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over 4 years ago by guest writer, Marc Caulfield - CEO of workplace mental health consultancy, Demolish The Wall

Agony Uncle: working crazy hours

Adobe Stock Working At Night


"I am a business director leading a very busy account. I love my clients and the work is superb, but the hours are pretty challenging and, to be honest, I’m feeling pretty stressed.  This year we have regularly been pushing 60-, 70- and even 80-hour weeks. I dread my team asking "can I grab you for five minutes" because that usually involves being given (yet another) resignation letter.  How can I make things a bit better for everyone? I can’t hire extra resource, dish out promotions or give pay rises due to a freeze in place across the network."                          


Marc Caulfield, CEO Demolish The WallMarc's view:

This unfortunately is all too common in the industry, particularly in the large groups. If resource truly can’t be gained, the team needs to decide whether all the work in progress is really necessary. Often ‘work’ is asked for by senior internal people, who just fancy having it but don’t NEED it. Times like these really do require an analysis of NEED vs. WANT. What is the objective? What do we NEED to do to get there? What is a ‘nice to have’?


In these scenarios the most senior agency people must talk to the client to iron out these situations. If as a business director of their agency you can’t tell a client you are stretched and need to prioritise, whilst still achieving the objective, you are in more trouble than this column talks about.


Ask yourself, is everyone in the team at full capacity; are the right people doing the right thing? Can efficiencies be gained by moving the work around i.e. is someone naturally better / quicker at certain tasks etc. This situation is really about survival and not necessarily being perfect, a tough ask for most agency folk. The management need to decide what is in their power to soften the blow – an extra day’s holiday here and there, take your friends or partner out for a dinner, spa day, etc etc. Being shown the agency cares, even though they can’t hire is important. Can the seniors take a step back and roll their sleeves up more? This can be hugely powerful. If they want to ride out this storm they need to step up to the plate – they will gain massive respect from the team.


If / when people start falling over, they will be in a whole world of pain – morally, ethically, legally, financially and reputationally. None of this will help retain, or importantly when the storm passes, hire the best talent. People aren’t super-human and remember putting your hand up and asking for help is not weak, it is strong, brave and shows you care for the output of the agency.


After 28 years in Adland, Marc Caulfield is now CEO of Demolish The Wall, one of the country's leading mental health in the workplace consultancies. They're helping demolish the wall of silence around mental health in the workplace, brick by brick.