By the time this article is out, a whole bunch of adlanders would be all nostalgic, their memories of the time spent at the French Riviera, soaking up sunshine, rosé and the world’s best advertising work and craft making them sigh and remember how they defined the ultimate happiness of being in advertising. But all that has changed. Now, even the top ad show has got locked on the screen, and the couch at home has replaced the deckchair, never mind the rosé. Earlier, along with the stress and insane schedules, there were the award shows, both local and global, that really added to the happiness quotient, and to mental and emotional well-being. Well-being, of course, is one of the major things that has been hit in recent times. All that remains is stress, leading the agency bigwigs to rethink.
FOCUS ON MENTAL HEALTH
Corporate chatter these days is all about how global corporations are focusing on the mental well-being of their employees. Not to be left behind, Indian adlanders are genuinely showing the intent and seemingly adopting this much-needed practice in their repertoire. But why does it always have to be a calamity to bring about the humane and decent side of agency leadership? As far as one can recall, working with impossible timelines, burning the midnight oil, graveyard shifts and essentially thriving in chaos has been the ‘culture’ of the world of advertising. Often, one used to wonder how other industries could work effectively and efficiently within the office timings, and was it an advertising industry issue alone? But one neither challenged nor questioned the way of working. When it came to new business or pitches, all hell broke loose. Giving up on personal time was a given. Snatching a few hours of sleep was deemed a privilege and working round the clock and living on endless coffee and greasy meals the order of the day. Showing any resistance got folks labelled as non-ambitious or shirkers or often, not good enough.
The recent calamity has compelled every leader in the business to look at their leadership style. Autocratic leaders are a thing of the past. Inclusive and collaborative leaders are paving the way for the new agency ecosystem. The best places to work do attract the best talent. Good leaders get the best people. Good companies are the ones that always put their people at the centre of what they do. While we hear some awful tales of certain agencies putting the lives of their employees at stake, there are also fantastic initiatives taken up by agencies for the health and wellness of their workforce. The latter are the agencies of the future.
WHAT IS WELLNESS?
Wellness is not just a programme to be implemented; it is a cultural shift that is the need of the hour. Work has now become intrusive – it has come home and comfortably settled itself in that little place of escape that people had. Not everyone is able to cope with this deft take-over of personal place, compounded with the raging pandemic and the insecurities about losing lives and livelihoods that come with it. So, wellness is critical. Switching off is not a luxury, but a need. Agencies are actually encouraging people to speak, reach out, take time off… they are declaring holidays just like that. Finally, leaders are realizing that they must be compassionate to be competent.
Behavioral change will also need to come from the agencies’ clients. It is time for them to show empathy. It is not cool to continuously throw unnecessary challenges at the agency, organize pitches and shop for ideas, want everything yesterday and be the kind of client that no one can cherish. Instead, clients need to believe in collaboration, be respectful and in return get the best of work and respect from their agencies (plenty such clients already exist). Agencies are changing their narrative internally. They will only succeed if their key business partners support them.
LAUGH, CRY, WRITE, SING
Lessons are learnt from the dark hours. The pandemic has made people rethink and re-evaluate things that are important. Well-being is one of them. It is important to show appreciation, celebrate milestones and set goals to motivate and encourage employees. Like it is said, tell people you love them while they are around.
Go on, take that break, cook that dish, nurture that garden, call the retired boss who taught you PowerPoint, catch up with an old friend, make a few new ones… Laugh, cry, write, sing. Live a little or a lot. Keep working hard, keep enjoying work, dream of travel and how fabulous it will be to be back with work mates. Do it all or do some of it. But do stay well. Because wellness is all this. Wellness is worthwhile.
And along with being well, dream of the Riviera and rosé again!
(The author is an independent brand curator, coach and consultant)