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Mar 20, 2024 9:40:17 AM | 7 Minutes read

Cracking the Code on Overwork: Insights from In-House Creative Teams

In today's fast-paced world, burnout and overworked teams have become all too common in the creative industries. Levels of burnout and stress are at all-time highs. Even before the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) called stress the health epidemic of the 21st century.


In the UK, more than a third of adults report feeling fatigue most or all of the time, while diagnoses of burnout are at an all-time high. In a 2023 survey of 10,243 global workers by US think tank Future Forum, 42% reported burnout, its highest figure since May 2021. According to the 2022–23 Aflac Workforces Report, 59% of workers report experiencing “at least a moderate level of burnout. While people are working longer hours than ever and experiencing high levels of burnout, according to 2023 Pew research, close to half of American workers take less time off than they are entitled to.


In March 2024, EKCS surveyed creatives and leaders to explore how in-house agencies are experiencing overwork and burnout. Unsurprisingly, burnout is prevalent, with 100% of respondents reporting witnessing it in their teams. This highlights the widespread nature of this concern in the surveyed creative environments.

The main factors that contribute to overwork

Topping the list of main factors contributing to overwork are tight deadlines and unclear or changing briefs, each cited by 26% of respondents. These stressors create an environment where employees constantly scramble to meet expectations, leading to exhaustion and diminished productivity. Furthermore, relentless demands (24%) and skills gaps/resources (16%) exacerbate the pressure, leaving teams overwhelmed and depleted.

What are the biggest factor that contributes to overwork in your team?

  • Tight Deadlines: 27%
  • Unclear or Changing Briefs: 27%
  • Relentless Demands: 20%
  • Skills Gaps/Resource: 13%
  • Need for Fresh Creative Content: 7%
  • Tight budget: 6%

Breaking the cycle of overworked teams remains a challenge. Creative leaders will never entirely solve the problem, but by understanding the causes of burnout, they are better equipped to know what to do about each.


The main factors that contribute to burnout

In the Solving the Overwork Dilemma in Creative Teams Survey, the absence of good communication (38%) emerges as a primary factor. This highlights the importance of open dialogue and transparency within in-house agencies. Furthermore, neglecting wellbeing and mental health, both by employees (36%) and companies (13%), contributes significantly to burnout, highlighting the need for prioritizing wellness and work-life balance. 

Have you witnessed burnout in your team?

Yes: 100%

What factors do you think contributed to it?

  • Absence of good communication: 38%
  • Employees not prioritizing wellbeing/mental health: 36%
  • Company not prioritizing wellbeing/mental health: 13%
  • Misalignment between skillsets and work: 12%
  • Other: 1%.

What actions could reduce burnout in creative teams?

In in-house agency life, there are times when going that extra mile or burning the midnight oil to make that impossible deadline is counterproductive. To combat burnout and create a healthier work environment, respondents had some suggestions: 

  • 40% of respondents suggested setting more realistic expectations. This can alleviate pressure on teams, allowing for more manageable workloads and better work-life balance. 
  • Almost a third (30%) said implementing flexible working arrangements. This empowers creatives to tailor their schedules to their needs, reducing stress and increasing autonomy. 
  • 30% of respondents suggested investing in additional resources. This can alleviate the strain caused by understaffing and skill shortages.

Exploring strategies to lighten workloads and enhance efficiency remains crucial to combating burnout and assisting with employee wellbeing.


Want to learn more? 

Download our free e-book, Breaking the Cycle of Overworked Creative Teams, for in-house agencies and brands.  

Join our free webinar on March 26th, 2024 

Overwork and burnout are not badges of honor. They’re silent dangers that erode creativity. Former in-house creative leader Michael Storey checks in with in-house agencies to ask, ‘How are you getting on?’ Building upon his session at Creative Production London*, Michael will share recent ‘hot-off-the-press’ findings. You'll realize that you are not alone in your overwork challenges and will discover ways to keep work/life in balance in an industry where this can sometimes seem impossible.

Michael and Robert Berkeley, CEO of EKCS, will join forces on March 26th. Robert has spent over two decades leading diverse and busy teams at a global creative production agency. Both will be on hand to answer your questions and offer advice. *Please note that if you attended their session at Creative Production 2024 on March 1, new ground will be covered. And if you couldn't make the event, this webinar is essential for anyone facing burnout and/or managing overworked teams.* Register for free here. 


To find out more about outsourcing and explore how it can help your team to solve production challenges

Download our FREE GUIDES. They look at the benefits of creative production outsourcing, what to consider in a production partner, and tips on how to get started with outsourcing.

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