Exhaustion Claims Another in Communications Agency: Don’t be part of the statistics. Manage stress with three -ATEs

Are you burning out?

With the untimely death of yet another young talent from a communications agency in the Philippines [i] comes a sombre reminder regarding the seriousness of overworking and stress. Is it worth the ‘martyrdom’ as quoted by the victim’s ex-team member?

Diligence may be regarded as one of the virtues and core characteristics of the Asian life view[ii] but it is really like sodium in diet: Too little or too much can be life-threatening but just the right amount is essential for the body to be healthy and happy.

With Singapore raking the longest working hours in 2016 (among many other years)[iii], it is paramount that precautionary measures be taken to prevent burnouts. Hence, Brand Inc. shares the three -ATEs to manage workload and stress.


“You can do anything but you can’t do everything.” — David Allen

Yes, tweaking a design, brainstorming, preparing reports, corresponding with clients are all part and parcel of an agency life, and are not hard in isolation. However, work is typically a greater sum of many lesser tasks. When all these tiny tasks accumulate with close deadlines, even the most brilliant of minds would collapse from stress.

To avoid this, a team of colleagues must be viewed as a supportive structure within which tasks can be coordinated and delegated. When delegating, set out basic instructions and only check on the progress periodically. Note that micromanaging defeats the core purpose of job delegation and is not sustainable when workload and complexity intensify.


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

A 2011 Holmes Report showed that poor communications in the workplace can cost up to a staggering loss of $26,041 per worker per year[iv]. In a busy environment, certain aspects and details can be overlooked from time to time and these errors have proven to be counterproductive.

The myth that people working in an agency are great and infallible communicators needs to be dispelled at once. While the first may be true for the position they hold, the latter, however, is a fallacy for no one is infallible.

The key to effective and efficient workplace communication is the selection of the appropriate avenues. Text messages, social media and emails are some of the tools generally used. While they do serve their purpose, face-to-face interactions are preferred whenever possible as the direct and personal connection helps to ensure clarity and prevent misunderstandings.

PRoTip: Say it right, say it twice. It isn’t necessary to always repeat what was communicated but always verify with the other party if the message was completely understood. When need be, get the receiving party to repeat.


“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen

The fact that the 20–49 age groups make up a significant portion of Singapore’s suicide cases paints a worrying picture for the well-being of the working class.[v] How to mitigate burnouts?

Easy, get a hobby besides working. A healthy outlet is imperative for all the accumulated tension so get physical with some exercises, meditate or go for a short weekend getaway. At times when overtime is absolutely necessary, take short breaks in between major tasks to let the mind rest. According to Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic physician, breaks are not only better for a person’s well-being, they can actually improve productivity.

PRoTip: There is no need to sacrifice life for work or vice versa, the answer is to integrate!

In short, the recipe for preventing burnouts calls for the harmonious blend of a cup of delegation, two ounces of communication and a handful of mitigation. Work can either be a short and painful journey or a long and fruitful one. Do not abuse the colloquial Singlish phrase “no choice lor” because there’s always a choice.

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[i] Adweek, , Death of an Ogilvy Philippines Employee Sparks Renewed Debate Over Work-Life Balance At Agencies, 2017, http://www.adweek.com/agencies/death-of-an-ogilvy-philippines-employee-sparks-renewed-debate-over-work-life-balance-at-agencies/.

[ii] William Sweets, The Dialogue of Cultural Traditions: A Global Perspective, 2008.

[iii] States Times Review, Singapore has longest working hours in the world in 2016, again, 2017, http://statestimesreview.com/2017/01/16/singapore-has-longest-working-hours-in-the-world-in-2016-again/.

[iv] The Holmes Report, The Cost of Poor Communications, 2011, http://www.holmesreport.com/latest/article/the-cost-of-poor-communications.

[v] The Straits Times, Teen suicides highest in 15 years but overall rate falls: SOS, 2016, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/teen-suicides-highest-in-15-years-but-overall-rate-falls.

Originally published at www.brand-incorporated.com.