Some agencies are also allowing for more flexibility in letting people take chunks of time off during the work day, or offering sporadic company-wide PTO days.
“On a day-to-day basis, we openly encourage each other to step away from important tasks to take a walk or grab coffee with a coworker as this allows for a reset and the ability to regain a healthy state,” said Becky Stevenson, chief operating officer of independent ad agency Two By Four.
Suzanne Barbosa, managing director of independent agency Atlantic New York, said her shop goes one step further by mandating the use of PTO.
“Those who do not use all of their PTO by end of the year are submitted to do ‘community service’ at the agency’s headquarters—a boat in Red Hook,” Barbosa said. “People (at all levels) are forbidden to contact a team member when that person is on vacation. The only vacation shaming at Atlantic is if someone disrupts other people’s vacations.”
The Atlantic’s PTO policy may seem extreme but the boundaries setting aspect is critical.
Reed said regardless of how much PTO an employee is given, it is of utmost importance for companies to urge their employees to set boundaries when they are off and for managers to respect those boundaries.
“This can range from blocking time to walk their dog to leaving early to see kids' sporting events to spending time with parents,” Reed said. “Managers should take time to learn what their employees care about outside of work and support them in creating space and time to nurture those passions.”
All in all, many agency executives said it’s especially important for leaders to be vulnerable and open about talking about their own mental health struggles to encourage team members to do so, as well.
Ellie Lloyd, executive creative director of independent agency Glow, said being vulnerable with her team has always been a priority.
“I have found that as a leader if you open up, your team feels comfortable enough to do the same. There's no piece of work that is more important than your health,” Lloyd said. “I make sure that my team knows the resources that are available to them should they need to step away to take care of their mental health.”