Agency employees speak up

Last week, A+M's story on agency life sparked debate, with everyone giving their two cents on work-life balance.

We then went out and asked a few agency executives in Kuala Lumpur what bother them most and how they feel things can improve.

Not surprisingly, most voiced their concerns of the age-old problem, which is working long hours with low or no compensation.

Here's what they have to say:

"I'm happy to work overtime but I wish we were compensated for it. And I would love it if I didn't have to work weekends. Those who work weekends should get double pay. At the end of the day, we work to get paid. And given the nature of our industry, our most creative moments happen at night. So, it would be nice if we could pick the hours that we work, as long as we put in at least eight hours a day. Also, since some of us don't take caffeine, we need a sugar rush instead. Let us have a sundae maker or something!" - A PR executive with a worldwide agency.

The problem with this industry is that working overtime and long hours are engrained in the culture. We are not paid overtime, and we are also not given replacement leave or allowance when we come back to work during weekends. Many fresh graduates are underpaid and work long hours, which I find a little unfair. I think what we need are some form of rewards, or allowances when we work overtime, to make us feel appreciated. Hire enough people to distribute workload, and always plan ahead. Last-minute deadlines and work depress me as well. - A creative executive with a worldwide agency.

Clients should be reasonable and understanding when setting up deadlines. As for the agency, talents should be given realistic salary (I'm earning peanuts compared to the amount of work I'm doing!) in order for us to work better and feel appreciated. - An events executive with a worldwide agency.

I just switched jobs from a conventional ATL agency to a digital activation agency a year ago and to my surprise, instead of working even later than I thought I would, the new company cultivates a totally different working culture whereby employees are asked to leave the office before 8pm and have a life after work! Since then, I have enjoyed more personal time with my loved ones and even took up a new sport! It was definitely a good change from my previous typical advertising life. - Jamie Lioh, Immerse Group.

I have been working in this industry for two years now and I do understand the need for increased personal time. When I get home, I have just about enough time to shower and hop into bed - leaving no time for 'me' time. Here's what I'd like to see happen in this industry:
1) Better time management among all employees AND client.
2) To be able to work from home after official work hours.
3) To have an area where staff can unwind and hang out with other colleagues.
4) The agency should understand and allow different work styles. It would be nice to go out and brainstorm in a different environment like a cafe. I think we shouldn't be bound by the four walls of the office.
5) Clients should understand the processes and give us more time!
-A creative executive with a worldwide network. 

A+M has kept contributors anonymous, at their request.