By now the wheels are likely to have come off everyone’s well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions, but there’s still an opportunity to improve the welfare of your staff – and your business.
While in early January each of us might have planned to live a healthier lifestyle, achieve a better work life balance, spend more time with friends and family, and switch off email after (insert time here) o’clock, so many of those good intentions rely on the ability of the individual to take control of their time. And working in an agency, as everyone knows, hasn’t always made that easy. So why should the successful fulfilment of these goals rest entirely with the individual?
Leaders must recognise their responsibility in both enabling, and empowering, their people to take time back. By adopting some clear guidelines and committing to them from the top, you’ll empower your people to hit those resolutions. They’ll be happier and healthier (which should be a sufficient benefit in its own right) and, crucially, they’ll be better at their jobs – more creative, more energised, more passionate about their work and their clients’ businesses, and prouder of the agency that has enabled them to feel that way.
But, first, why does this need addressing? Because advancements in technology and changes in the culture and organisation of the workplace have meant that, as employers, we’ve become time snatchers. We’ve unwittingly robbed our people of their minutes and hours, and taken them almost entirely for ourselves and for the fulfilment of the needs of the business. And we must start giving people that time back, because this time-thievery leads to one place and one place only: burnout.
Employees are not robots (yet)
There’s a lot of talk right now about robots replacing humans, and doing our jobs better, faster and more consistently than we can. And, yes, some of that is true. But as long as we are employers of human beings (as well as the builders of AI and automated solutions), which will be for some time yet, we need to stop treating our people like robots.
Humans are not machines, especially in creative businesses such as agencies. While robots and AI get better by constantly and unremittingly optimising their output, the human operating system requires downtime. No downtime leads to exhaustion. And a shattered workforce delivers low creativity, less empathy, more reactivity, and a vastly lower output.
So how best to detox your agency, encourage your people to feel better, think more creatively, and feel more energised both at work and at home? Here are eight actions you should be committing to on behalf of your people:
1 - Create time for people to recharge, to take downtime. This is even more critical during these times of change in the industry and economy, because anxiety levels tend to be higher, workloads likely to be greater, and it is more difficult for people to switch off mentally.
2 - "Gift back" time to staff. This could take the form of, say, two hours a week during working hours, during which they can take exercise. Other ideas include closing the office early on a Friday, and giving people holidays on their birthdays and children’s birthdays.
3 - Run wellbeing and mindfulness sessions in the office, and encourage agile and flexible working so that staff can shape their working day around their own lives.
4 - Create societies for staff to spend time together enjoying shared passions. This helps boost energy levels and creates a spirit of community that fuels better teamwork.
5 - Provide free coaching for all staff, at all levels.
6 - Ensure that you put in place a shared parental leave policy that exceeds the standard guidelines and offers equal rights to all new parents regardless of gender.
7 - Create a workplace that is flexible and inspiring, by building spaces for both collaboration and for quietness.
8 - Adopt policies that enable people to work in a way that is best suited to them, delivering the best version of their role. Avoid a pre-set version that is based on outdated notions of presenteeism.
In short, start by stopping the time-thievery. Create space for your people to reboot, to build their energy, drive creativity, and ensure that they know that you place a high value on their health and wellbeing.
You’ll find your people are more energised, more inspired, mentally and physically healthier, and more loyal. And all of that leads to better outcomes for your agency and, therefore, for your clients.