‘’The past two years shook us all, but out of it Happy Friday was born, and we are taking our vibe and philosophy forward in 2022,’’ says Craig Naicker, Group Managing Director at Happy Friday. The new agency adopted a people centric-approach and abandoned the traditional agency model. The result? An organisation with a purpose-before-profit philosophy at its core.
”You are only able to grow a sustainable business when you take care of the people within it.We hear so many leaders talking about leading with empathy, but what does that mean in practise? It is time for a hard refresh of how we do things in our industry. And COVID has dramatically accelerated change,” explains Naicker.
Pursuing a people-centric approach – Gary Hartley, Senior Writer and Editor concurs, saying, “A change in the traditional (read archaic) way of working became increasingly clear, especially when the pandemic turned our lives upside down and chipped away at our already-fragile mental health states.
We also know that the advertising industry is notorious for breeding toxic work environments in which employees are seen as workhorses and not people. We didn’t want to fall into that trap and decided to prioritise our happiness. Thankfully, we were not only given the space to share our thoughts and concerns, but we also played a crucial part in creating our people-centric agency”.
Not overworking team members – Annilishia Kleinsmith, Junior Account Manager says of the new structure, “Agency employees were tired of the ‘cut and paste’ attitude the industry had towards their staff and their personal time. The industry has glamourised being overworked and turned being tired into something to be proud of. This is unhealthy – not only for you but your family as well. At Happy Friday, we are recognised as people and not just flesh-like paper pushers”.
Carly Maree van Wyk, Account Executive adds, “Happy Friday is the idea of ending the toxic cycle of workers feeling and being overworked. It makes you feel as if your management understands that to deliver good work, you must have happy employees, and they need to feel as though they are considered”.
Trusting your team
Louise Hunt, Account Director adds, “Management has had to take a huge leap of faith in us, the staff, trusting us more to take responsibility for our jobs and making sure we complete jobs in a timely manner, asking for help when we need it. These times have been challenging for all and knowing that management trusts us to do the right thing has been very rewarding”.
Pippa Hudson, Creative Director adds, “The autonomy we have at Happy Friday is refreshing and inspiring. I love that we don’t need to be too corporate. Having fun with teammates and clients is part of the culture. It’s okay to be you and not to have to fill a mould”.
Encouraging a healthy work/life balance
Simone Isaacs, Traffic and Social Media Manager, discusses how the Happy Friday working model contributes to the ideal work/life balance: “I think COVID has been the catalyst for this change. Companies around the globe have realised that we live in a world where working from home is possible, which allows for more flexibility and enables a better work/life balance.
The transparency and open-door policy from management truly creates a culture of trust, which is the foundation of all good relationships – personal or professional – and when you have trust, happiness will follow”.
At Happy Friday, agency culture has taken centre stage in what has arguably been a broken industry for many years. Work/life balance and mental health – commodities that many agency leaders may have previously ignored – have taken priority. This new way of working is designed to encourage ‘stakeholderism’ among staff members, rather than a simple “production line” approach, which many industry insiders will agree, has been the norm in most large agencies to date. As the Happy Friday prototype unfolds and more staff buy-in, will other agencies follow suit? It may well be in their best interests to pay attention.
The way of work
Happy Friday’s new collaborative, people-first model incorporates meeting-free Fridays; a four-and-a-half-day work week (with a view to working towards a four-day week); side hustle support; a no email or WhatsApp after 6pm rule; a Human Library (allowing staff with interesting perspectives to make themselves available for conversation or mentorship); 25 days annual leave, and the freedom to work from anywhere.
[GH1]This isn’tactually a word, so needs to be in inverted commas please.
[GH1]Doesn’t have to be two sentences. Can just be joined as follows: “…leading with empathy, but what does…”