In honour of World Mental Health Awareness Day on the 10th October, this week's blog post will consider how to evaluate your work-life balance and offer some ideas on how to improve your sense of well-being. Work-life balance has been a subject of discussion for decades but it has become much more so following the pandemic lockdowns and subsequent shift in remote /hybrid working not only in digital industries but beyond. During the lockdown, many of us experienced more time at home with remote working and the many benefits of this such as no commuting and being able to spend more time with family. Many companies have kept this freedom with remote working and hybrid working options but what does this mean for our work-life balance? Even though we are a couple of years into this shift, it can be difficult to adjust. Working from home can make it difficult to set boundaries and it can become easy to normalise working long hours or being under extreme stress. Our assumptions around work and what is expected of us easily become deep-rooted unless we take a step back and review our situation
How To Self-Check Your Work-Life BalancePerhaps you've gotten used to feeling a certain way, or maybe you feel as though something is off. This is normal. Media careers are notoriously difficult to keep and set boundaries in due to the nature of the work and company cultures. Here are three steps you can take to evaluate how you are doing in your work-life balance:
- Stop and step back. We usually wait until a big life event, such as a loss or birth before letting ourselves reflect on our lives. However, it is important to consider how you are feeling and what might be causing it. For example, is there something making you feel stressed or causing you unhappiness? What are you prioritising and what are you missing out on? Figuring out and being aware of your feelings can help you work out what changes you need to make.
- Weigh it up. Once you know what is wrong you can think about your priorities and what needs to change. A good example of this is to work out whether needing to work on weekends is worth losing out on your free time and social life. Or, is working long hours worth losing out on family time?
- What are the alternatives? Is there anything that you can do within your working routine to adjust to your new priorities?
What Can You Do To Improve Your Work-Life BalanceIf you work from home, a great first step you can take is to make sure you take a phone break. there are plenty of mental health benefits to limiting your exposure to the blue screen light last thing at night and first thing in the morning. In regards to maintaining a better work-life balance, taking time away from your phone will help you draw a line between work and home. Try to work smarter by prioritising and try to avoid getting caught up in unproductive tasks and distractions. A good way to do this is to set time limits to spend on tasks and take regular breaks. This is particularly hard when you are working from home but try taking at least half an hour for lunch and get away from your desk if possible. Visit the gov.uk website for information on your legal break requirements. If you can, consider keeping track of your working hours over the course of a week or a month to give you a better idea of how long you are actually working. Make sure you factor in time spent outside of your normal working hours where you might be worrying or thinking about work. This will be a good indicator of work-related stress. Keep track of your working hours over weeks or months rather than days. This will give you a better picture of your work-life balance. Finally, always talk to someone if the expectations and demands of work are too much. Your manager and employer need to know where the pressures lie in order to address them.
What Can Your Workplace Do?It isn't just your responsibility to find a balance. Your workplace and employer play a role too and have certain responsibilities to look after your well-being. They should ask their employees about this and be responsive to ideas that could improve the work-life balance of you and your colleagues. It is down to you to communicate your needs if you are under too much pressure. A good employer will foster a culture of openness and train managers to spot signs of stress. It is becoming more and more expected now that people should have flexible and remote working options wherever possible and provide the infrastructure to make this workable for all parties. They should increase support for parents and carers so they can continue working and also allow for the use of relevant support services or counselling during work hours as they would for medical appointments. And finally, just as you should step back and review your situation every so often, so too should your employer, taking time to regularly review your situation and workload with you to make sure it is achievable.
Work-Life-Balance Is A CycleMaintaining your work-life balance requires regular check-ins and effort from employees and employers. Work-related stress can seriously affect your ability to perform well in your role and can have a serious impact on your mental health. Make sure you know what you are entitled to and communicate with your managers. For more tips on working from home, check out 7 Simple Tips To Tackle Working From Home on the NHS Website. Mental Health.org have some great tips on how to reduce stress. If you are struggling with any mental health issues please seek help from friends, family or the NHS urgent care helpline.
Whether you are job seeking or have been headhunted, you are in a unique position to find out if a workplace is the right fit. This includes checking whether a company truly cares about diversity, equity and inclusivity. An inclusive workplace can look different for everyone. Here's our three tips on how to make sure your potential employer goes further than just ticking boxes.
1. Ask The Right QuestionsTypically, a recruiter should be able to answer most questions you have. They work with the same companies over time and should know their processes and culture well. Think about what's important to you and pick a few key questions to ask. It is always a good idea to follow any phone calls with more detailed questions over email. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Do you take on school leavers and/or graduates as part of your talent pool development?
- What maternity/paternity cover is offered?
- If you are applying for a remote role, how does the company support inclusivity?
2. Be Specific About Your NeedsWhile you don't need to bare all on your CV, or divulge personal information in your interview if you aren't comfortable, it is important to express your needs to assess whether a company is ready to accommodate you. Consider talking to your recruiter if you are uncomfortable discussing anything at interview.
3. Make ConnectionsCheck Facebook and LinkedIn for any groups or connections you can reach out to prior to any interview. People who currently work at the company or have previously worked at the company will be able to provide you with different insights into the working culture. They might also be able to offer you helpful advice for your interview. Prepare some questions to ask and be candid, you want to find out information from behind the scenes. Try these examples as a jumping off point:
- What do you like/dislike about working at the company. (If they no longer work there, you can ask why they left if it is relevant.)
- How would you describe the company culture?
- How would you describe the work environment?
- What if any activities outside of work do you attend?
Company Culture: Trust Your GutWhat a company has published online, both on their website and social media provides key information on their DE&I policies. But it is important to dig a little deeper. You need to make a judgement on whether it feels authentic or not. Does it make clear, measurable commitments and report on progress? Check out sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor for more information on company structure and any potential red flags. Twitter and industry news sites can provide more relevant information on potential employers. Are senior executives leading conversations? Your instincts are usually right. so, don't forget to ask, express, and do your research! For the latest in digital jobs, head to dotgap now.
For a long time, digital industries and media agencies have had a lack of diversity in regard to their employees and senior members. Gender, age and race are the least balanced but this article will also look at LGBQT+ and disabilities to help highlight the problems, progress and areas to work on for a more diverse digital media world. While stats across all industries showed some improvements in these areas over the last decade, unfortunately, and especially in media agencies, this progress was negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with stats showing a drop across all areas. For more information, you can check the IPA 2020 Census. This report suggests the pay gap widened too, as did the number of female employees. However, it would be remiss to ignore the latest findings of the same report. Only a year later we can see some improvement and there are some encouraging findings:
- More individuals from a non-white background are holding senior positions, as well as an increase in those holding entry-level and junior roles.
- There has been an increase, albeit a marginal one, of women holding senior roles in media agencies.
Diverse Workforces: Ethnic DiversityAccording to data collected by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, a sobering 88.8% of employees in the digital sector are from a white ethnic group. What's more, a study entitled 'Black, Qualified and Unemployed' found that BME individuals who graduated with a first degree were twice as likely to be unemployed than white graduates. 2020 was a year of big change in terms of bringing racial discrimination to the foreground of public opinion. The Black Lives Matter Movement was unlike anything seen in decades and was impossible for businesses to ignore. BAME representation has improved in media and advertising agencies in the last few years, there is still more that can be done. There is so much untapped potential out there. It has been suggested that if individuals from BAME backgrounds were able to reach their full career potential through opportunities and progress in the workplace they would add 24 billion to the UK economy with the most diverse companies over 30% more likely to have higher earnings. If you are interested in hearing more, BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) are pushing for more initiatives and accountability around improving diversity. They believe that a diversity index with baseline diversity stats would help everyone to set targets and see how much further it is for the UK sector to go. Head to their website for more information.
Diverse Workforces: Gender DiversityWhen it comes to gender, women are taking up less than 40% of roles. So we need to ask why. Gender imbalance in digital and tech starts all the way back in the UK primary, secondary and higher education systems. Recent estimates have found that 50,000 girls turn away from STEM subjects every year, despite out-performing boys across STEM subjects. Some studies suggest this starts with general misinformation about what school subjects can lead to what roles. For example, there are many outdated preconceptions around STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and careers. But we should not forget that non-STEM subjects can lead to digital roles too. Digital, media and tech companies can counter this by doing outreach in schools, giving talks and making sure they are involved in communities in some way. Schools should be communicating career opportunities and pathways to all students. There is still an image of STEM subjects and digital jobs being more masculine which is not helped in male-dominated classrooms and workspaces. Combined with a lack of support, from those teachers or parents who don't understand tech and digital, this can lead to a lack of confidence which sees women perhaps not going for careers they want.
Diverse Workforces: Ageism And DiversityThere is an age divide in the media, advertising and digital industries. It appears the under 25s and over 55s are affected the most. A report from 2020 found that only 7% of those employed by agencies were under 25 and only 6% were over 50. With an average age of 34 in most media agencies, what causes this and what can be done to counter it? The truth is, with a wide age range of employees, you will be able to successfully talk to more consumers, something which is particularly important in the media advertising industries. If creativity and communication is the goal, creating a multi-generational environment can help fuel better solutions. "More than 500% of budgets are targeted at millennials; yet consumers 55+ spend more than double the 18-34s." - Annalie Killian, Sparks & Honey, from this article in The Drum, reminding us that the older generations have more money to spend, so perhaps it is time fore a shift in focus.
Diverse Workforces: LGBTQ+ RepresentationThis is a more positive section of this article, the All In census found the number of employees identifying at LGBTQIA+ is significantly higher in media advertising agencies than the UK population average. The UK average is 3% whereas 10% of those working in agencies identify as LGBTQIA+. However, this census did find that almost 40% of those who identified as LGBTQIA+ felt under-represented at senior levels, compared with only 23% of heterosexual employees. It would be important to examine the reasons why this could be the case in your agency, and be sure to encourage all co-workers to apply for promotions and senior roles regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Research by The Valuable 500 found that out of all the articles discussing diversity published in 2019 and 2020, only three percent referenced disabilities. So, while there is a big conversation around other aspects of diversity, this is one community who are continually side-lined. People with disabilities are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the world including more than 750 million individuals. Disability inclusion significantly widens the talent pool. Moreover, companies that excel at disability employment and inclusion are likely to experience higher revenue, higher net income, higher economic profit margins and an increased likelihood of outperforming their peers. A related point, taken from another blog post on disability diversity that should encourage all of us to care more about this issue is this: Unlike the other diversity types mentioned in this article, a disability can be developed at any point during your life. You can become disabled at any time so equity and inclusion should be important to all.
Diversity And Inclusion Mean SuccessIn short, being inclusive of gender, age, disability, race and LGBQT+ will give your company a diverse and representative workforce. What this means is that your output will likely be better for your consumer. Bringing as many different ideas and perspectives to the digital table is paramount to inclusive, supportive workplaces and brilliant products/services that are built with all users in mind. Having more diverse teams at every level of development in a digital company means that end products and services can better reflect users and wider society. Creating products free of bias and prejudice cannot be achieved without a diverse creating team.
What Can We Do To Be More Diverse?Within your company, you can make every day, micro-level changes. If we use gender diversity s the example here, you could think about preventing a male-centric groupthink, or encouraging a female colleague to go for a senior position. Something as simple as making space to listen to the concerns of women in the workplace can help to build a respectful, comfortable environment. People from different countries, cultures, religions, genders, sexual orientation, ages and so on must embrace such diversity – not just tolerate it. They need to seek out the opinions of people who may seem foreign to them and think differently from them. They need to bring them into the tents of strategy-making, business process redesign, business model revolution, and skill building. That’s the inclusion part of diversity, and it’s just as important as having a multitude of very different people from very different walks of life. Digital companies have to take the initiative and become pro-active when it comes to diversity. New initiatives nationally and regionally are worth engaging with, as well as looking at your recruitment policies and diversity and inclusion training for current employees. Blind hiring and unconscious bias training for all staff is a great way to start your journey to a truly diverse company. Policies and procedures in the workplace to support diversity, create comfortable workplaces and ensure employees don’t drop out are all well and good but starting at an earlier stage, before candidates get to the workplace is important too. Think about talking to your recruitment agency next time you are hiring. For more blog posts about media agencies, jobseeking and roles, head to dotgap now.
Modern life is stressful. The biggest causes of stress have been said to be money, job worries and our health so it is no wonder that the pandemic has increased reported stress levels across the world. In the past year 74% of people have reported feeling so stressed they said they felt unable to cope, but what do we mean when we talk about stress? In this blog post we’ll take a small departure from our usual topics to bring you the top three causes of stress at work, and some easy things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of modern life.The three main causes of stress are work, money, and health. If we consider what we as a species have been through in the last three years it is unsurprising that we are seeing stress levels soar: Job uncertainty, soaring costs of living, and a deadly virus. People have lost their jobs and gone through huge changes in lifestyle. We think this is one of the biggest underlying stressors that people perhaps aren't giving enough credit to. The focus is on 'getting back to normal' and not realising the strain we have all been under.