Even before the full implications of the outbreak became apparent, networks started laying off staff. There was an odd period when two different scenarios seemed to overlap: the discourse from network chiefs who pledged to protect their employees – and the reality of people who suddenly found themselves out of work. And let’s not forget freelancers, left in the cold as agencies slashed budgets for external resources.

The National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS) in the United Kingdom exists to provide support in just these kind of circumstances. So we contacted Uzma Afridi, its head of careers, to find out what advertising people who find themselves out of work can do to help themselves.

What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s just been laid off?

Take a moment and breathe. Make a cup of tea and process that call/conversation.

Uzma Afridi (NABS)

When a decision about our lives has been taken out of our hands, it is not unusual for it to trigger a survival mode reaction in us, because our brain has perceived a threat or fear situation. That may be the threat of our financial support and/or structure is being taken away from us, or the fear of the unknown. An unexpected conversation that throws us activates the stress/fear response, meaning the cognitive part of our brain starts to shut down and the emotional part of our brain takes the lead.

The emotional brain isn’t logical and therefore our reaction is not always the most helpful for us in that moment. Taking a moment to process what has happened, and pausing to shift the brain’s focus back into a cognitive function, can help reduce the emotional reaction. It can also induce a calm response which consciously engages your frontal lobes, helping you think about your situation logically to figure what the impact of that conversation has had on you and your situation and what you can control, enabling you to better consider thoughtful and rational solutions regarding your next steps.

How can NABS help people who find themselves in a precarious position?

NABS has created a dedicated Knowledge Hub as a one-stop shop resource for anybody worried about their job and/or emotional health during the current crisis and beyond. The Knowledge Hub offers a range of resources to help individuals who are concerned about their positions at work. This includes a redundancy tool featuring FAQs on redundancy, bite-sized videos about furlough, resources for the self-employed, advice on managing income and outgoings and also support with emotional well-being including support with anxiety and tips on mindfulness.

NABS’ Advice Line offers free, confidential and impartial advice to advertising industry employees. Anybody who is concerned about their position can call our team of dedicated and experienced support advisors, all of whom are able to discuss contractual rights as well as general concerns.

NABS also offers free one-to-one coaching to UK advertising industry employees, where individuals can benefit from bespoke support with career options, stress or well-being.

NABS does a great job in the UK. Are there equivalents in the United States or elsewhere?

There is a similar organisation in Canada, also called NABS. In Australia there’s grassroots groups Never Not Creative and the Mentally Healthy Change Group, run by Andy Wright of Streamtime. These are not equivalent to NABS but share our aims of supporting the ad community and encouraging open conversations about mental and emotional health in the industry.

Freelancers are suffering a great deal. What could they do to seek financial support while work is thin on the ground?

UK advertising freelancers can call NABS’ Advice Line for help. NABS’ support advisors can help individuals to explore how they can maximise their income at this time and whether NABS’ financial assistance, in the form of a means-tested Support or Upskilling Grant, might be applicable. NABS also offers a host of resources for freelancers. These resources have been brought together to support freelancers throughout the current situation and beyond.