Mental Health


Virtual Shindig and the power of laughter: the answer to your works xmas do!

Ladies and gentlemen, hands up who needs a night of fun? It has been soooooo long since we’ve all been out, right? I long for the days when we could go to a comedy club, watch stand-up and just laugh the night away. Who else remembers that?!

I miss treating myself to a lunch out with a colleague, having a chat, a chuckle and leaving work at the office for a bit. Wouldn’t post-work dinner and drinks be glorious right about now (!) as the start of the holiday season begins . . . 

Colourfully-lit Christmas trees are appearing in people’s windows and sparkly outdoor lights brighten the dark December skies. It fills me hope, but I also really miss people and miss doing fun things. [Quietly weeps!] Who’s with me in that?

I’m realising we need to do everything we possibly can to lift our spirits. We need to get creative, find work-arounds and plan some fun activities! 

That’s why I’m so excited to talk to you about Virtual Shindig: Enact Solutions’ absolutely brilliant, creative answer, to this year’s works xmas do! 

Virtual Shindig is a virtual night out, from the comfort and safety of your own home! It’s a chance for organisations to celebrate their employees’ phenomenal work and thank them for their incredible efforts this year. It’s 90 minutes of good old-fashioned fun – we’re talking a festive extravaganza filled with comedy, interactive games, awards and a few surprise celebrity appearances! 

Are you hooked yet? 

Virtual Shindig is all about the feel-good factor you get from watching a xmas show or film. The power of group laughter to create joy, facilitate wellbeing and connection. All our work at Enact Solutions is rooted in science and Virtual Shindig is no different. Laughter is increasingly being studied by the scientific community as the fascinating health and psychological benefits laughter brings emerges . . .

Laughter is wonderful for stress relief‘, because it reduces cortisol (stress hormone), anxiety, depression and releases endorphins in the brain. It also ‘makes you more open to new people and helps you build and strengthen relationships.’ – Psychology Today.

This means that work activities which facilitate laughter, not only contribute positively to mental health, but are perfect team-building and bonding exercises for colleagues. ‘Laughing together is something that improves team collaboration and stimulates innovation. It makes us feel more bonded as a team and as a consequence our creative guards come down, leading to more expansive idea generation.’ – BBC News

Stanford University Lecturer, Naomi Bagdonas who has been studying comedy for 5 years has this to say: “Some people believe this is too serious a time to laugh, but this is when we need humour more than ever. With this global pandemic, the shift to remote working, loneliness and depression rising precipitously, many of us have never felt so disconnected. When we laugh with someone – whether through a screen or 2m apart – we get this cocktail of hormones that strengthens our emotional bonds in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Studies show it makes us more resilient, creative and resourceful.” – The Guardian. 

We have endured so much this year, both professionally and personally and we need a way to release this tension. Virtual Shindig has been designed to be an evening of light-hearted banter. It’s a tonic of an event, which connects team-members through laughter and builds resilience. We’re delighted to see so many companies booking Virtual Shindig under their staff wellbeing budgets.

We’ve organised everything, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. The normal stresses of which venue to pick and what menu to choose are now obsolete! Your company will come together in the best way we know how (yes that’s Zoom in 2020!) and have some feel-good, festive fun.

We’ve got laugh-out-loud topical sketches, performed by outstanding actors. There’ll be competitions, quizzes and prizes. And we’ll personalise everything, tailoring your works xmas do specifically to your workplace. It’s about bringing your employees together in a team celebration, with interactive shoutouts and in-jokes galore. Work friends will kick back, relax, have a giggle and a good time together.

So who are the hosts? Only the brilliant, comedic, double act: Tam Ryan and Marvyn Dickinson – you might recognise them off the telly! Both have appeared in Coronation Street and between them have starred in Emmerdale, Cold Feet, Waterloo Road etc.

Tam and Marv have a strong background in comedy and will be mixing the world of work with panto, bringing you a brilliantly bonkers evening, chock-full of comedy craic! They’ve got tons of experience, having appeared in many a theatre production and stand-up. Tam most recently played Buddy in the hit comedy, ‘Elf The Musical’, starring alongside Kym Marsh and Martine McCutcheon! 

Can you feel your xmas spirit growing?!

For one week only Tam will be revising his role in ‘Elf The Musical’ in Blackpool, so we have the amazing Lee Toomes joining Marv for our comedy double act. Lee recently toured in ‘The Full Monty’, is often seen on TV, including Peaky Blinders and Shameless and is a panto regular!

Have we mentioned that we’re raising money for charity too?! For every booking, we’ll be donating £50 to the wonderful charity ‘500 Acts of Kindness‘, founded by national treasure Julie Hesmondhalgh, aka Corrie’s beloved Hayley Cropper!

500 Acts of Kindness is: ‘A fundraising group where 500 people donate a pound a week to give £500 to a person, family or organisation in need.’ It was set up in 2017 by Julie and her friend Chris Malvern and since then has raised close to £100,000 in donations. As this inews article explains, donations have helped: ‘women fleeing domestic violence, bereaved parents and families overwhelmed by rent arrears.’ We’re super proud to be supporting it, especially at a time when so many people have been financially devastated by the pandemic. 

The performing arts industry has also been hit very hard this year. Virtual Shindig is a way for us to offer our talented creative freelancers work, at a time when many of their Christmas tours have sadly been cancelled. They are the heart of our organisation and we’re so excited to be working with them on this project. 

Leading on and the visionary behind Virtual Shindig is none other than Helen Lacey, author of ‘Let’s Talk to Mummy’s Tummy’ and Enact Solutions’ Creative Producer! Helen’s spark for Virtual Shindig ignited in September after she saw how many shows and work events were being cancelled. Concerned about the impact on peoples’ resilience and wellbeing and being passionate about bringing lightness and laughter into people’s lives, Virtual Shindig blazed into being!

It’s been non-stop since then as we’ve been making creative content, promoting Virtual Shindig and receiving lots of bookings! We’ve chatted with Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland, appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Somerset and been interviewed by the BBC Business Website team! 

“This is something that will bring work colleagues together in laughter, you know, just proper belly laughs, that’s what we’re really aiming for,” said Helen Lacey on BBC News.

As well as fun and frolics, Virtual Shindig is about something special – offering companies a way to say a heartfelt thank you to their teams, for all the work they’ve done under incredibly challenging circumstances in 2020. With big, gold, BAFTA style envelopes, we’ll be announcing winners of special awards and celebrating individual and collaborative successes! It’s a celebratory end-of-year works party which reflects on and honours staff for everything they have achieved this year.

As CIPD says: ‘Christmas can be a great opportunity for employers to reward staff for their hard work and show they are valued. It’s also a chance for co-workers to relax and socialise with each other, which can boost morale and engagement.’

Virtual Shindig runs from 9th December 2020 to mid/late January 2021. Companies can choose whether to finish 2020 on a high, or kick start the new year with a fun event! We have time slots throughout the day and evening, but if our times don’t suit, please get in touch and we’ll try our best to accommodate you. We’re receiving bookings every day, so don’t delay!

We can facilitate groups of all different sizes, from 30 employees up to 600! Prices start from £1500 depending on group size and don’t forget staff parties can be a tax deductible expense!

After booking your Virtual Shindig, all you need to do is pop on your xmas hat, wrap some tinsel round your shoulders and let us entertain you!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and New Year,

Jemma Houghton


Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She’s been blogging for us on a number of topics and is really passionate about raising awareness and having conversations on resilience and well-being.


Looking after you – what individuals, teams and organisations can do

Hello! Right, before we start, make yourself a nice brew (and maybe grab a choccy biccy whilst you’re at it).

This is your chance to have some ‘me-time’. Ten minutes, to sit, relax, watch a short film and read about one of the most important topics – looking after you.

Not sure you can do this at work? You’re wrong. It’s in a company’s best interests to look after its employees. Why? Because a happy, healthy employee is a productive employee.

So, go. Pop the kettle on. Make that cuppa!



. . . Right, are you back? Brew in hand? Excellent.

Let’s begin.

So, what did you think? Did you recognise any behaviours? Whilst this montage is a comedic look at the challenges of remote working, it does touch on serious issues. So with that in mind, I want to ask:

How are you? No, seriously. How are you? I want to know.

If you’re a bit all over the place, that’s okay. You are not alone. 2020 is a year we’ll all remember. I don’t even need to say the words . . .  [Covid-19.] [Pandemic.]

We are living through an unparalleled time, which is testing everyone in uniquely different ways. Even within my own circle of friends and family, it’s evident that people are having dissimilar experiences: Professionally, some people have returned to the workplace, key workers never left, and others remain working remotely. Some people can see friends and family (from a distance), whereas others can’t because of local restrictions.

Spring proved to be a beacon of light for many earlier in the year. ‘Those with access to balconies, gardens . . . have been benefiting from them during weeks of lockdown, while others have been trapped inside.’ – BBC News: What outdoor space tells us about inequality. Winter, with its biting chill, short days and long, dark nights is certainly going to be an interesting time.

Then looming above everything is health. Maybe we or our loved ones have chronic health conditions. Maybe we’re a carer. Maybe we’ve lost someone. Or maybe we’re struggling mentally with all of this. And who would blame us?!

It’s been a stressful time(!) and we’re unfortunately not through it yet. Millions of people have experienced ‘local lockdowns’, some for months on end and with the new three tiered system of governmental restrictions and with cases rising, millions more will face increased restrictions. We clearly have a long and difficult winter ahead of us.

With all of these vastly different experiences and challenges comes a significant impact on our mental health, resilience and well-being.

In the first six weeks after 23rd March 2020 (UK national lockdown), 57% of people reported symptoms of anxiety and 64% symptoms of depression (study of 3000+ adults), Kings College London and University of Nottingham found. Kavita Vedhara, Professor of Health Psychology said: “This is far in excess of levels usually seen in the UK.” – The Guardian: Stress, anxiety and depression levels soar under UK Covid-19 restrictions.

I’m not ashamed to say my feelings and behaviours have been up, down and all around of late. I’m having to check in with myself and make an effort to top up my resilience regularly. Sometimes I’m okay and other times I’m not. I’m adjusting to this new normal. All whilst the landscape continues to change around me.

What can play a considerable part in how you feel, is how well your organisation, your colleagues and you look after your resilience and well-being. And you absolutely have the right to ask for support in this area. An organisation’s staff are its greatest resource and companies should be investing in and making their staff a priority.

If you’re an employer, when was your last staff satisfaction survey? Have you evaluated staff wellbeing recently? Are you allocating more time and giving staff more frequent 1:1s to see how you can support them? Do you have an employee assistance programme where staff can choose to access counselling? Are staff receiving enough praise? Do staff have realistic goals?

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, “Yes we have policies and support mechanisms, such as mental health first aiders within our company,” but have you checked your processes are actually working lately? Are they fit-for-purpose? Fit for this unprecedented challenge?!

. . . Or has it been pedal to the metal? All hands on deck (minus those furloughed – which has been a difficult transition for many). Staff performing tasks outside their role descriptions? Regular reviews forgotten?

Don’t worry if you’ve been in survival mode! We’ve all been there and we’re all doing what we can for our businesses, livelihoods and families.

Living in stress is not sustainable long-term though. It takes a toll on mental health, resilience and well-being. At some point an organisation must prevail with a plan and a framework which provides people with structure and support.

Now is the time to reflect on how organisations, teams and individuals can best look out for one another. At Enact Solutions we run workshops on Resilience and Wellbeing in the Workplace, both virtually and face-to-face. It’s a topic I’m super passionate about and is vital training for all staff, especially during these trying times.

Within society, there’s a common misconception that people either have resilience and good mental health or they don’t. This is categorically wrong! In our drama-based experiential workshop delegates:

  • discover what fills and depletes their ‘resilience jars’ (it’s different for everyone).
  • use live anonymous polling to explore their feelings – something they’re often nervous to discuss with employers.
  • are provided with a safe space where they can talk openly about work-life challenges.
  • learn clear definitions to increase mental health and resilience understanding.
  • witness first-hand the dangers of unhelpful ‘coping’ strategies.
  • practise supporting others with effective empathy.
  • examine what positive, tangible changes organisations can make.

Resilience is about being able to recover from setbacks, even in times of stress. To apply new approaches to problem-solving and adapt to change. If there’s one time we particularly need to have and understand resilience, it’s now!

Organisational Psychologist, John Amaechi sums up the difficulties of working through a pandemic perfectly: “Nobody is working from home. What we are is, by law, locked in our houses for most of the time to avoid dying from a virus or spreading a virus to somebody else who is going to be more susceptible, and therefore die . . . And in that backdrop . . . we have been attempting to perform at work.” (1min19 – 2min16)

Amaechi’s description really highlights the stark reality of what we’re living and trying to work through. As Imperial College London (ICL) explains: “Feeling positive in the workplace has an important part to play, contributing to many of the essential elements of our wellbeing.” With that in mind, how can we not invest in it?

I adore ICL’s writing on the topic of ‘flourishing’ and want to leave that with you now: ‘Flourishing means a lot more than the absence of stress, or mental ill-health. It is about having energy, passion, self-esteem, improved physical health, supportive relationships and being successful in our endeavours.’

So let’s learn how to look after ourselves, our colleagues and our employees. It’s time to flourish.

Jemma Houghton


Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She’s been blogging for us on a number of topics recently and is really passionate about raising awareness and having conversations on mental health, resilience and well-being.