Slack pings, Zoom calls and irregular work hours have become an all-too-familiar recipe for burnout as agencies and employees adapted to a new way of working over the past two years. In a nod to these pressures and their toll on mental health, some ad agencies have decided to give employees a week off this year.
Kinesso, the media and marketing technology unit for Interpublic Group of Cos., is giving its U.S offices, of approximately 700 employees a paid week off from August 30th-September 6. This is the second IPG company to do so. Mediabrands, a network of eight media and marketing agencies is also shuttering its U.S offices, which employs 3,000 people, during the same week, as first reported by Business Insider.
Last year, before implementing what it is calling "Kind Week," Kinesso had implemented "Kind Days" adding one day off per month for its employees after it noticed that significantly fewer people were scheduling days off after working remotely for a few months.
“Kinesso has a discretionary time-off policy that you can take as much time as you need, within certain parameters," Renu Hooda, global chief talent officer at Kinesso told Ad Age. “As the pandemic hit, people were at home and nobody was traveling. People were not taking time off. Once we looked at our discretionary time off, one month was down like 85% prior to the previous year's month.”
However, “Kind Days,” which started last June, was short-lived. Following a two-week off period during the Christmas holiday season, the company surveyed it’s employees and realized employees preferred an extended period of time off rather than one day a month.
Dramatic life shift
Independent agencies like The Many are also scheduling an upcoming week off. The agency, which has 150 employees, will be taking off from September 6-13. This marks the second consecutive year that the agency will be implementing its Labor Week initiative.
Wieden + Kennedy also took the opportunity to close its eight offices this summer. Its Portland, New York, Shanghai, and Tokyo office were closed from July 5-9; its Amsterdam and Sao Paulo offices were closed the following week; its Delhi office was closed the week of the 19th; and its London office will be closed the week of August 30th.
Davis Jones, managing director, people at The Many, says the idea came after numerous employee surveys that showed people were feeling overwhelmed by the extra work and anxiety the pandemic had caused.
“Of all the negative things about the pandemic, the one valuable thing was that it was such a dramatic life shift that it opened up time for reflection and space for re-imagining new ways of doing things,” Jones says. "I think something like this could have been possible prior to the pandemic, but there was something about the confluence of all these different factors that just made it inevitable.”
One major concern for the agencies was making sure their clients felt reassured well in advance before the time off, and that the work ultimately wouldn’t be affected. The agencies say they met with clients months in advance to introduce the idea and plan to make sure the agencies didn’t miss a beat while closed.
“A majority of them were actually really appreciative and actually said ‘Maybe we will also consider doing something similar for our employees,’” Hooda says. “Our leaders were very robust in providing them feedback on exactly what the coverage will be, how it will be handled, and for the individuals that have to be on call during that week, they are going to get some time off the following week."