Author: Sushmita Gurung

Random Acts of Kindness

by Georgia McGlasson |

Kindness is one of Makara’s signature values. This means that as a company, we try to make sure everyone feels supported, understood, and has fun doing the work that they do. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation sets out to make kindness the norm, at home and in the workplace, which is exactly what we strive for here at Makara.

On a personal level, being kind to others (and ourselves!) results in the body producing more “feel-good” hormones, which give us more energy and improves our mood. It can also lower our blood pressure, reduce pain levels and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. At a company level, promoting and maintaining a culture of kindness improves employee retention, which is good for client relationships, employee wellbeing and retaining the wealth of knowledge and skills in our team.

Feeling connected to others when many of us are working from home can be challenging, which puts a greater emphasis on the need to show kindness to colleagues. Despite this, from my experience here at Makara, it’s common for people to make time to check in, offer support when it’s needed, and celebrate wins when things go well.

We’re also lucky to have initiatives from our well-being society (WELSOC) that bring us all together for a quiz, a pet show, a pumpkin carving or Christmas jumper competition… the list of initiatives really does go on! Our coffee pals chats are also another great way to connect with colleagues you don’t normally work with and help combat isolation across the business.

The culture of kindness at Makara can also be seen through a company focus on wellbeing, be it with our Wellness Action Plan, or our wonderful HR team bringing a different wellbeing theme for us to focus on each month, sharing tips and resources along the way.

On top of this, Makara signed up to the Kindness in the Workplace™ pledge, with the aim of making Makara an even better place to work by striving to incorporate new ways of building a kinder culture. We undertook the pledge to make kindness the norm by:

  1. Creating an environment where all employees feel respected, cared for, and included
  2. Offering a safe place for everyone to feel courageous; where they are valued and have a sense of purpose
  3. Infusing our values with kindness, creating a place where our bottom line is about our most valuable asset – our employees and customers
  4. Showing integrity and responsibility in everything we do

I feel really lucky to work for a company, and alongside colleagues, who value kindness as a core principle in the work they do. Random acts of kindness day serves as a reminder to keep doing what we’re doing, because offering support and compassion goes a long way and makes a real difference, both on a personal and at a company level. Let’s continue to make a conscious effort to bring kindness to the forefront of our work and personal lives throughout the year and beyond.

For more information about the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, check out the website here: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

Patient centricity – the future of partnership working

by Makara |

“Partnership is not a posture but a process – a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.” John F Kennedy.

Collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and patient organisations has always been important and should always continue to be so.

At the current time, the pharmaceutical industry is the most patient focused it has ever been, with around 80% of the top pharmaceutical companies citing a patient-centred approach as a core value in their organisation. It’s a broad term that takes different forms and has varying levels, but what does a truly patient-centric approach mean?

Patient centricity and patient engagement are inherently linked but are different. For Makara Health, patient centricity is the mindset and patient engagement is the delivery, the ways in which patient centricity is delivered. With impending, industry-wide changes to measurements and reporting guidance for patient-focused drug development (PFDD) encouraging an end-to-end patient strategy, are pharmaceutical companies across the board ready for this upcoming change in 2025? To be truly patient centric throughout the product life cycle, industry must:

  • Consistently embrace a patient-centric mindset and keep the patient front of mind
  • Consider how to interact in every way with the groups that represent those patients

Makara Health undertook an in-depth listening exercise at the beginning of 2023 to uncover how critical partnerships between the pharmaceutical industry and the third sector can be enhanced for the good of patients. There are some great partnerships out there, however, taking the time to fully understand the patient-group perspective on how they can be improved and deepened enabled Makara to develop their inaugural Good Patient Partnership Guide. It contains concise insights and clear, tangible recommendations for industry professionals striving to initiate or improve their engagement policy and process. And, for those already doing great work who are looking to up their game in this space, the report offers ‘great’ and ‘stellar’ recommendations.

If you want to know more about the insights and recommendations, you can access the guide at makarahealth.com/patient-partnership.

Written by Claire Paling and Victoria Morton-Green, who are part of Makara’s Patient Strategy and Insights team.


Harnessing the power of PR to boost marketing communications

by Gurjit Chahal |

Healthcare is a competitive industry, and building a brand, whether at product or corporate level, that can stand out in a post-covid world and during the current challenging economic climate needs some fresh thinking. No audience is the same, each one requiring different messages, tone and use of language at different points in time, and this is where PR and communications can play a vital role to inform and educate stakeholders.

Brands need a strong but nuanced narrative that underpins all communications. PR professionals know how to tell that story in the way that matters most to each individual audience. While non-promotional in nature, when product and corporate communications are executed well (aligning audiences to the right content and channels), it can lead to a positive and lasting impact on brands.

Opportunities for communications within cross-functional teams

Marketers are always chasing a truly integrated communications plan, and yet PR is still pigeon holed to milestone press releases when there is a wealth of untapped cross-functional opportunity in clever and compliant communications.

I’ve seen first hand how PR can boost programmes by working in a cross-functional team at Makara Health. For example, while supporting medical education programmes for early stage treatments, we’ve leveraged PR at the pivotal moment in time to communicate Phase 3 data and future regulatory milestones. We’ve developed award-winning internal communication campaigns to increase uptake of learning and development training tools which were not being used to their full potential, and we’ve generated high quality media coverage to support a new brand launch. Cross-functional team collaboration can help to deliver strategic marketing and medical communication programmes which help to drive change in audience behaviour.

Building the corporate profile of healthcare players

Corporate communications plays a valuable role in supporting new and established healthcare companies and building an organisation’s ‘brand identity’. In the pharmaceutical industry, new biotech firms are emerging with exciting stories to tell, and good communication can be the difference between getting on the ‘Big Pharma’ radar or securing next-stage funding. PR can help with more than just announcing the latest round of equity financing, such as:

  • Bringing science to life which is often complex as companies have unique platforms in gene and cell therapy which need PR expertise to bring together their scientific strategy with creative storytelling.
  • Promoting a business model that has the potential to accelerate drug development.
  • Putting a spotlight on the people, including their expertise, culture and thought leadership.
  • Looking ahead at growth and partnership goals, including pharmaceutical partners and future buyers, which need nuanced messaging for an investor audience. 

The result is an intelligent and inspiring story that clearly sets out a biotech firm’s Purpose, People and Vision which is all underpinned by their Science. 

As healthcare companies grow, they are naturally going to be put under the spotlight more. Stewardship by organisations in reputation development and management should not be underestimated or underinvested – when it is done well, it can be invaluable and support positive organisational leadership.

What is next for PR and communications?

It has been a challenging year for the PR industry, but it is great to see more opportunities coming through as the economy builds itself back up. I believe this starts with senior PR teams working collaboratively with healthcare organisations in cross-functional teams, actively listening, asking the right questions and providing strategic recommendations on when and how to leverage PR compliantly so it is delivering value at the right time and not missing opportunities.

This goes back to the importance of developing strong communication foundations including
audience-specific messaging, tailored content and working with senior leaders to tell the story in an engaging and authentic way. There is so much potential for communicating across different channels, including digital and social media, traditional media and now a return to more face-to-face events. When it is delivered well, it can pave the way for building successful relationships with stakeholders, driving awareness of an organisation and creating a strong brand identity.

Mental Health: a universal human right

by Sushmita Gurung |

Every year, at this time, we take a moment to recognise World Mental Health day. The global campaign and initiative that was established by the World Federation of Mental Health, who this year, are celebrating their 75th Anniversary. The World Mental Health Day program was created to help promote mental health and create awareness about the issues associated with mental illness, something Makara happens to also keep front of mind.

This year, I’d like to shine a light on the groups that face greater barriers to good mental health than others. Inequalities in mental health can lead to certain groups facing disproportionately higher rates of mental health issues.

  • Children and adults in the lowest income bracket are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop mental health problems than in the highest income bracket1
  • Asylum seekers are 5 times more likely to have mental health needs than the general population2
  • 38% of people with severe symptoms of mental health problems also have long-term physical conditions3
  • Men and women from African-Caribbean communities in the UK have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide risk4
  • Those who identify as LGBTQ+ have a higher rate of common mental health problems and lower wellbeing than heterosexual people4

Although more and more of people are becoming aware of mental health, so many of us still aren’t getting the right support. I want to bring light to some fantastic mental health services around the UK that are helping to break down those barriers and give people in their community a safe space to talk and do something about their mental health:

  • Maan Somali Mental Health Sheffield provide culturally sensitive services for those experiencing mental health problems within the Somali community and other BME and refugee communities in Sheffield. They also run male-only and female-only support groups for carers, and their services are available for individuals aged between 16 and 65.
  • Passion4Fusion is an Edinburgh-based youth organisation, who have produced story-telling based resources to help young people learn about mental health in culturally familiar and appropriate ways.
  • Mothers for Mothers offers maternal mental health and wellbeing support to women, birthing people and their families. This Bristol-based organisation uses art psychotherapy as a key tool to express and make sense of feelings as well as art therapy groups for parents and infants together.
  • Sheffield Flourish offers support groups and activities for local people struggling with mental health. These include; a creative arts enterprise, theatre and drama enterprise, music jam sessions and their Brunsmeer Awareness football club, who compete regularly in the Flourish League. This is an example of how being active together can help both mental and physical health.
  • Mind Out is a Brighton and Hove-based mental health service run by and for LGBTQ+ people. One of the services include their 50+ wellbeing project, which focuses on reducing social isolation and developing intergenerational activities for older and younger people to meet, learn, and support one another.
  • Mind are a mental health charity that will prioritise change, support and connection of minds. They also provide a network of more than 130 local Minds across England and Wales, to offer support and care based on the needs of the communities they support.
  • Young Minds is a youth-led movement that offers strategic mental health programmes for all children and young people across the UK. Recently they launched their three-year strategy, ‘You Matter’, with a clear purpose to stop young people reaching crisis point with their mental health.

I am so grateful that at Makara Health, not only is employee wellbeing prioritised and highly supported, but that the range of wellbeing resources available are easily assessable to everyone. In a society where people are struggling to gain the right support, it’s incredible to be a part of a company that has created a safe, respectful, and fair environment. Let’s unite to destigmatize, support, and prioritise mental health wellbeing. Let’s break down barriers, share our stories, and promote a world where compassion and understanding prevail. Because your mental health matters, and so does everyone else’s.

References:

  1. Marmot, M., Allen, J., Goldblatt, P., Boyce, T., McNeish, D., Grady, M., & Geddes, I. (2010). Fair society, healthy lives: Strategic review of health inequalities in England post 2010. Retrieved from instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/ fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review [Accessed 07/11/16].
  2. Eaton, V., Ward, C., Womack, J., & Taylor, A. (2011). Mental Health and Wellbeing in Leeds: An Assessment of Need in the Adult Population. NHS Leeds.
  3. Raj, D., Stansfeld, S., Weich, S., Stewart, R., McBride, O., Brugha, T., … & Papp, M. (2016). Chapter 13: Comorbidity in mental and physical illness. In S. McManus, P. Bebbington, R. Jenkins, & T. Brugha (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
  4. health, C. f. m., 2020. MENTAL HEALTH INEQUALITIES: FACTSHEET. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/publications/mental-health-inequalities-factsheet [Accessed 18 10 2023].

Move More September: A Month Dedicated to Office Health

by Harry Warman |

As we enter into September, the air starts to crisp, leaves begin to change colour, and a newfound motivation to re-evaluate our health and well-being often emerges (if not just to make us feel better for the sheer volume of Christmas food and drink we all consume later in the year). With this in mind, it is the perfect time to introduce “Move More September,” a month dedicated to promoting physical activity, especially for those who spend the majority of their day at a desk which is everyone here at Makara!

Modern work environments have drastically evolved in recent decades, with many of us now spending the majority of our day glued to our desks, peering at screens, and navigating the world wide web. This sedentary lifestyle comes at a physical and mental cost – heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke risk, increased stress, anxiety and depression.1 However, with a few simple adjustments, it is easy enough to get back into a good routine to help keep your mind and body in great shape.

Move More September – A Solution

Move More September is a month when everyone is encouraged, especially desk-bound workers, to prioritise physical activity in their daily routine. Two of Makara’s own, Georgia and Ben, are leading the way by training for the Bath half marathon in October, and to get as many people involved as possible, our wellbeing team have set up a great competition with the GoJoe app to get us exercising in a friendly, competitive environment this September (and hopefully beyond!). However, this is not the first time Makara have encouraged us to get active, previous events such as the ‘Take a Hike’ step challenge, the ‘VP Go’, ‘ Makara 10 peaks challenge’ and various other initiatives have been set up to help us take up healthier habits!

For a company where the majority work remotely and at a desk, exercise is a vital part of keeping healthy, focused and motivated during the day. Here are a few reasons why keeping active is essential:

  1. Physical Health Benefits – Reduced risk of illness: Exercise helps to decrease your risk of an early death by 30%, mitigating the risks of illness’s such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer!1
  2. Mental Health Boost – Stress Reduction: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins and decreases the levels of cortisol, reducing stress and promoting a positive mood by increasing the sensation of pleasure and joy.2 Short, active breaks of aerobic exercise during the day can help alleviate anxiety and depression.3
  3. Increased Energy – Counteract Fatigue: Desk work can be draining, but exercise can boost your energy levels, helping you stay alert and engaged. This is achieved when more oxygen rich blood is being pumped all around the body, including the brain!4
  4. Social Connection – Team-building Opportunities: Office challenges can boost social interaction among colleagues and joining a club or team is a great way to merge socialising and exercise.

If, like me, you find yourself tired and irritable after a few hours of starring at your screen, here are some top tips you can use throughout the day to help keep active.

  1. If you have the time, exercise before your work day even starts, I find even a short walk to get some fresh air before I start sets me up for a great day!
  2. Get up and move regularly: Set reminders to stand up, stretch, and take a short walk every now and then. (there are a whole list of desk stretches if you are busy and short for time)
  3. Use your lunch break!: As tempting as it is to sit and watch TV or even work through lunch if you are particularly busy, I guarantee you will feel more focused and productive if you spend 30 mins getting some steps in, or a sweat on!

Move More September serves as a great reminder that our physical and mental health should always be a priority, regardless of our daily work commitments. The benefits of exercise for desk-bound individuals are numerous and far-reaching, from physical well-being to mental health and increased productivity! This September, let’s embrace the opportunity to make positive changes in our lives and commit to moving more, not just this month, but as a lifelong habit and move more! Your body and mind will thank you for it!

References

  1. NHS website. Benefits of exercise. Available at : https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/. Accessed September 2023.
  2. Healthline website. Exercise and the Brain: The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/exercise. Accessed September 2023.
  3. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;8(2):106.
  4. British Heart Foundation website. 6 reliable ways to boost your energy levels. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/wellbeing/boost-energy-levels. Accessed September 2023.

Defining Henrietta Lacks

by Matt Wheeler |

Since arriving at Makara Health in 2020, I have been fortunate to be involved in a wide range of project types, many of which were new to me initially.

One such baptism of fire included an introduction to ‘speaker slides’. Receiving slides from an expert in the field to make ready for presenting can feel a little daunting, but is an invaluable opportunity to learn more about an evolving treatment option, for example, or be more informed about a disease area.

One thing that can be challenging is identifying and defining medical abbreviations and acronyms, which seem to be essentially infinite. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought several into the public consciousness (CPAP, LFT, PCR, PPE, next slide please…)

This can be particularly difficult when an abbreviation may have multiple meanings! Google can sometimes only take you so far…

However, one thing I am certainly glad about is coming across this one – HeLa.

HeLa cells are named after Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who died in 1951 as a result of aggressive cervical cancer, at the age of just 31. A tumour biopsied during her treatment was the source of the first ‘immortalised’ human cell line, i.e. one that can reproduce indefinitely under certain conditions.  

These cells have since been used in a vast number of research applications, including the first polio vaccine (among many other vaccines), cancer investigations and advancements in gene mapping.

I recently read an excellent book by investigative journalist Rebecca Skloot, originally published over a decade ago. Whilst she describes the scientific advances made possible by HeLa cells in detail (whilst remaining accessible), the ethical implications of what happened to Henrietta are also explored. Her permission for use of her cells was not sought, and her family were not aware of the existence of the cell line until years after Henrietta’s death; they have also not benefitted from the commercialisation of the cells.

The issue of consent is obviously viewed differently today, over 70 years later. This is explored further in a more recent article in Nature, including the impact of racial disparities in both medical research and treatment. There is often a disconnect between clinical study and real-world populations, including race, ethnicity, sex and age. In the UK, as in many places across the globe, the pandemic shone a light on inequalities and their impact on outcomes. In medical communications, we are beholden to fulfil our role in driving towards equity, whether that’s through ensuring all pertinent populations are appropriately represented in promotional materials, or considering the best way to reach patients with information (for example, if they don’t have reliable internet access) – this must be part of project planning from the very beginning.

I would thoroughly recommend reading Ms Skloot’s book – “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. The book quotes the below – words to live by, whether in the realm of medicine, medical communications, or indeed any other context.

“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”

Elie Wiesel, a Nazi concentration camp survivor and renowned author.

Working with a disability – Invisible to the naked eye

by Benjamin Perez |

Introduction

Hello! I’m Ben and I am severily (that was semi-intentional) dyslexic, as some of you may know already. For disability awareness day, I’d like to share some information about the unique challenges I face when working in the Client Services Team (CS team) at Makara Health. My job is incredibly varied which I feel enables me to approach jobs in a variety of ways.

Definition: What is it and how does it affect me?

Dyslexia can affect people in a variety of ways, include reading, writing, spelling abilities and verbal memory to name a few. Some people who are dyslexic are stupendous readers/writers, but can have issues with comprehension, so it always defers depending on the person. I was always told that apparently people who are dyslexic are more creative… I must’ve missed the memo on that one. Still trying to work out what my strengths are, but we’ll get there I’m sure (I do tend to remember random/unnecessary things though!).

Personal Experiences

This could turn out to be a therapy session with Microsoft Word, but here goes! When I was younger, I always felt my brain worked a bit differently to others. When learning something I always had to visualise a mind map in my brain, and it contained the steps that led to the answer or conclusion. It made revising a bit more laborious as I had to read everything and create myself a mental image of how these all components created an answer. I really enjoyed reading but to properly take in information I had to concentrate hard on every word. I think I’d choose the ability of skim reading as a superpower, as my brain does not allow me to do it, which is a bit of a pain. Exams were stressful as I’d spend too much time reading the questions to make sure that it had registered properly. Upon reflection, this had a big impact on my confidence. One of my biggest fears is writing more than 300 words, yet here we are writing a blog entry. Wild.

I vividly remember the day when I finally booked a screening for dyslexia in 2013. I’d submitted an essay in my final year of university and I thought I’d absolutely smashed it … I wish. Despite all the hours I’d put into the assignment, when the results came out I found out I got a 34, which was a bit of a bummer. I was intrigued to find out what I’d done wrong, or why I’d marked so low. So, in slightly bemused spirits, I saw the lecturer who showed me a plethora of grammatical, spelling and lexical mistakes. The awkward part was, I couldn’t see why/how these were wrong, it read perfectly well to me. The lecturer must’ve thought I was joking, as he started looking at me like I was playing some sort of game. Eventually, I just admitted defeat , went home and spent a couple of hours playing FIFA before I started googling why/what this could be. I booked myself in for a dyslexia screening because my partner and couple of my housemates suggested it. I scored incredibly high in most elements, especially comprehension, where I was randomly making answers up completely unrelated to the passage of text that I’d just read. The examiner said ‘Wow, well you’re certainly dyslexic’. First time I’d come away from a test feeling like I’d absolutely smashed it. Finally I knew why I’d always felt my brain worked a bit differently to others.

One of the main issues I find is that if I read a passage of text and someone asks me to find a specific sentence, it’s as if words just disappear and I’m unable to locate it, like the paragraph is just moving words and sentences around. it takes me an age to read a paragraph and given I sometimes have the patience of a toddler it can get irritating, so to all of you skim readers out there, be uber grateful! Interestingly, I marked okay on reading, spelling and memory as a Benephant never forgets.

Interestingly, I don’t seem to struggle as much with the other languages I speak (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian). I think this could be because they are all romance ones, so everything is spelt how it sounds. Whereas in English this is not the case, so my brain gets very confused with words such as exaggerate, subtle, conscious, architecture and psychology to name a few.

Adjustments

At university I was very lucky to be given extra time during exams to ensure I had fully understood questions before answering. I was also able to use the added time to proofread my answers at a slower and relaxed pace.

As I result of this, writing long passages of text can take me a fair bit longer than the average person. So, I have a handy text to speech app that I use to help me make sense of longer paragraphs and its grammatical structures. I am a slave to Arial/Calibri fonts as they’re apparently very dyslexic friendly due to the clarity of each letter, and the letters feel less crowded to me, so I use those as much as possible. It’s a dream that the Makara Health Brand Template uses Calibri font, thank you!

When I’m reading texts, I sometimes use colour overlays that make the screen a bit nicer on my eyes, as black text on white background can sometimes confuse me and cause words and sentences to get a bit muddled. There’s a super handy overlay app on Chrome that I sometimes use that gives me the option to add colour to some websites, especially if it’s very text heavy. My favourite colours are lime green, yellow and blue, try them if you fancy changing it up!

With regards to written communication, Ctrl F is an absolute god send because words move around for me. I try to use spell-checking/proofreading applications as much as possible, too. I’ve got a checklist for writing tasks that help me to maintain consistency, reduce errors and ensure I’ve checked all the necessary points. I’ll get one of the other team members to  give it a run through and let me know of any glaring errors, which they’re always happy to do.

Dyslexic individuals can sometimes also struggle with time management and organisation, which are obviously pretty crucial in the kind of work we do within the CS Team. To help myself out I use digital tools/reminders such as task management apps and calendar reminders on Outlook to keep on top of ongoing tasks and delegate accordingly depending on the urgency of a task/job. With bigger tasks/projects, I create mind maps and flow charts to fully understand the stages of a job and where I’m currently at. This enables me to break tasks into manageable steps and makes a bigger job less daunting for me.

I’m very much a visual learner so I work best when I’m watching someone do a task, as opposed to listening to a task being explained. But I’d like to think that I’ve been able to implement a variety of learning methods thanks to working with the CS Team, and therefore use step processes to help me do more jobs more efficiently and at times quicker depending on the deadline.

Conclusion

Before being diagnosed, I had no idea what dyslexia was. So, it’s been a bit of a journey working out how I can best manage my condition, make appropriate adjustments, and still do a good job. I think I’m getting there, and I feel very lucky that everyone at Makara Health is so accommodating to any additional support that I need. After all, it’s not easy being dyslexic and left-handed…

Wellbeing at Makara

by Linda Villegas |

This week marks wellbeing week, and to celebrate we’ve written a blog to summarise some of the many ways we aim to support employee wellbeing here at Makara. Promoting all aspects of wellbeing is important to us because as research shows, high levels of wellbeing are often associated with lower rates of illness, as well as increased longevity and productivity. With the majority of our workforce working from home, we’re proud that we have plenty of successful tried and tested activities as well as  a culture based on kindness and flexibility that allows each of us to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

At the heart of Makara is a sense of being part of a family, and since our recent acquisition by Precision Value and Health who hold many of the same principles as us, we are happily part of a bigger family.  Makara, like any family, is committed to ensuring everyone is supported in their day-to-day work and their day-to-day wellbeing, whether it’s mental, physical or financial. As an agile company with the majority of employees working remotely, wellbeing is taken seriously and openly discussed –  we take care to care for others we work with which is important when you are not face-to-face or side by side every day.

sushmita@makarahealth.com

So, what are these tried and tested activities you may ask? Here is a sample of a few:

  • Encouragement to take regular breaks and to take the time to chat to others, especially those you don’t work with. Our longstanding ‘coffee pals’ scheme randomly matches people up for a chat and a cuppa.
  • Reminders to stretch and do exercises to avoid the niggles commonly linked with desk work. We hope this helps to balance the sometimes more stressful periods of life and keep everyone happy.
  • Monthly wellbeing themes that have covered a range of topics from Nutrition & Hydration, where we would remind everyone to drink plenty of water and share our favourite healthy recipes, to the Importance of Sleep, where we shared tips and videos for those who have trouble falling and staying asleep.
    • Our most recent theme for the month of May was ‘Walking in Nature’, which involved a walking competition called Makara Takes a Hike to encourage people to spend time in nature and to raise awareness and much needed funds for our chosen charities. It is scientifically proven that nature can do wonders for mental health so now that the sun is out, why not use this time to go to your nearest nature reserve or have a phone meeting outside. Nature is a very big part of our culture, so we try and implement some sort of activity where nature is involved.
    • In the coming months and in line with mental health and wellbeing, we will be launching a gratitude and appreciation month, a Mindfulness month and much more – so stay tuned!

And how do we cultivate a culture of kindness and flexibility?

  • We signed up to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s ‘Kindness in the Workplace Pledge’. This is a promise to our employees and clients that we are committed to making kindness the norm at Makara. We celebrate this pledge proudly by displaying the Random Acts of Kindness monthly calendar on our intranet where we also have access to meditation videos, recipes and all things wellbeing.
  • We promote and talk about kindness as one of our core company values.
  • We allow people to manage their work and life as best suits them, while always being mindful of delivering excellent client service

In addition to all this we also have the WellSoc (wellbeing and social) internal workstream which sees several members of the Makara team discuss and implement activities to improve employee wellbeing and encourage socialising across the Makara family. Since this has been set up, we’ve seen many a quiz from our in-house quiz master Ben, as well as Halloween fancy dress and pumpkin carving competitions and of course, the Makara pet show. Expect plenty more from WellSoc over the next few months, as we cover topics ranging from ‘Favourite Chocolates’ to ‘Body Positivity’, and I’m sure a few more quizzes along the way! As always, if you have any ideas for what you would like to see from WellSoc, please feel free to drop the team a message.

So much of our time is spent at work, it is important the workplace is a happy, fun, comfortable, positive, kind and flexible place to be, as well a productive place to be. Afterall, if we have happy employees, we have happy clients!

Mental Health: we can all make a difference

by Makara |

Mental Health Awareness Week: 15-21 May 2023

You won’t need to look far to find someone who is affected by mental health issues. Shockingly, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.1

But what would you say to someone who is struggling? How could you support them? What could you actually do to help?

These were the questions that were bothering me every time I saw mental health discussed on TV, when I was worried about a colleague who’d become withdrawn or learnt of a friend who was struggling. I wanted to help, but how? What if I said the wrong thing? It turns out I’m not alone. A recent survey from MHFA England found that a third of managers felt out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns.2

This is what led me to sign-up to a mental health first aider course last year. The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programme was set up to extend the concept of first aid training to include mental health issues, empowering people to provide support. MHFA England runs a range of online and face-to-face training courses for individuals or workplace groups, providing basic knowledge about mental health issues, an easy-to-follow action plan, and information about professional and other support available.

From my perspective, the course has given me the confidence to ask how people really are, and to navigate those conversations so, where appropriate, I can give the right support and information. It’s also made me more aware of the mental health warning signs to look out for so, if needed, now I can actually do something to help.

That includes in the workplace. Mental health can affect any of us, at any stage of life, and as employers, line mangers and colleagues, we can play a really important role in supporting good mental health at work. At Makara Health, our open and honest culture, and our ‘kindness’ value help to ensure an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health with managers and colleagues, without judgement or stigma, with professional support available via the private health scheme where needed. So whether through initiatives and strategies to support employee wellbeing and work-life balance, or by simply being aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and being there to listen and support colleagues, we can all make a difference.

To find out more about MHFA training courses, visit: https://mhfaengland.org/

Written by El Craven, Business Unit Director, PR (maternity cover)

  1. McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.
  2. MHFA England (2023) Survey shows managers are ‘out of their depth’ on mental health. Available at: https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/news/survey-shows-managers-are-out-of-their-depth-on-mental-health/. Accessed May 2023.

It’s a team game – what we can learn from sporting principles to get the win

by Matt Wheeler |

I think of myself as a pretty straightforward sort of person – and perhaps a fairly predictable one!

During the week, you’ll find me at my desk, working on all kinds of different medical communications projects. At the weekend, I am almost certainly indulging my love of sports – generally observing, although I’m hoping to get back on the squash court soon. My absolute favourite place to be is at Franklin’s Gardens, home of the Northampton Saints rugby side.

The truth is that there is plenty in common between agency and sports teams. We have to be able to work in synergy to achieve a common goal, we have to be focussed, we have to communicate, and we have to have effective leadership.

If you’re a fan of tortured metaphors, then please do continue on…

Training

“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

Mark Spitz, 9-time Olympic champion swimmer

In the project run up, we get ready. We work to get the brief exactly right, make sure the project team is well constructed and has the right experience to deliver, and know what an ideal performance looks like.

3pm on a Saturday – (or hopefully not)

“Do you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

Mike Singletary, former linebacker and head coach in the NFL

This is the fun bit – the opportunity to ‘do what we do’, whether we’re crafting the beautifully-written claim, designing the perfect ad, or building a website with the best UX – we all want to put our best work on tape, and on the field.

Half time – no time for the hairdryer

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”

Billie Jean King, former world No. 1 tennis player and pioneer for equality and social justice

So, the draft is back from review, and it’s time to push the project through to the end. We need to understand what’s happened so far, make any tactical adjustments and get ready for the next steps. The team needs to know the plan for the second half, and the leaders need to make sure that morale stays high.

The last five minutes – it’s money time

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”

Dean Karnazes, ultra endurance athlete

The end of the project can sometimes be the hardest part – the team has given their all, and the ‘final whistle’ is approaching. It’s vital to stay switched on and give the last bit of effort needed to get over the line.

Post-match – collecting the corner flags

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan, world renowned basketball player

Before we can move on, we need to learn any lessons we can for the next go around. It’s easy to see where to improve when you lose, but the best teams strive to learn from their victories too.

So, a tortured metaphor, and not a totally original one – what’s my point?

Nowadays, in top level sport, coaches have access to vast amounts of sport science data, and can watch their players out on the field, giving them the information they need to optimise performance.

For agencies working in remote teams, that kind of immediate feedback can be harder to come by. Effective communication is paramount in helping all members of the team deliver their best – whether it’s veterans coaching up the newer recruits, or if the manager needs a lift from their charges after a challenging couple of weeks. It’s something we work hard at, no matter the stage of career or job title, whether it’s through regular catch-ups, or providing concise and actionable feedback.

Working in that kind of environment leads to success – and some trophies on the mantelpiece. It’s no coincidence that we have that kind of award-winning squad at Makara – talented players, of course, but supported by a set-up designed so that we can flourish: working remotely physically, but very much part of a team.