Agency Work/Life BalanceDecember 7, 2017
Debunking the “Agency Life” Myth
When you hear the phrase, “agency life,” what comes to mind? I can take a guess: you’re picturing a busy office with people constantly milling about in a state of semi-panic, huddled over computer screens arguing over design, or in conference rooms staring at large-screen PowerPoints about “SYNERGY!” Or maybe you’re imagining an exhausted, overworked agency employee staying late to hit a deadline, sipping on their sixth cup of coffee that day. Am I close?
That’s not entirely wrong. Some agencies are like that, and I’ve heard several stories that make me cringe. But I can say definitively that it’s not always the case. I’ve worked at Gard for six and a half years and I can tell you my experience doesn’t even come close to fitting that widely held view.
For us, “agency life” isn’t really a thing. The phrase indicates that when you work at an agency, that is all you do. You eat Agency for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then you dream about Agency all night. Like you’re in a monogamous relationship with Agency but it never wants to cuddle.
Maintaining a Healthy Work/Life Balance
So what is life like for our agency’s employees? How do they manage to fit everything into their busy schedules – especially when it’s as dark as the Bat Cave outside after work? How do they prioritize? Well, I asked, and the answers don’t involve superhuman powers (though they’d probably have to keep that secret from me regardless).
“I try to be intentional about the way I spend time, and put limits on technology/social media.” – Liz
Liz wrangles a two year old, and jokes that parenting is her main hobby. She also likes taking dance classes, cooking, hanging out with her husband, and going out with friends. It seems like a lot in the few hours available after work, but that’s because it’s intentional. Liz puts work aside unless there’s a crisis, and even then, knows how to put out fires remotely.
“To-do lists actually work. I’ve fought them all my life, but they really do work.” – Ryan
Ryan jokes that you could also consider killing your smartphone and blowing up your WiFi, but to-do lists are more practical (and less expensive). Ryan’s also a family man with a wife (with her own busy work schedule) and young daughter, and balances his Daddy duties with writing, hockey, and a few nights out when he can get them. Unless something is really pressing, work emails get a nap — even if he doesn’t.
“I use a to-do list app that syncs across all my devices, called OmniFocus. It kinda saved my life.” – Julia
Julia’s an experienced practicing artist and novelist. Between working in her art studio and planning for her novel’s publishing this coming spring, spare time can be difficult to come by and the separation of work is integral. On weekends, Julia hangs out with her husband and they split time between fun, chores, and rest. One day is usually spent dining out, biking or hiking somewhere beautiful in nature, and visiting friends and family, whereas the other day is spent doing some much-needed R&R.
“With projects, I give myself a realistic deadline that’s connected to a motivating factor. For instance, if I’m going to have friends over, that becomes my deadline to fix something or make it better.” – John
John lives on a farm, requiring a commute of about 60-90 minutes each way – so for him, time is even more limited. Between his wife, three dogs, llama, sheep, and other assorted farm animals, John has his hands full. But it’s what he loves, and he keeps it separate. Though he will often wake up at 5am with creative ideas for work, he’s able to “flush” over the weekend, using that time to build and fix things, and then comes back to work refreshed on Monday morning.
Achieving the Balance
Of course, it’s not always easy. We all have admitted to thinking about work on weeknights, and sometimes checking email “just in case.” But by being intentional about time, using to-do lists, and setting deadlines, the balance really can be achieved. For us, the more accurate phrase would be “Agency and a Life.”