Achieving a healthy work-life balance at a digital agency

Published by Tim
on 28 August 2020
Acrobat balancing on a rope between tall buildings

Working in the digital industry has both its perks and its pains. In fact, in the last half a year, even people who haven’t been working in digital have got a taste of what it’s like to do so, some with positive and some with more negative experiences. 

One thing that’s certainly an advantage in digital, however, is the luxury of being able to have a much better work-life balance - if you don’t fall into some of the common pitfalls that come with this luxury, that is. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some tips for achieving better work-life balance when working at a digital agency, both your own if you are an employee, or that of your team(s) if you are a manager or CEO of that agency.

Additionally, we’ll look at some benefits that come with achieving a healthy work-life balance, and take into account the context of it being 2020, with most of the world already expecting Covid 2.0. 

 

Advantages of a healthy work-life balance

Let’s start with the benefits of improving your work-life balance or that of your employees. We’ll list 4 of the main ones here.

 

1. It reduces burnout

Burnout can be quite a problem in the digital industry, more so than in some others, and especially in the field of software development. Employees are often asked to work overtime, or a push to production on a Friday entails a whole weekend lost. 

One of the biggest remedies for burnout is a healthy work-life balance. While burnout can also occur if we are not overworked, due to some other reasons, having a good balance between work and personal life can greatly reduce the risks and/or the severity of burnout.

 

2. It leaves time for self-actualization

Naturally, having more time for yourself means, well, having more time for yourself - and the things outside work that you enjoy in life. If we remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, its highest level is dedicated to self-actualization. 

If your job is something you greatly enjoy doing, this is somewhat taken care of by your work; but if you have other endeavors and aspirations, taking care to balance your work and personal life is pretty much the only way to dedicate enough time to those areas to truly drive satisfaction. 

 

3. It leaves time for family and loved ones

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Having more time outside work means having more time for the people you care about, be they friends, partners or children. 

The recent lockdown due to COVID-19 has made it particularly difficult for parents to have a great work-life balance, due to the combination of working from home and homeschooling their children. We’ll say a few more words on this when we’re discussing Covid-specific considerations.

 

4. It improves motivation and productivity

This one is a plus for both employee and employer. Feeling unmotivated at work has a direct impact on productivity, which in turn feeds back into the lack of motivation, only perpetuating this cycle. 

By having enough time for yourself and loved ones outside work, you’ll feel more at ease tackling challenges at work and produce better results, which will likely be noticed and highlighted by management, making you even more productive and motivated, and as such perpetuating a healthier and much more positive cycle. 

 

Do’s & don’ts for a healthy work-life balance

Here’s what you should do to achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  • Get enough rest and exercise. It’s easier to maintain other healthy habits if you’re well rested and physically feeling good.
  • Learn how to effectively manage your time and clearly separate work from personal life.
  • Make sure you do something meaningful after you finish work, something that isn’t work-related, to help with your self-actualization mentioned above.

 

And here are some things to avoid if you’re striving for a great work-life balance:

  • DON’T let work-time creep into your you-time. Clearly delineate when you’re working on your job and when you’re doing things for personal enjoyment.
  • DON’T let work be the only thing you have going on. If your work is the only thing you drive satisfaction from, you may find yourself feeling lackluster and/or unable to follow the previous point, which is basically a recipe for burnout.
  • DON’T be a perfectionist. If you’re never satisfied with your output, you can never stop worrying about it, and you’re bound to break the time limits you’ve set for yourself by overthinking and/or constantly tweaking things. Another point to note is that perfectionism can often translate into imposter syndrome.

 

Bonus tip: when working at a digital agency, you typically need to keep up to date with the latest trends and innovations in your particular field. While this can help your work-life balance by offering something to do outside of work, if it’s too closely related to your daily job, it may start to contradict the first two points above, eating into your you-time and making it indistinguishable from your work. 

So, just something to be mindful of; the most important thing here is being aware of this and trying to maintain a balance. 

If you’re, for example, a software developer, of course it’s great if you enjoy working on side projects, learning new things and contributing to the projects you support. But it’s also perfectly okay if you don’t code in your spare time because you have other hobbies, and only dedicate yourself to it while at work. Do what works for you. That’s key. 

Quote: If you’re a software developer, of course it’s great if you enjoy working on side projects, learning new things and contributing to the projects you support. But it’s also perfectly okay if you don’t code in your spare time because you have other hobbies, and only dedicate yourself to it while at work. Do what works for you. That’s key. 

Tips and tricks for business leaders and managers

Now that we’ve covered what you can do on your own to achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance, let’s take a look at some do’s & don’ts if you’re an owner, CEO or manager. We’ll start with the do’s:

  • Offer remote work whenever needed or desired. This is the number one thing in times of Covid and likely will be going forward. And, in any case, a lot of digital agencies have been offering full- or at least part-time remote work way before 2020, so this should not be an issue at all. 
  • If working from home isn’t possible or physical presence is necessary for a certain time, make sure to enable flexible working hours. In the digital industry, you often work across different timezones, so keeping very strict schedules for everyone will likely not be possible, especially during Covid with many people at home with kids.
  • Provide necessary equipment for optimal work. This includes ergonomic equipment (e.g. chair, mouse, keyboard) and additional monitors for those who need them. In the case of remote work, allow and communicate the option of employees taking the needed equipment home with them or have it shipped to their home. 
  • Be transparent and give praise. Both of these make employees feel valued and part of what’s going on in the company, which improves the employee experience and reduces risks of things such as burnout. Transparency is absolutely key with Covid-related communications, while praise boosts motivation and productivity.
  • Organize team activities to boost team spirit and help people connect. Again, this is even more important during the Covid lockdown; try to replicate watercooler chats virtually, with daily casual check-ins with the team, weekly meetings and other activities. 
  • Foster a culture of learning and knowledge-sharing. The workplace, be it physical or virtual, shouldn’t be exclusively about work; it’s also a place to connect and learn new skills, both soft and hard. Offer options for further education for employees who are on standby, and promote sharing the acquired knowledge with the whole team - this is something which can easily be done via video conferencing, so it can be a way to connect even with everyone working from home. 

 

Now let’s look at what not to do if you want to help your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  • DON’T micromanage and track employees. You should take other measures to ensure that you can trust them and that they remain productive - preferably ones that benefit rather than hinder them (e.g. praise). They will likely find ways around the stricter measures, but if you approach it correctly, they will instead be more dedicated and make better use of their time.
  • DON’T make generalized rules. Your employees have different needs and different workflows, often also working with different clients in different timezones. Make sure you accommodate and empower those who are working while at home with their kids rather than sanction them if they don’t work on specific tasks to the minute.
  • DON’T under-communicate and make false promises. This ties back to being transparent: make sure to timely and accurately communicate any new measures or demands, and don’t make false promises to clients with regards to employee availability or overtime, nor to employees about a promotion or raise. 

 

Conclusion

 

Man in business suit holding rolled up yoga mat

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown have introduced major shifts to the way we work, significantly speeding up digitalization and necessitating mass adoption of remote work. Both of these trends make a healthy work-life balance even more of a priority when working in the digital. 

We hope this article helps you pinpoint what to do and not to do in order to improve your work-life balance, or that of your employees, and keep it healthy. 

Remember to take into account the potential limitations of working from home and changes to work scope due to certain clients going out of business, while those specializing in, say, e-commerce, suddenly requiring more work. 

If you make sure to foster a company culture that’s people-centric, it isn’t difficult to achieve good work-life balance at your digital agency. It’s a win for the employees, as well as for the business leaders and clients, who all benefit from the employees’ well-being.