Sally Henderson
Powerful change from the inside out

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Doing things differently: 5 questions with Angus Crowther, Co-Founder of Alchemists

Angus Crowther, former Managing Partner at Oystercatchers, has this year co-founded Marketing Advisory business, Alchemists, focused on getting the best results for clients and agencies.

With policies including the refusal to conduct pitches over holiday periods in order to maintain a happier work/life balance, read more on Angus' insight to doing things differently, resulting a healthier workplace.

1. What was the driving factor behind this policy?

We asked the top agency CEOs for feedback on our proposition and model and this was the most common complaint. Too many half terms or holidays get destroyed because a pitch suddenly is called with no regard for the impact this has on people’s lives. If the client knew that the children’s mother or father was not there with their kids then they’d think twice. We will raise this with the client and protect the agencies where we can.

It’s even worse when a pitch is called just before Christmas. Parents need to be present and give attention to their children and not be thinking about work or looking at their phone. It is a diversity issue for sure as Mums will think twice about coming back to work if they know they be asked to ruin their family life on a regular basis.

2. What evidence have you seen that demonstrates a healthy work/life balance leading to greater productivity?

More energy and more focus and happier people. I have 4 kids. I love them and want to be with them. If I know I have to get stuff done then wow do I crank through work during a single day. So much more productive.

And parents need to be present and give attention! Live in the moment. Get stuff done and be happy!

3. Do you think more companies will start to introduce similar policies as the discussions on the importance of workplace wellbeing increase?

Yes. Mental well-being is finally being discussed. Last week’s focus on mental health awareness was amazing to promote the subject. The first instinct from clients is they need a new agency ASAP or even a new campaign and just get going. But clients need to start thinking about the impact this has. They shouldn’t be comfortable with agencies regularly working late at night or over the weekend. That’s not productive and is just exhausting. But the agencies need to step up and tell the clients.

It’s only then this will begin to stop. We will help. There are times when a crisis is on and it needs to be worked out fast - but if this happens all the time then there is an issue with the company’s way of working.

4. What have you seen as the cost to agencies, clients and leaders alike when they don’t have ways of working that encourages balance and wellbeing?

Marriage breakdown, people being absent through stress, too many senior people being lonely but having to be strong for everyone which is difficult if they have never taken the time to actually find or keep a partner due to work pressure. Loneliness is a killer. Even for high powered executives. I hear it a lot. Just as bad are people being asked to work over the weekend, often unpaid, away from their children.

But being happy means you will be so much more productive.

People want to win pitches and the more happy and less anxious their demeanour, the more the clients want to hang out more with those people and do more great work together. 

5. What other initiatives would you recommend to ensure senior leaders are able to adopt a healthy work/life balance?

Allow their people to speak up and make sure they listen. Don’t judge. Make sure the senior people speak up too.

Get clients to sign up to a charter or service agreement whereby a certain amount of short turnaround briefs are allowed.

Could agency leaders monitor the time people are staying late or over the weekend? It’s probably the same people who might appear to be highly performing but underneath the cracks will be appearing.

Finally I love the side hustle. Progressive companies should encourage employees to have something else they are passionate about and agree how much time they can spend working on their idea.

People with purpose are much happier! And people who spend time with their families at half term or over Christmas are definitely much happier.

sally henderson