If that title caught your attention, we need to have a little chat.
But before we begin, I have a few questions for you:
- Does your 40-hour workweek often turn into 50, maybe even 60 hours?
- Do you frequently find yourself working on weekends?
- Do you feel uncomfortable (or worse, guilty) when asking for time off?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, it sounds like you’re in a toxic agency that’s overworking you — and you’re not alone. The agency world is notorious for long hours, highly stressful environments and poor mental health among employees. The suicide of an overworked Dentsu Japan employee back in 2015 sparked a conversation around the need for better work-life balance in the ad world – a debate that continues to rage, partly because of no signifcant changes to the work culture.
The pandemic has only worsened an already difficult situation, as the blurring lines between home and work are making it harder for people to switch off. But the good news is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Already, a number of agencies are taking steps to create healthy work environments — from flexible working to encouraging open discussions around mental health – but that’s just one side of the equation.
As employees, here’s what we can do at our end:
Block out your day on your calendar
Planning and scheduling your tasks is a great way to gain greater visibility over your workload. Personally, I find it very helpful to plan out my entire week on a Monday morning and divide the workload into bite-sized tasks with specific time slots marked out for every job. It not only makes the week seem a lot less daunting, but improves focus.
Self-imposed deadlines may seem like they’re adding pressure, but they often have the opposite effect. In fact, it goes a long way in helping you meet your daily goals and log off at a reasonable hour. With the rest of the day at your disposal, you can unwind peacefully, knowing that your workload for the next day is planned and in order.
Get comfortable with saying ‘no’
Being aware of the size and distribution of your workload has another benefit – it gives you a better picture of availability to take up new tasks.During busy weeks, you need to set boundaries. Working beyond your capacity is a huge red flag! Learn to say ‘no’ when you feel like you may be biting more than you can chew.
If you are a people pleaser like me, this won’t be easy at first. The drive to push yourself is not a bad thing but it comes with the risk of turning into a burnt-out workaholic. That is why it’s necessary to gently set boundaries from the get-go and ensure that you don’t overstretch yourself.
Make yourself your first priority
While work may be an important driving force of your life, it is not your whole life. You need to prioritise yourself, specifically your health. If you are not physically and mentally well,
you cannot continue delivering at the workplace
Work is bound to suffer when you are not feeling up to it, so here is a quick checklist to keep your mental health on track:
- Ensure you have a healthy work-life balance and take enough breaks to recharge from time to time
- Spend time with the people you love, or cultivate hobbies that keep you positively preoccupied in your free time
- Practice mindfulness, meditation or some other form of self-care to stay in touch with your inner self
And despite your best efforts, if you ever feel like your peace of mind is slipping away, talk to your friends, colleagues and the people around you that are more than willing to listen and support you.
These little steps that we take for ourselves make a big difference in shaping our attitude and motivation towards work.
Want to continue the conversation around overwork and mental health? Drop us a note at [email protected]