Mental Wellbeing in Marcoms Agencies

Mental Wellbeing in Marcoms Agencies – new study of wellbeing within marcom agencies reveals burnout, heavy workload and normalising conversations about mental health as key issues to address in agencies.

A new mental health report published by the Alliance of Independent Agencies, the body which represents independent marketing agencies, and strategic insight agency Opinium, launches today. It uncovers attitudes and feelings towards mental wellbeing over the past 12 months among marcoms workers, whilst also exploring attitudes on returning to the workplace following the easing of lockdown.

The research uses Opinium’s proprietary Workplace Mental Wellbeing Audit, exploring a variety of wellbeing topics, and includes the academically validated Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) which provides a one-number score for mental wellbeing.

Key findings include:

Professionals in the marcoms sector rate their job more stressful than the UK workforce and are more likely to experience stressful situations such as heavy workloads and impending deadlines. In the last 12 months, 96% of marcomms professionals stated they had experienced poor mental health, whilst 41% of those who didn’t take time off for their mental health said this was because they had too much work to do.

The vast majority of marcoms professionals feel that they would be supported at work if they were struggling with their mental wellbeing and that they can talk openly with their manager. However, feelings don’t always translate into action, with 42% of those who struggled with their mental wellbeing failing to speak to anyone at work about it.


The top reason for not opening up was not thinking it was necessary to tell someone at work (69%) followed by thinking it could jeopardise their career, not knowing how to talk about it and feeling embarrassed (all at 18%).

Professionals in the marcoms sector rate their job more stressful than the UK workforce, with 58% of those surveyed citing impending deadlines as a key stressor, and 55% saying demands from clients contributed to their stress levels. Not only do heavy workloads directly contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing, but it’s also a key reason 59% of employees do not take time off work for their mental health.

Marcoms agencies do well in having wellbeing initiatives available to staff and are more likely to do so than the average UK employer. Despite this, just 60% of marcoms professionals report being offered flexible working hours and only 46% have access to break spaces.

Whilst working from home comes with benefits, it has been challenging for many, especially with regards to work-home boundaries. 59% of respondents found it hard to draw the boundaries between work and rest, whilst 58% stated they are working more hours, now they work from home.

However, despite these challenges, 96% would like to continue working from home to some degree post-Covid, with many enjoying the benefits working from home brings. 62% said not having to commute to work has improved their mental health, whilst 48% feel they have a better work-life balance now they are working from home.

Graham Kemp, Director of the Alliance of Independent Agencies, said:

Over the past year conversations about the mental wellbeing of people in agencies have become even more prominent, as the lines between home-life and work-life have become increasingly intertwined. Whilst normalising these conversations is an important step forward, it is vital for these conversations to inform strategies and actions within agencies, and we must look to our senior leaders to drive initiatives forward. This report should be the spark that ignites fresh thinking and, more importantly, those critical actions.

Sophie Holland, Research Manager and Wellbeing Lead at Opinium added:

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Our report highlights the key issues facing marcoms agencies around mental wellbeing, and it is vital that our senior leaders take notice and address these. In particular, the widespread issue of burnout and unmanageable workloads must be tackled as a priority; it’s a major source of stress for people, but also a key reason they don’t take time off for their mental health, creating a vicious cycle. We hope senior leaders are able to take the learnings from this report back to their organisations; helping accelerate the country-wide change needed in this area.

The findings of the survey will be shared back with agencies in order to help support their own initiatives, as well as to showcase the wider view of the marcomms industry. In addition, the Alliance will use the research to feed into their wellbeing programme, including into the Alliance’s annual Festival of Happiness, which will be taking place in October 2021.

The full version of the report can be downloaded here.

About the Alliance of Independent Agencies

The Alliance of Independent Agencies, develops skills and represents the interests of independent marketing agencies. The Alliance brings the best and most forward-thinking independent agencies together to access the tools, resources, community, training, and guidance to keep their offering as brilliant as their ideas and to maximize the return on their own energy, persistence, commitment and hard work.

About Opinium

Opinium is an award-winning strategic insight agency built on the belief that in a world of uncertainty and complexity, success depends on the ability to stay on the pulse of what people think, feel and do. Creative and inquisitive, they are passionate about empowering clients to make the decisions that matter. They work with organizations to define and overcome strategic challenges – helping them to get to grips with the world in which their brands operate. They use the right approach and methodology to deliver robust insights, strategic counsel and targeted recommendations that generate change and positive outcomes.