Let's Put an End to the Agency All-Nighters

Late Nights Only Equal Mediocre Work

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Last week I logged 71 hours.

And while I found myself at the office over the weekend, I never once pulled an all-nighter, nor did anyone I was working with. Why? I simply do not believe in them.

I'd like to think I'm done with those for the rest of my career, although a little voice in my head tells me that in this business it doesn't come that easy and I'm really lucky to be working for a small agency.

In fact I was at a gathering of new-business professionals and someone joked out loud that those who didn't pull all-nighters at his shop weren't seen as dedicated to career or company.

Noelle Weaver Noelle Weaver
Careers-in-Marketing.com even suggests to young hopefuls that this is the price of entry in our business: "Continual deadlines in advertising and PR can cause high levels of stress and pressure. The advertisers may have to work all night or weekends to ensure a presentation is properly prepared to meet a pressing deadline."

Why do we set this precedent for ourselves?

All-nighters, in my opinion, burn out your staff. All-nighters are when the most mistakes are made. Pull all-nighters repeatedly and you'll soon have employees who are missing work because of health issues or are just in plain need of sleep and sanity. This can be costly to your agency's productivity levels. And speaking of productivity . . . when you have employees who are constantly grinding away and chained to their office chairs, you can kiss high levels of creative thinking goodbye.

That little voice comes back in my head and reminds me that we're still a service business after all -- and advertising and communications is one of the most cut-throat industries out there, so sometimes, don't we need to make that sacrifice?

When I landed the role of heading up business development at my current agency I made a personal declaration that I would put an end to all-nighters for anyone working on new business -- be it the research team, creatives or the PowerPoint guy in the art studio. Perhaps it was the pain of too many nights sitting in a darkened office all alone at 4 a.m. trying to make sense of the notes I had scribbled seven hours earlier. Perhaps it was the realization that if new business acted like a client to the agency, it would be easier to create deadlines that would hold more people (at all levels) accountable for the work and descisions they made throughout the process leading to a more timely delivery and better end result. Maybe it was simply that I didn't want folks to resent the new-business department as much as they had at the big agencies I worked at in the past.

Look at it this way. Yes we're a service business -- so is the restaurant industry. But the really great ones aren't open all night. And those that are open 24/7? They usually give you pretty mediocre food and service.

Yes. I know that not every client is going to be a dream. Some of them will still call you at 4:45 with a request and the really bad ones will call you on Sunday. But it is my belief that the example you set as a 9 to 5 agency (on your best days) means that when a call comes in at the end of the day the response becomes "When do you need this?" as opposed to "You'll have it by 9 a.m." As agencies we should be proactive, not reactive. That's the real precedent we need to set for ourselves.
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