It’s widely understood that the ‘agency life’ isn’t always easy. Tight deadlines, large workloads and an ‘always on’ culture has meant that the line between work and play has not only become blurred, but in some cases it’s completely non-existent.
There can be no denying that the typical working culture of an agency can play havoc with work-life balance and can be particularly challenging for parents and carers who are trying to juggle the responsibilities of family life with the intensity of creative projects. Added to that, there’s the fact that although your team working long hours means that your agency can hit tight deadlines, it can also result in unhappy employees.
A recent Mental Health Foundation survey found that more than a quarter of people who work long hours, with no flexibility, feel depressed, anxious, and irritable. Not exactly a recipe for long-term creative agency success.
Time to start thinking about flexibility
The question you might be asking yourself right now is ‘do unhappy employees stay?’ Research conducted by Aviva in 2019 found that one in four employees have left their job to seek greater flexibility and a better work-life balance.
This clearly demonstrates that there is a very real possibility that if you choose to continue with the traditional ‘agency life’ working practices you may thrive in the short-term, but in the long-term you could end up losing the very thing that your agency is built on, your employees and their talent.
If all of that hasn’t persuaded you that you need to start thinking about introducing flexibility into your work culture, then check out our top five ways in which flexibility could benefit your agency.
The business case for flexible working
#1 Achieve a better work-life balance
The push for greater flexibility is being driven by employees’ wishes for a greater balance between the demands of work and personal commitments. A good work-life balance is key to a person’s wellbeing, and it has been proven that the better their wellbeing, the better their performance. Your agency can get repaid for its commitment to flexibility by having a well-rounded team with improved levels of motivation and creativity. What’s not to like?
It’s well-known that creatives don’t thrive on the strict structure of a nine-to-five (or in reality a nine-to-nine). Sometimes the most innovative ideas come outside of office hours and the office building.
You may feel like you’re getting value-for-money out of your employee by having them sit at their desk all day, but the reality is that is most likely not the case because it may not be where and when they do their best work.
Affording creatives flexibility gives them the ability to work in a space where they can think more freely and ride the wave of inspiration when it hits.
#2 Attract the best talent to your agency
Offering flexible working means that you can recruit from a much larger talent pool. There are extremely talented people out there who can only work part-time or non-traditional hours. By opening your agency up to these types of workers you can increase your chances of hiring the right person for the job.
You may think that flexible working isn’t an important factor when people are choosing to apply for a job, but you’re wrong. Research shows that 87 per cent of workers either work flexibly already or wish they could, and it’s considered by some to be more important than salary.
Also, in recent years work/life balance has consistently been the most popular career goal amongst UK students. So, if you don’t offer flexible working, but your competitors do, you could very well end up missing out on talented people who could bring valuable skills to your agency.
#3 Increase productivity
Businesses can be reluctant to roll out flexible working because they fear that it will result in reduced productivity for both individuals and the team. However, research conducted by ACAS has found that flexible working increased personal and team effectiveness. In fact, managers felt that flexible workers were more organised and productive.
Companies that have embraced flexible working, such as HSBC, have found that UK regions with the highest levels of productivity offer employees the opportunity to work flexibly and 89 per cent of employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity (source: HSBC Productivity Report 2017).
Being able to manage their personal lives more effectively helps employees concentrate more on their work when they are at work. They can also work at their own peak hours of productivity, meaning that when they are on the clock you are getting their best work.
#4 Increase engagement and commitment to your agency.
When staff are happy they stay. It really is that simple.
Employees who have been allowed to work flexibly tend to demonstrate greater loyalty, commitment and a willingness to ‘give back’ to the organisation. Flexible working has been found to act as a motivator for employees. They are more willing to work overtime, change hours and take work home.
Basically, if you’re flexible with them, they will offer you flexibility back, which is especially helpful in an agency setting where you need to be able to provide an agile response to clients’ last-minute needs. Having some members of the team working non-traditional hours, means that within reason, you will have someone available to deal with urgent client demands. Something that can really help your agency stand apart from your competitors.
Greater loyalty and employee engagement is not only good for morale, but for business. Flexible workers have the potential to generate 43 per cent more revenue compared to their disengaged counterparts .
A pretty compelling argument in favour of flexibility.
#5 Less sick days
Flexible working gives employees the freedom to work interchangeably between the office and home, which means that if a member of the team isn’t feeling well they stay at home and nurse it. They have the discretion to start their day a bit later and work from their sofa or even their bed. Colds and bugs are nipped in the bud before they turn into something major that spreads like wildfire throughout the office and takes your entire team down.
Employees also have the ability to manage disability and long-term health conditions. So if a member of your team doesn’t feel well enough to physically come to the office, but well enough to work, they don’t have to call in sick.
The future is bright, the future is flexible
There’s no doubt that flexible working has its challenges as well as its benefits.
A flexible culture needs to be closely monitored and managed, and in an agency setting that can be challenging. It also requires effective communication and a high level of trust and accountability from the team and management alike.
But, if you embrace flexibility the benefits to you, your business and your clients will make any pain points worth it.