Hiring the top graphic designers, copywriters, strategists, and account managers at an advertising agency—especially a small one like ours—requires as comprehensive a pitch as we’d deliver to a prospective client whose business we’re trying to win. In a remote-first world, the competition is intense: creative talent now has unprecedented access to global job postings from numerous full-time or part-time suitors, shifting the balance of picky-ness drastically in their direction. So for us to get the best talent in our door, we’ve got to be the best version of ourselves.
Among the most critical pillars of the case for working at FUSE Create is how we think about work-life balance. We have a purposefully different interpretation of the concept, thinking of it instead as work-life integration. The key difference? Every element of our executive decision-making—from feedback to vacation time to productivity expectations and more—isn’t just made through the lens of what it will do for our business. It’s made through the lens of how successful it will be in getting our employees to bring their whole selves to work, every day.
This change in thinking has taught me and my agency a ton about what drives engagement among talent and how it shapes our reputation among the close-knit group of top creatives. If you’re a small-business owner looking for the edge in your talent search, consider revisiting your approach to work-life balance by thinking of it as work-life integration and following these tips.
It starts with culture.
Be it a 1-person operation or a 50-person agency, the success of work-life integration comes down to culture. The kind of practices, behaviors, and attitudes you have in place can foster or hinder work-life integration, because we all know, it’s impossible to escape work these days (most of the time at least).
We’ve built integration into our culture through simple, yet empathetic ways. This empathetic approach says it’s not only OK, but that we understand you have a life to navigate in and around work, so let’s integrate it the best we can. Here are five ways you can do it:
1. Reshape your space.
We moved into a new office in January 2022 and in doing so, we’ve designed the space to feel more like a home than an office. We wanted to ensure people felt comfortable, inspired, and well, like they’re at home, even when they’re at the office. Comfy couches over desk chairs, fewer doors, more collaborative spaces, employee-picked artwork on the wall—it all makes for a space that feels like well, a home away from home.
2. Measure productivity in work, not time.
From a working perspective, we have a ‘work however, wherever, and whenever’ philosophy. So, while employees will be returning to the office, we’re not mandating that they do. We’re offing a flexible, hybrid model when it comes to WFH/WFO, so people can decide what’s best for them, their family, and their schedule. Physical employee interaction is still important for camaraderie and communication, so to encourage trips to the office, we’ll hold Town Halls, Lunch On Us Day (LOUD), and department get-togethers and events, but they too will be flexible.
3. Support employees’ side gigs.
We make a conscious effort to support people’s side hustles, both in terms of allowing people the time to pursue them, but also support creatively or even financially. Whether it’s paying for classes, designing their website, or even paying for film festival entry fees as we did for one of our copywriter’s short films, even the smallest of efforts can go a long way in supporting a work-life integration.
4. Encourage paid time-off.
Regardless of a successful integration or not, switching off from time to time is important. So we give everyone an extra day off during statutory holiday long weekends (From May until October), to turn three-day weekends into four. We offer three mental health days a year. We follow up with people who haven’t taken their vacation days and carry unused days into the following year. And when people do take vacation, we remind them vehemently to stay off email. Speaking of email, we also encourage our employees to NOT not hit the 'send' button after hours (there’s a 'send later' button for a reason). Besides, as we’ve seen in Portugal and soon to pass in Ontario, Canada, it may be downright illegal to!
5. Solicit regular feedback—and listen to it.
We also conduct a yearly survey that includes a number of questions specifically regarding work-life balance. This helps ensure we’re walking the walk and that we’re learning what else and how else we can help our staff maintain a healthy work-life integration. (One question literally asks if employees agree that they can “maintain a reasonable balance between my personal life and work life.”) One learning that came out of the survey was how one’s mental health can negatively impact a work-life integration. As a result, we gave all employees to option to enroll in the CALM app as a simple, non-intrusive way to find balance, in all areas of life.
For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, your work is your life. They’re woven seamlessly together out of passion, persistence, and promise. They key, then, is to make sure you’re building a culture within your company, and yourself, that is supportive of both aspects of your life. That you’re instilling the attitudes, beliefs, and values that foster integration. And make sure you’re modelling that culture yourself. Switch off from time to time, as hard as that might seem. Even if that means explicitly blocking time off in your calendar—you, your employees, and your chi, will thank you for it.
Photo: Getty Images
A version of this article was originally published on March 28, 2022.