“You can’t expect creative people to continue being creative when you have them working more than 40 hours a week.”
This statement was something that KWI’s founder, Ken Willis, said to me in my final job interview with the agency. These words really had an impact on me and my decision to join KWI. I was coming from an industry that really burned me out. I was passionate about what I was doing, but my to-do list at work was having a serious impact on my life outside of work. I wasn’t sure if working late nights and weekends was just “normal” for a young person trying to prove herself in the workforce. And more importantly, in a society that sees “busy” as a status symbol.
It’s been three years since I joined KWI, and I can say with confidence I’ve seen our leadership live out this mindset. Don’t get me wrong – agency life is fast paced and, dare I say it, busy – but our worth as employees is not measured by this busyness. And if our leaders start seeing that we’re getting too busy and our creativity or mental well-being is suffering as a result, they don’t hesitate to help us pause and recalibrate. It’s something I wish more companies emulated.
Here are a few examples of ways I’ve seen this take shape at KWI:
- The Foot Massage Meeting
I was pretty stressed out one week, and Celia (our CEO) could tell. We had a meeting on the calendar to touch in, and she texted me: “Hey, how about instead of meeting at the office today we go get foot massages.” Seeing that our CEO has this type of mindset meant a lot to me – it showed she was putting my well-being not only before my work, but before hers as well. (I hate people touching my feet, so I declined… but that’s not the point!)
- The Mental Health Day
I have a long-running tradition with myself that dates back years. Every October (my favorite month), I take a mental health day. I work out in the morning (hello, empty gym!), walk my dog Pancake, binge watch TV and relax. That’s literally it. Before I worked at KWI, I never told people why I was taking the day off. I felt like if I didn’t have a very specific event or excuse for being out, then I should be working. But at KWI, I don’t feel ashamed to say that I’m taking a day to focus on my mental health and enjoy a crisp October day. My day off this year was met with praise: “Good for you!” “I should do that!” “I’ll make sure not to email you!”
- The “How Can I Help?”
This one is the broadest example but also the most important. In the midst of a deadline-driven industry, “how can I help?” is such a powerful question, and also one that we hear a lot at KWI. Once when my manager asked “how can I help?” I half-jokingly responded with: “I just need more hands and more hours in the day to get everything done.” The result was a new hire to help do just that. And now, my hope is that as a manager myself I can help continue fostering this culture of care. (Soft plug: this could be you next time! Just email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
So far this year, I’ve logged a total of 1,730 hours as a KWI employee. I’m not really sure what that breaks down to in terms of a 40-hour work week (hey, I’m a communications person… not a math girl.) But I do know this: I’ve never felt like those hours equate to my worth in the company, I’ve not sacrificed any aspect of my well-being to them, and I know my clients have been happy with the output. For all these things, I am thankful!