New UAE PR firm launches with focus on mental health

Leap Comms will have employee wellbeing at the centre of its core values, according to its MD.

 Kareem Farid, MD of Leap Comms, previously suffered from chronic anxiety in his role as a journalist
Kareem Farid, MD of Leap Comms, previously suffered from chronic anxiety in his role as a journalist

Employees will have a mandatory three hours per week dedicated for mindful activities such as reading, meditation and yoga, while the team have also recruited a psychologist who will focus on the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

The firm's 28-year-old MD, Kareem Farid, previously suffered from chronic anxiety in his role as a journalist and comms professional and told PRWeek Middle East that is why he wants to put mental health at the heart of the new business.

"Being the youngest MD in the UAE of a newly launched 360 comms agency puts considerable responsibility on me to represent my generation’s hopes, ambitions, dreams and fears.

"That’s why Leap Comms was born, with a clear goal to change the industry. Being treated for anxiety has helped me make that leap to leave my job at the best multinational agency in the region, and to chase my dream to start a new consultancy that reflects how this generation thinks, behaves and communicates.”

Mental health he said, is a cause close to his heart.

"I have suffered from anxiety and depression. Dealing with mental health has not been easy and just everyday tasks like getting out of bed were a struggle.

"Every little detail seemed like a new mountain to climb and this helps me empathise with people who suffer from mental health issues each day. "When I began receiving treatment, I encouraged people around me to focus on their mental wellbeing as much as they do for their physical wellbeing.”

The business, said Farid, is not only about working with clients and partners to take the leap when it comes to their communication strategies and execution, but also to change the environment when it comes to work culture.

"Media, in general, is one of the most stressful industries in the world to work in. While any communications professional is stressed between clients, budgets, operations and their management/leadership, there is a huge lack of support when it comes to looking after their mental wellbeing.”

Farid said his first act as MD of Leap was to announce a policy of the ’40 hours’ working week’.

"37 hours a week will be dedicated to the day-to-day tasks and three will be mandatory for all of our employees to feed their soul, mind and heart. In those three hours, our people will need to practice one hour for any physical activity, another hour for any new activity to stimulate the brain, and the final hour will be assigned to undertaking a mindful activity to feed the soul.”

Farid said he also aims to address the issue of staff retention in the regional industry, which is estimated at 18 months for the average employee.

"We are aiming to change this," he stressed. "We will not wait until our employees are burnt out to start motivating them or giving them time off to relax.”

Leap will partner with Dr Kareen E. Bekhazi, a clinical psychologist and the co-founder of Novomed Mental Health, to achieve this goal.

"As part of our efforts, Dr Kareen will train the ‘Leapmakers’ to enhance their wellbeing and ability to maintain a healthy work style. Having a positive mental attitude will be ingrained in the DNA of each of our staff, and therefore having an expert to help will provide an extra layer of support that is truly unique and we hope others will follow our lead.

"Living with anxiety makes everything in life tasteless and while we are living in an ‘always on’ culture, and we are working and living at work, we should work to have a better life. When it comes to purpose, it is our duty as industry leaders to truly embody this.

"I would like this to be a wake-up call to the leaders in our industry to urge them to prioritise mental health and wellbeing. It’s time to take care of our people so that we can grow together, and enjoy success together.

Farid said he also started the consultancy because he has spent years at multinational firms, observing how businesses are evolving in the region and beyond.

"While many have just started working towards integrating digital with traditional communications, the industry has moved ahead toward Artificial Intelligence and integrating AI with day-to-day work. My generation thinks differently and as a digital native, it is frustrating to move backwards when we should be adopting new technology or risk getting left behind.

"When I think of communications, I don’t think of traditional and digital separately; in my head it is an outdated conversation. While agencies are trying to digitise traditional media, we have made a leap to move far beyond it. As digital natives, we understand the value traditional media brings, but we believe in communicating our client’s message regardless of the platform we use."

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