and stress reduction in the workplace after four short weeks. This included:

  • 60% of managers reported less stress-related impairment in their day-to-day activities
  • 70% improved their ability to be mindful
  • 56% experienced less stress after the program
  • 54% were better able to regulate and reframe their emotions
  • 60% of leaders also said they could better understand how they made decisions and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses.

Overall, the opportunity to partner with Calm Business and strengthen our mindfulness and mental health conversations with our leaders proved to be hugely beneficial. It was particularly encouraging that our managers saw the program was built for them as people and that the company genuinely cared.

We continue to offer more approachable programs and mental health tools to help our employees feel supported and to help prioritize their mental well-being in their daily lives. Integrating daily mental wellness habits like meditation and being a more self-aware manager creates better leaders, better teams, and a better workplace.

Help employees stress less, sleep better, and build more resilience with Calm Business

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