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We asked “How in control do you feel of your professional wellbeing compared to two years ago?”

Ahead of AMA Conference 2021, and its theme of “Change for Good” we wanted to know if there had been a change in how people felt about their professional wellbeing since the pandemic.  

We polled people on Facebook, Twitter and on our website. There was a mix of opinions on this one. 60% said they felt less in control, and 40% said they felt more in control.  

On Facebook, a third option was user-added which stated that they felt “more confident about myself, less confident about the sector”. This response got the same number of people agreeing with it as the “less in control” and “more in control” options combined from this platform. 

So what does this tell us?  

In terms of the reasons people gave for their responses, unsurprisingly, those whose work circumstances were out of their own control were more likely to report that they were less in control of their professional wellbeing.  

While the pandemic may have taken control away from many people – whether through enforced lockdown, furlough or health impacts – a large element of control is dependent on your employer. The arts and culture sector itself lacked control over its circumstances during the pandemic, but reasons given for feeling less in control now than in 2019 largely related to employers. Reasons cited included inflexible employers resisting flexible or remote working, employers not making reasonable adjustments for employees, or employers who had allowed workloads to increase while team headcount simultaneously reduced. 

That around 60% of respondents felt this way is a concern for the sector, but there is hope in that one person reported that they felt there was an “increase in sector-wide acknowledgement of the importance of this topic after the impact of lockdowns”. It seems this acknowledgement has yet to translate into practice as widely as is needed.  

If your employer is not being supportive or reasonable, it is worth noting that employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s Management Standards provides guidance for employers to help them identify and manage the causes of work-related stress. The six main areas which can affect stress levels and which employers need to manage include: 

  • Demands: for example, workload and the working environment. 
  • Control: for example. how much say someone has over their job. 
  • Support: for example, level of supervision and resources available to do the job. 
  • Relationships: for example, promoting positive working to help prevent conflict. 
  • Role: for example, making sure people understand their role and how it fits in the organisation. 
  • Change: for example, how organisational change is managed and communicated. 

Remote working has doubtless had an impact – positively for some, and less so for others. Some state: “I really miss being IN an office. Working from home has it’s perks, but working at work has people; colleagues, customers – conversation. A vital pillar of my professional wellbeing.” An alternative view is, “Being able to work from home means that not everything has to be cramped in to a 9am – 5pm. Having more freedom to work at times that best suit you an as individual makes me feel more in control and calmer.”  

This highlights the importance of a flexible approach and that a “one-size fits all” model which takes control away from the employee is not a good choice to support wellbeing. 

 The role of line managers in helping support their teams who are working remotely has also been highlighted, with research showing that those who are in better contact with their manager tend to have better wellbeing. Potentially this may relate to the need for human contact, with a number of respondents mentioned that they felt this lack detracted from control over their wellbeing. Human contact, networking, and having conversations were all described as sorely missed. 

The HSE’s 2021 Health and wellbeing at work survey highlighted the main causes of stress as 

  • Workloads/volume of work. 
  • Management style. 
  • New work-related demands or challenges due to homeworking as a result of COVID-19. 
  • Non-work factors – relationship or family issues. 
  • COVID-related anxiety, for example fear of contagion in the workplace/commute. 
  • Non-work factors – personal illness or health issues. 
  • Poor work-life balance due to homeworking as a result of COVID-19. 
  • Relationships at work. 

Line managers can directly influence the first two of these causes, and there are a lot of resources available for line managers in how to deal with the specific challenges of home and remote working from the CIPD, including a guide to remote working for line managers. You can also learn how to support your team by understanding how to be a great line manager  at the AMA webinar on 19 November, which AMA members can attend or get a recording of for free. 

Mental Health charity MIND also has a lot of useful advice if you feel your wellbeing is suffering. But some tips like “limiting social media use” to support your wellbeing isn’t always possible if your role involves being responsible for your organisations social media channels, so it’s even more important to make time for good self-care if your role involves a lot of social media facing time. 

So in parallel with the employers and line managers being more supportive, what can we ourselves do to take more control of our wellbeing? What seems to have led one person to better professional wellbeing is being able to tell the signs of burnout. At AMA Conference 2021, the “How Not to Live on the Edge of Burnout” session aims to share advice with a preventative aim (see the conference programme for more details). 

Some more tips which can help you maintain your professional wellbeing include: 

  • Being able to set better boundaries (AMA members can attend or get a recording of this webinar on 5 Oct for free) 
  • Making sure you have a good support network to share your concerns – perhaps your local AMA Regional meeting could be a good outlet to get advice or share stresses and meet people in similar situations? 
  • Make sure you take time to enjoy arts and culture, not just as part of your job – research from ArtFund below shows the benefits on wellbeing 
  • Taking advice from other people – reading some of the curated Welllbeing articles on AMAculturehive, or taking advice on Managing Your Wellbeing when working from home from Heads Up mentor Tom Beardshaw 

 We’re also grateful to our Conference sponsors who have shared resources to support wellbeing: 

Ticketsolve Podcast: Mental Health & Wellbeing in the ArtsListen now on Spotify  / Other platforms are available here 


ArtFund – Museums and galleries: the UK’s untapped wellbeing resource?

Spektrix – Positive Psychology Webinar – free for AMA members: Sept 9th 2021 

A free session led by Andy Romero-Birkbeck of We Are Wellbeing who worked with Spektrix partners, Booking Protect to implement positive psychology in their workplace and daily lives. Andy will demonstrate the science behind positive psychology, the benefits of implementing it in our personal and professional lives, and strategies to make lasting improvements. Open to everybody who uses Spektrix, along with current AMA members. 

Tessitura Network – Innovators in Conversation: Claire Spencer  

Conversation between Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, and Tessitura Network president Andrew Recinos. Featuring resources from the Arts Wellbeing Collective 

If you feel that you are in a mental health crisis and need to talk to someone, MIND have a range of helplines listed that can provide support. You can also call the Samaritans for free at any time, any day on 116 123.



Have your say in our next provocation: “Collaboration and partnerships have been key to help retaining your audiences since reopening – Agree/Disagree”. Polling now on our homepage.