From offering yoga sessions and free healthy food to no leave records at work, smart creative agencies are placing the well-being of employees above anything else. An increasing number of creative agencies are encouraging their employees to be emotionally resilient and healthy through a lot of schemes and privileges that go beyond paying lip service to simple health and safety guidelines.
Sometime ago, a junior employee committed suicide at Japan’s Dentsu office for being overworked and that left the industry in a devastated state of mind. It triggered a lot of discussions and increased awareness around the agencies and network to reduce working hours and mental pressure among the employees.
The idea of well-being schemes is not new. But now a lot of agencies are going beyond normal offerings to tackle the mental health and stress-related problems faced by a growing number of employees. Employees need more than just appraisals and promotions, which implicitly reduces talent movement from the agencies.
Subhash Kamath, CEO and Managing Partner, BBH India, said, “For any creative business such as ours, where people are the only real assets, their general health and well-being are keys not only to the success of the organisation but to the consistency of output as well. Happier and less stressed out people, produce better ideas. It’s as simple as that.”
Nisha Singhania, Co-Founder, Infectious, said, “The advertising industry is completely dependent on the people. We don’t have machinery or raw materials, but the talent that we pay for. Over the time we have realised that money is not everything. Of course, we have to pay well, but beyond that, it depends on the culture that we create which makes people to stay or to leave.”
Recently, Culture Machine also announced a first-day period leave policy, breaking the normal norms at workplaces.
Kamath told BestMediaInfo.com that for BBH, the office culture and atmosphere is paramount to encourage openness, collaboration and importantly, easy access to seniors. In addition, the agency provides free healthy breakfast every morning as well as fresh fruits and juices.
He emphasised the importance of a flat seating structure at the agency. He said, “We have a very flat structure compared to other organisations. Even our office design allows for openness and interaction: very few cabins, no silos and a hierarchy-less way of seating.”
Because of demanding schedules, high stress levels and performance linked perquisites, nearly 42.5 per cent of employees in private sectors suffer from depression or general anxiety disorder, compared to government employees with lesser levels of psychological demand at work, an ASSOCHAM study coinciding with the “World Health day” in 2015 noted.
A Mumbai-based independent agency, Infectious has food on the house every working day. The people in the agency eat lunch together and in fact, most of the time, evening snacks, and other itineraries are taken care by the agency itself. Singhania said, “We are an independent agency and we work like a family. Typically people eat their tiffins at their personal desks and spaces. But if we are a family then we must at least have a meal together. While you are here, you don’t need to worry about the food at all. Everything is taken care of by us.”
An out-of-the-box thing that the agency does for its people is that it doesn’t stop people from taking leaves. Singhania said, “They can take as many leaves as they want, till the time they behave like responsible adults. There is no system to track leaves.”
Human resource management teams at the agencies have also realised that other than just providing monetary benefits like appraisals and promotions, better working conditions also play an important role. Saswati Sinha, Head, HR, Cheil India, said, “It is important to have a combination of both tangible and intangible benefits. While facilities like gym, counsellor, games help to create a work balance, it is equally important to provide intangible benefits like rewards and recognition, training, transparent communication, regular performance appraisals for improving the employees’ mental health. This plays a pivotal role in the growth of an organisation.”
The problem is not just limited to creative agencies itself. It’s a universal problem. A lot of reasons can be the cause of stress for an employee, be it official or personal, which in turn causes deteriorating work quality. Rita Verma, Executive Vice-President and Head HR, DDB Mudra Group, believes in the fact that we are in a people-oriented industry. She further said, “The mental well-being of any employee not only impacts his/her performance at a singular level, but also grows to have a larger effect on the performance of the team and the group. Similarly, if the employee is happy, it shows in the work they do and in the overall product of the group.”
Since mental and physical well-being are largely co-dependent, DDB Mudra also takes initiatives to inculcate health practices as a part of the agency culture. Hence, many of the agency in-house events are sports and health-oriented. The agency recently hosted a three-month long fitness competition among the employees wherein the nutritionist gave personalised fitness goals to voluntary participants and awarded those who were able to achieve them. Throughout the campaign, the agency was regularly hosting yoga and fitness sessions for these participants and kept a measurement of their fitness growth to keep the enthusiasm burning. On International Yoga Day, the agency had called in experts to take the employees through Workplace Yoga.
DDB Mudra believes in four quintessential freedoms for everyone – Freedom from Fear, Freedom to fail, Freedom from chaos and Freedom to be. Verma said, “We realise that as a creative organisation, freedom like these are important for person’s well-being; mentally and physically. The LLC (Leadership, Learning and Change) team works closely with various team leads to promote and bring these four freedoms in action in everything that the group does for an employee. From maintaining a flat hierarchy in the team to exercising transparent communications across teams to keeping every employee informed and in agreement with their goals to avoid any form of confusion, stress or murkiness; we ensure that all our efforts are streamlined to the well-being and growth of our employees.”
Snooze room is a unique feature at Cheil. All the women employees at Cheil have a privilege of taking a break and relax in the Snooze room equipped with relaxing chairs and books. Cheil has an infant policy, where mothers of children till five years can leave one hour early or come to the office one hour late. The agency also has a grief policy, in which two weeks’ leave is granted on the demise of immediate relatives.