Author: Louise Sharp

World Mental Health Day: Putting wellbeing first when the clocks go back

by Louise Sharp |

The nights are drawing in and October gets into full swing with the leaves of the trees starting to change to their autumnal bronze, orange and yellow tones and I am packing for my first flight in over 18 months. With a tinge of excitement, I’m heading off to the airport to join a team from Makara Health who are running a 3-day face-to-face client training session in Scotland. Digging out the suitcase and hunting for ‘work’ clothes, I find myself reflecting on how life has changed since the first lockdown. I used to travel every week and it was almost automatic. Packing then did not need the amount of thought or brain power that this suitcase is taking!

How we use our minds, the stories we tell ourselves, and the habits we form intrigues me, particularly in relation to our mental health and wellness. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, and as someone who struggles during the winter months with lack of sunlight, the approaching darker months signal a time for me to step up the exercise, actively do more to stave away the low moods, and get out into nature.

So in the run up to the clocks changing, I choose to #behappy. I’m digging out my ‘Happy’ lamp of sunshine, for the hours I spend at my desk, and will re-prioritise things that make me feel good. It is important for us all to look after our well-being and support the well-being of others. I am happy to support #HelloYello raising money for Young Minds, a charity fighting for young people’s mental health, very much close to my heart.

What inspires you?

by Louise Sharp |

It is #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and I have stopped for a few minutes to think about what good mental health means to me. This little blog is too short to list the many things it could mean, and the many times we sacrifice our own well-being because something seems more important. But, I found myself asking, what inspires me? When do I feel in that happy place where my mind feels free, when I see opportunity, when curiosity overcomes the to do list, when I give myself permission to be me? Only this morning I was walking in my garden with the dogs marvelling at how alive the garden felt, seeing the leaves come out in the trees and the budding flowers, hearing the bird song, and feeling the dewy grass underfoot. It felt good to be outdoors and connect with nature and that always resets me mentally.

We all know the benefits of good mental health and the importance of raising awareness to help colleagues and friends who may be struggling. 

This Mental Health Awareness Week @MakaraHealth is #ConnectingwithNature and bringing the outside in. We are creating a little haven in our offices planting seeds in our Makara growing pots, and we will share our successes as we see the seeds flourish over the coming months. We will also be focusing on getting ourselves outdoors and giving ourselves permission to focus on our own personal well-being.

It has been a year like no other and personal resilience and growth are such an important human need. Alongside our Makara seeds, we have the lovely Carole Leybourne running a Resilience and Yoga workshop this week for many of the team, providing time to learn something new and explore ways to maintain a level of calm and to build our resilience.

#wellbeingmatters, #healthcarecomms, #mentalhealthawarenessweek, #connectingwithnature

Groundhog Day and Gratitude

by Louise Sharp |

Tuesday 23rd March 2021 was National Day of Reflections and I find myself looking back over the year which, in a nutshell, has been a year like no other. Back in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was taking grip and the first lockdown was announced, I was sat at home in France, where I’d been living for 4 years. As an agency-owner and leader, an uncomfortable sense of panic gripped me as I sat writing a business contingency plan and wondering what on earth was happening in the world and would I have any agency anymore. My norm was to board a flight every Monday or Tuesday and head off to London or Zurich or to a host of other client destinations as my week would then unfold amid client meetings, hotels, new business meetings, quite literally every day was different. Boy has that changed.

As agencies we embrace difference, and in fact the Makara model of agile working has become the new normal for everyone as we have all embraced new and flexible ways of working when we were asked to stay at home and stay safe.

Do I miss my old norm. Yes, definitely, absolutely. Agile working for me has never been about staying at home, in fact it has been about freedom of choice, ability to flex the system to best meet our personal needs. So, whilst we continue to work in a similar manner, to comply with the important stay at home and stay safe messages, the restrictions on us change our options. The sense of Groundhog Day with a diary full of Teams, Zoom, WebEx, virtual catch-ups, virtual drinks etc, is commonplace to many of us. When life in theory slowed down with less places to go, less things to do – work life just got faster with our ability to port ourselves from one client meeting to another in 30 seconds as we zoom into one room, then 59 minutes later, smile and wave as we zoom out and back into another room, with little time to mentally close down from one meeting before shifting gear and mental space to another project.  No time to walk down a company corridor with some pleasantries as we pass people to just say hello.

Having said that, the year has not been without its high points of achievements, gratitude, growth and challenge.

For Makara it has been an award-winning year. I am truly thankful and delighted for the incredible team at Makara to be recognised as PMEA Support Agency of the Year, along with other winning accolades at the PMEAs in Patient Education and Support and Rare Diseases. Shortly followed by PharmaTimes International Communications Team of the year, and most recently the two silvers at the PM Society Awards.

And who’d have thought that celebrating my big ‘five oh’ would delight me by putting me in Group 9 for the vaccination program to receive my first jab on super Saturday.

So, for me, a big year; a year of two house moves and my return to the UK, many dog walks in the forest, a pure and total focus on well-being and mental wellness, many weekend cycles (definitely my happy place), discovering new crafting skills, making time to connect with people to just say hi, and maybe notice those who are having a more difficult time and lending a helping hand. My heart goes out to all families who have suffered or lost loved ones during this year.

As we step closer to a little more freedom as lockdown eases, I am curious as to what we have all learnt from this year. What do we want to keep, what do we want to leave firmly behind, and what do we need to change to make our world a better place?

Business as usual while working from home: Tips for embracing agile working

by Louise Sharp |

As coronavirus dominates the news, and governments make decisions about protecting our health and wellbeing, many companies are imposing travel bans and recommending a work from home policy.

Agile working models are becoming increasingly popular and, amidst this current health situation, I have been reflecting on the pros and cons of working from home and the journey that we have been on at @MakaraHealth, where we have been employing a largely remote-working set-up from the start.

It’s all about mindset

Having had many conversations over the years about agile working, my honest reflection is that it is quite simply down to mindset. If you want it to work, you can make it work. I feel just as connected to my talented team at Makara when I am working remotely, as when I am with them face-to-face. Here are my learnings from employing an agile working model:

1.Trust and empower people

Just because you can’t see your colleagues, co-workers or boss, does not mean you or they aren’t working! Presenteeism is hopefully becoming a thing of the past but, as working from home becomes more prevalent, we need to really think about our tone of voice when we talk about it. All too often ‘oh yes, they are working from home’ is delivered dismissively as if that person is less committed as a result of location. A culture of trust and empowerment is key to making the most of the benefits of working from home.

2. Stay connected and turn your video link on

You can be just as present while working remotely if you stay connected. Simply dialling into Zoom or WebEx meetings with your video link live so people can see you creates the next best thing to a face-to-face in-office meeting.

3. Make an effort

When working from home, you might not have that conversation in the corridor or at the coffee station but, with a little effort, structure and planning, you can have even more productive meetings. Set agendas, put shorter meetings into the diary (try 15 mins rather than 30), make the most of the amazing technology we all have access to. Agree how working from home will work best for your team and make an effort to stay in touch. For many, having the social interaction is a key part of their daily routine, so make it happen.

4. Take regular breaks

Without the distraction of an office environment, productivity can often be higher. However, taking regular breaks is just as important. It’s easy just to stay at your computer all day when you are working from home so try setting yourself reminders in your diary to take short breaks. If possible, get out at lunchtime, or work from different rooms in the house for a change of scenery. Finally, message or call co-workers to ensure you strike a balance – we’ve found that Slack helps us feel more connected as a team and it allows for the more informal catch ups we might otherwise miss.

5. Enjoy it!

Above all else, enjoy it. Working from home saves the commute and adds back precious time into your day.

#agileworking #healthcarecomms #workfromhome #businessasusual #agilethinking #coronavirus