When you see someone rushing down the street in business attire or typing away on a laptop in a coffee shop, what do you imagine to be true about them?
In Western culture, most of us have been conditioned to characterize this type of person as intelligent, important and hard-working. None of these attributes are negative, but they can cover up the very real impact of overwork lurking under the surface of someone’s seemingly glamorous work life.
Nowhere is this glorification more apparent than in an agency environment, where a fast pace is the norm and quick reaction times are non-negotiable. It can seem like there’s no way to participate in agency life without taking on unhealthy levels of stress.
Yet, there should be. A 2019 Digiday+ survey uncovered that 32% of agency professionals were worried about their mental health.
READ MORE ABOUT THE IMPACT OF STRESS ON AGENCIES: “Chaos to Calm” eBook
When people are stressed enough for their mental health to be affected, they’re not as creative or productive as they could be — and certainly not capable of performing the way you need them to.
Let’s explore how stress could be holding your agency back and how to pivot in a healthier direction.
Even if you acknowledge that stress is present in your agency, you might also believe your team is doing great and being relatively productive.
The question is: What if they could be doing so much more?
According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, a little bit of stress can contribute to productivity, but too much causes a dramatic dip in performance. The place along the stress curve where performance suffers depends on how familiar a person is with the task at hand, but one thing is for sure: You don’t want a whole team of employees hitting that max stress level at once.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the moment in time when peak stress has been achieved and that dreaded dip is about to happen.
One investigative approach involves looking out for common physical signs of stress. Sometimes, your employees won’t express the reality of how they feel, but their body language will tell the true story.
An overwhelmed person could be:
It’s important to pay attention to these signs because you’ll never know what’s possible for your agency’s growth if you turn a blind eye to your team’s stress or unintentionally encourage them to overwork. There could be latent potential to 2X, 5X or 10X the lifetime value of your existing clients, but your stressed team might be failing to fully demonstrate your agency’s value.
The toughest part of shifting your agency culture is overcoming the myth that calm = lazy.
It’s counterintuitive, but the opposite is true. When people feel safe and comfortable, they tend to be more effective at their jobs.
A global survey by Catalyst found that employees with remote work options are 75% more likely to report always or often being engaged in their jobs and 63% more likely to report always or often being innovative.
You don’t need to have a fully remote team to encourage those same feelings of safety. Agency professionals appreciate employers — remote or in-person — who prioritize four elements of a solid agency culture: clarity, stability, transparency and purpose.
READ MORE ABOUT THE ELEMENTS OF AGENCY CULTURE: “Chaos to Calm” eBook
Happy employees who want to work bring those positive vibes to each client interaction, too. Thus, the more psychologically safe your team feels, the more stable and profitable your agency’s relationships with clients will be.
Once you’ve decided your team needs some support to reduce their stress, and you understand why it’s smart to help them take that step, it’s time to figure out how to transition from running-on-empty agency life to a more peaceful pace.
Before you act, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your leadership team about how your company values have been reflected up to this point.
If your team is already relatively open to, or even desperate for, moments of peace, they may not need much encouragement to slow down. On the other hand, if you get the feeling they’re worried about appearing lazy, they might need explicit permission to care for themselves.
It could even be necessary to mandate supportive measures like regular breaks or vacations. The tone of this kind of mandate should be gentle and representative of the facets of effective leadership: consistent communication, genuine listening and efficient problem-solving.
Other cultural changes that promote calm and safety include:
Want even more ideas about slowing down your agency’s culture and taking your revenue potential to the next level? Click below to download our free eBook.