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A look back at 2020: Why wellbeing has never been more crucial

by Julia Linehan

November 3, 2020

Impact has redoubled its focus on wellbeing during a year which has been strange and stressful for many of us, writes Bharat Siyani, Associate Director, Global HR, at Impact

With the US election building up to a dramatic finale, global partnerships platform Impact has offered an additional day off for employees to ensure that they have time to cast their vote. In fact, as a global company, we ensured that all employees could take a day off to vote earlier this year - and not just in the US - in order to illustrate and underline our respect for individual beliefs and our belief in freedom of speech. There has been lots of take up. Our business is about relationships, after all, making a focus on wellbeing particularly relevant.

The decision to offer a day off so that all employees have the time to vote forms part of a wide range of initiatives designed to highlight the importance of wellbeing. For instance, earlier this year - mindful of the tragic death of George Floyd and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter - we also set up a ‘DEI’ group, focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. With 560 employees across eight countries, and offices in South Africa, the US, the UK, Australia, China, Singapore, Norway and Germany, this group is mindful of cultural nuances around the globe.

Aware that the world of martech is ‘always on’, too, we’re also keen to ensure that the whole company offers employees regular mental breaks – time in which workers have minimal contact on platforms such as Slack and email. Many during the pandemic felt they must be ‘always on’ to prove their productivity, but we want to ensure that employee wellbeing is protected, as the pandemic continues its assault on the globe. As well as Slack usage training, we offered empathy training. Trained psychologists and doctors delivered this in order to advise our teams about the importance of work/life balance. During this crisis, for instance, it is particularly important to be empathetic if people have kids in the background while working at home, and to offer more flexible schedules.

Employees have been offered training on a variety of platforms and this places an emphasis on the benefit of having time away from screens – and away from platforms which have been designed to ensure we are always available, thanks to the design of notifications and prompting; triggers to ensure individuals don’t stay away too long. We’ve all felt Zoom fatigue, death by meeting, and we need time to do focused work and time to switch off completely, too. As part of this, we have implemented a goal of meeting-free days in addition to specific meeting days, so that deep, focused work can be done without interruption and employees can also meet at suitable times. Given the global nature of our business, we also need to be mindful and create overlap zones given the varying time zones in different locations. Certain meeting slots are kept free for meetings taking place across time zones, specifically to ensure that we keep in mind the work/life balance of all involved and are not requesting meetings excessively early, nor late.

We have found that employees are responsible about taking time off when they are given this freedom. Days off are not capped. Previously, there has been a sense of taking time off only if you’re going on holiday, but sometimes you need time off, away from day to day routines, to disconnect from work – especially at time when many of us are going back on devices and checking messages in our own time. All too easily, two minutes can become two hours, and soon a whole day has been taken up with messages outside of the work day. We encourage employees not to get disturbed during their down time, to switch off completely and to take a mental break. It is important to note that people are not abusing this system.

As such, and in order to all be off at the same time at certain points, we have implemented company shutdowns. We held one of these recently over the Labour Day weekend and we are respecting different holidays under our DEI group – such as Diwali in November, the Unity Day in Germany, Chinese holidays and so on.

We saw the need for remote work coming earlier this year and shut down our offices in February - earlier than many, in part due to having an office in China. We quickly realised people would be financially stuck when it came to an increase in utilities bills, so we added a stipend within our paychecks to cover increased use of wifi, electricity, and gas. In the UK, for instance, this was £25 a month. We wanted to ensure that working from home did not impact employees financially in a detrimental way.

What’s more, during lockdown we actually saw our productivity increase - perhaps largely because people were not spending time travelling to and from work - and we were glad when our employee survey in September highlighted that many felt happy with the work from home stipends and the lack of constraints around time off, in addition to the fact we had made no redundancies at this time. In order to enable this, we cut bonuses, and executives in the senior team agreed to a 20% pay cut. During this time we have in fact continued to hire and our CEO has taken it upon himself to host town halls - meetings across various locations - to address questions and concerns around issues such as company finance and direction.

The way we engage with others is always important but this is particularly so during this crisis. We have been reaching out to partners as well as employees, sending cocktails or ‘mocktails’ to speakers at events, offering online quizzes, online cooking events, sending videos and maintaining positivity and a sense of mutual support and appreciation.

Having seen significant growth in 2020 - with interest in partnership marketing growing as companies seek out the most efficient performance marketing strategies in a time of crisis - this focus on wellbeing is also helping to keep productivity high even as the pandemic rages on.


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