Could agency life be damaging to your health?

Could agency life be damaging to your health?

Tuesday, February 3, was ‘National Sickie Day’. More employees in the UK ‘pull a sickie’ on this day than any other in the year and a recent survey suggests that people in advertising, marketing and PR are the fourth most likely group of workers to bunk off that day.

The study, by commercial property company Savoy Stewart, found that the most common reason for lying about an absence was for a ‘mental health day’ (20% of the reasons) for all sectors.

Agency life is tough

It’s so easy at an agency to feel swamped with work and client demands that employees forget something as important as their mental health. It can also be daunting to admit to feeling stressed or depressed.

That’s why the Marketing Agencies Action Group (MAAG) wants to give agencies and their staff the skills and tools to better manage mental health.

Terry Martin

MAAG wants to put ‘mental health champions’ in every marketing agency; people trained to spot the signs of mental ill health and to advocate for greater awareness of them.

MAAG Head of Operations Terry Martin says, “We spend about a third of our lives at work and so you need to be happy at your workplace. We’re trying to put a mental health champion in every marketing agency as well as in agencies in general.”

Festival of Happiness

MAAG will push the debate about how agency staff are treated with a whole–day event on 19 May called ‘The Festival of Happiness’, following on from its first Festival last year.

It is a practical day of two halves. The morning will focus on how leaders can create a happy agency – and why they should – with a keen eye on stress, workloads, managing client demands, and so on. The afternoon will aim to equip individuals with tools and techniques to improve mental health and well-being.

Terry says, “In the UK, businesses – not just agencies – are running at 60% efficiency and studies show they can increase this 30% by focusing on supporting employees. The Festival is about helping agencies grow and prosper.”

Festival of Happiness 2019

Where is the evidence?

The issue of mental health was raised as the number-one concern among MAAG’s Future Leaders group last year, followed by issues such as diversity and inclusion.

But is agency life really that tough?

MAAG’s own research in June 2019 (‘Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing in Marcoms’) found an astonishing 91% of people in marketing agencies said they had struggled with mental health issues – the average in the UK working population is 52%.

The top three contributors to stress were a heavy workload (48%), unclear expectations (47%) and impending deadlines (47%).

“This wasn’t on our radar even in 2018. As an association we had focused on helping agencies grow the business but to have a successful agency you need to be a happy agency,” says Terry.

MAAG later followed this up with a debate in the House of Commons.

Mental health champions

MAAG estimates that 80% of its members currently have trained mental health champions. The aim is to reach 100% and encourage the industry as a whole to adopt this approach.

Terry says, “Our aim is to give the small, independent agencies access to the resources and tools normally only present at the larger groups.”

That would certainly make the next National Sickie Day a more low-key affair among marketers.