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Nov 7, 2023 1:30:08 PM | 8 Minutes read

Workload Challenges and In-House Agencies

In today's fast-paced world, creative teams within in-house agencies and brands are under constant pressure to deliver. The consequence of this high-demand environment is an all-too-familiar cycle of overwork and burnout. 

Michael Storey, Senior Creative Consultant, EKCS, explains, “Teams all around the globe are being asked to do more with less. But overwork and burnout are not badges of honor; they’re silent dangers that erode creativity.”

Over one-third of creative leaders in our recent EKCS survey said their heads were exploding through overwork. These findings come from our Challenges and Opportunities of UK In-House Agencies Survey conducted among IHA leaders in London. The October 2023 findings revealed that 39% said their biggest challenge working in an in-house agency is workload.

Since the dawn of the labor force, those working the longest hours have been recognized by their managers, thanked, congratulated, and made out to be the superheroes of the organization. Thankfully, a shift is taking place. 

HR teams are beginning to focus on employee wellbeing. And more big brands are recognizing data that shows how much more productive and creative employees can be when they’re not overworked. 

Root Causes of Overwork in IHAs

To address the issue of overworked creative teams, we must first understand its root causes. A major reason for overwork is the constant pressure to meet deadlines. In this digital age, content creation is more dynamic than ever, with real-time updates and the need to keep up with ever-evolving audience preferences. As a result, creative teams often find themselves trapped in a perpetual cycle of urgency. 

Here are some of the factors contributing to overwork: 

  • tight deadlines
  • scope creep
  • unclear or changing briefs 
  • team dynamics
  • company culture
  • skills gaps 
  • lack of resources
  • interruptions 
  • limited time to be creative 
  • the team is seen as a production entity 

And then there is the relentless demand for fresh content. The appetite for new, engaging content is insatiable. Creative teams are under constant pressure to produce high-quality content at an unrelenting pace. 

Other Overwork Challenges 

Finding time to be creative 

It was Albert Einstein who said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun." But these days, it’s all too easy to feel that there is little time to have fun and even less time to be creative! The ability to think creatively is vital for in-house agencies and brands. Yet, so often, it’s difficult, or even impossible, to harness our creativity when it is needed the most. 

In March 2022, EKCS asked delegates at The Henry Stewart Creative Operations event in London what their biggest challenges were for their team. In the ‘challenges for IHAs in a post-pandemic world’ survey, 27% of IHAs said ‘finding time for creative work.’ 

Today's in-house agencies have become factories 

Not only is the production volume an issue, but in-house agencies are often abused by departments wanting "free service". Not to mention that not all projects are equal. Some have questionable impact or value but still consume creative bandwidth. It can be a case of who shouts the loudest, or a battle of job titles. And, let’s not forget lengthy rounds of amends. Creative teams sometimes face more interference and revisions from internal stakeholders.

The pressure of new deliverables

In-house creative teams are increasingly expected to deliver more for less. And in the changing world of digital marketing, there is always more to do.  For example, there is a growing demand for video production that is only expected to grow. Video places significant demands on bandwidth and resources, in addition to the ongoing demands of graphic production work. Video and Podcasts, in particular editing, can be labor-intensive. And that’s just two examples! 

How much time do we have? 

In 2014, Deloitte found that the average employee answered 110 emails per day, and couldn’t spare more than 24 minutes per week. That’s 1% of a 40-hour week. Jump along to 2022, and in a typical working week, most employees only have 20 spare minutes. Creativity for IHA workers shouldn’t be the leftover minutes of the day or week, but quite often it can be.

Interruptions - working in-house, there are plenty of them! 

When British actor and Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star John Cleese spoke at Ogilvy Consulting's Nudgestock event in London in 2021, he said that the 'greatest killer of creativity is interruption.’ His session on 'How to Become More Creative' spoke about the challenges of open-plan offices and the lack of space and time creatives have. Open offices are prone to distractions, which increase stress and decrease productivity. There is sometimes a built-in expectation that employees are always available for impromptu meetings and discussions.

Lack of resources and skills gaps

Many in-house agencies need more budgets, staff, and tools to handle the increasing demands of their in-house clients. They may also struggle to access external talent and freelance expertise when needed. This can lead to overwork for the existing team. 

Effects of Overwork 

The detrimental effects of overwork include: 

  • diminished creativity in the team 
  • decreased job satisfaction
  • higher staff turnover 
  • burnout. 

Burnout and The Cost of Overworked Creative Teams

The word ‘burnout’ was recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’. Burnout is real. And it costs your in-house agency money. We’re talking about high staff turnover and lower creative productivity. Creatives experiencing burnout are likely to take time off sick too. Harvard Business Review estimates that the annual healthcare spending due to workplace burnout is from $125 billion to $190 billion.

Replacing creatives is expensive. Gallop's findings reveal that replacing exiting workers costs one-half to two times the employee's annual salary. Assuming an average salary of $50,000 that replacement cost translates to between $25,000 and $100,000 per employee. 

Don’t let your team burnout 

Overwork culture can be harmful to the wellbeing and productivity of creative teams. Creative professionals are essential for brand success, and their wellbeing is paramount. Lost creativity means that in-house agencies may lose their competitive edge and ability to produce original and impactful work for their brands. 

Want to learn more? Join our free webinar on 26th March 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 26th March. 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 1 March, 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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