In Indonesia, there’s a popular saying appearing among Gen Z agency workers: “Kerja, kerja, kerja, tipes!” which translates to “work, work, work, get typhoid.”
Typhoid is common in Indonesia, with 180.3 people infected in every 100,000. The less severe symptoms of typhoid (fever, headache, loss of appetite, muscle aches) can be mistaken for being rundown, burnt out, overworked, and generally not taking care of yourself – or working until breaking point in an agency.
Throwing off the ‘toxic agency’ label
There’s a reason toxic agency workplace culture has a deserved satirical joke. Agencies have long had a bad reputation for overworking, underpaying and underappreciating employees. You could work on managing multiple demanding clients, tight project timelines, countless revisions, unpaid overtime, while moving between creatives, design teams, and internal review processes. Some agency workers capture their experiences pulling all-nighters in the office, proudly sharing this on social media and furthering our understanding of agencies as toxic workplaces with an unhealthy competitive atmosphere.
Anonymous accounts where people share their confessions, like @overheardahensi, portray how stressful it is to work in an agency. These shared experiences show that work-life balance is impossible in this industry. Working in a fast-paced environment with fun challenges is exciting, especially while we are young. But is it sustainable? Some of us find ourselves wondering, “how long do I have to live like this?” And what about individuals in agencies who have a slower, more deliberate working style? Surely agencies should be diverse places, with creativity shared by different experts?
How Vero Breaks the Agency Mould
When Vero interviewed me in December 2021, I had no expectations at all. It was my first interview in almost four years. Vero’s commitment to employee wellness caught my attention, and here I am, writing this article while working remotely during my three weeks’ vacation abroad.
I am currently in the Netherlands, visiting my LDR partner. The flight from Jakarta is incredibly long, and quite expensive, so I planned to go for three weeks to make the most of it. In previous jobs, this would have been impossible. At first, I thought I would have to cancel my long-planned vacation or resign and look for another job to be able to take the leave I needed. But while many Indonesian companies give the minimum annual leave applicable only after one year of service, Vero is a rare workplace in terms of leave-taking policy. I worked closely with management to implement a plan which meant I was able to take this long-leave, and work remotely. We settled on three days of remote work, and 12 days of annual leave. On the days that I worked, I woke up a little early to make up for the time difference between the Netherlands and Jakarta. Vero was supportive the entire way through the process. My colleagues were excited for me to take leave; and no one disturbed me throughout the holiday! I didn’t get an emergency phone call, or email or messages, so I was able to take a proper break.
Too good to be true?
When I share Vero’s company policy, some people doubt it, as it sounds too good to be true.
Companies that value work-life balance let us do meaningful and fulfilling work. Vero encourages us to spend more time with the people we love or by ourselves and maintain curiosity through our hobbies and interests. All of this is good not just for us, but for business too! Happy people who love their work are more creative, have better ideas, and generally increase productivity.
A healthy and happy work-life balance is not a myth, at least not at Vero.