In early December, while speaking at Linkedin Canada to the media division of Havas agency, I shared my experience with mental illness and how the Canadian marketing industry fed the problem. Thanks so much to everyone who reached out to share their thoughts as well as their own experiences. When I was in the middle of my lowest point I felt alone, but the more I talk about it, the more I realize how prevalent the problems I had really are. Owning my mental illness and addressing it out loud was and continues to be one of the biggest factors in my journey to wellness.
While I realized my journey needed to take me away from traditional agencies, I knew I didn’t want to leave the industry altogether. I decided I needed an environment that would work for me. And what better way to create just that then to start my own agency! In the spring of 2017, ThinkHatch was born.
The cloud-based agency is founded on putting people first. That’s not just lip service, it’s the foundation of the business. I knew that if I struggled with mental illness in the industry then others did as well.
I make it a point to practise what I preach; compassion, empathy, flexibility for employees, basically I practise KINDNESS. And I get that in return. The staff of ThinkHatch are good people and we are supportive and kind to each other and clients. We all work together and cover for one-another when someone is having a bad day, something everyone everywhere experiences from time to time.
Reflecting on my own experience I know there is so much that agencies can learn. The model as it exists now is broken. The hours are long, and the timelines are tight. There’s no such thing as a 40-hour workweek at a traditional agency. Employees are reluctant to share their struggles for fear of being replaced and management are often too tied up in their own stresses to notice the issues going on around them.
So, how could the agency world improve? Very simply put, treat others how you want to be treated. We SHOULD be making our mental health a priority. But all that starts with knowing how you want to be treated.
Changes like the ones necessary in the industry won’t happen overnight. But you can start by swapping out the “I should” for the “I need.” For example, instead of thinking how you “should” stay late, think about if you “need” to get home tonight. These changes can be slow to start and begin with your inner dialogue but can also extend into how you communicate at your agency.
Be KIND to yourself and be OK with not getting every client. And be OK with losing a client too. Stuff happens and communicate openly with your team when it does. Not every client is meant to be yours. Be confident and say that out loud!
There’s no question that agency life could be better, but it will only improve if we, the people who work in the industry, begin to change. When I started my journey to wellness I realized “I’m not crazy, I’m real.” And ‘real’ doesn’t work in an industry that expects too much from its people. We all have stories that need to be shared, whether it’s about having a bad day, needing help with a project, or admitting we’re struggling. Talk to your supervisor and let them know the real you.
We shouldn’t quit the industry, but we can all change the vicious cycle. We can all make more time for kindness and well-being.
If we all started thinking about each other more and spreading a little more kindness, agency life would be so much better for it.
Interested in hearing more about my story or having me speak with your staff about how to implement more well-being into their work life? Reach out anytime at Emily@ThinkHatch.ca.