Thought Leadership

Should creative businesses do more to drive happiness?

To mark International Day of Happiness we asked if the creative industries should do more to prioritise staff happiness

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


80% of agency leaders admit that they are not ‘really happy’ in their current roles.

This staggering statistic, unveiled in the Blueprints Truth About Talent survey, underlines the ‘happiness gap’ in the creative industries. 

In our workplaces, we have normalised crisis culture. A culture where we collectively think ‘If I am not worrying I am doing something wrong’. Data from the All In Census shows that over a quarter (26%) of people feel constantly anxious about their jobs. A worrying statistic for any industry, but for the creative industry where cynicism is quite literally the death of creativity this is a phenomenal problem.

Reader, I can feel you rolling your eyes at the notion of an ‘International Day of Happiness’ but might that be part of the problem? Overwhelmed and unhappy employees are a huge drain on business, adding to workplace conflict and constant staff churn. Put simply happiness is not a fluffy issue, it is a huge issue for businesses.

According to data from the IPA Agency Census, there was a 32.4% churn rate in UK advertising agencies in 2022. Yet industry debate continues to focus on whether Working From Home killing is creativity, rather than WTF is everyone so overwhelmed and miserable. The creative industries have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the workplace for the better, yet questions remain as to the long-term risk of companies embracing Goldman Sachs style return to office mandates without the Sachs size bonuses.

With this in mind, rather than be cynical about the point of International Day of Happiness, we took it as an opportunity to ask industry leaders if the creative industries should be doing more to prioritise staff happiness?

Ollie Biddle

Ollie Main Collaborate Gloabl.png

Marketing Manager

Collaborate Global

The role of an experiential agency is at the coalface of driving happiness through experiences.

Life has become challenging and, in many cases, mundane, as we push through this period of cost-of-living crises’ and bleak news filling TV screens on the hour.

A positive from the tribulations of the last 4 years though, is that brands have cultivated stronger audiences than ever before. Social communities are diverse and thriving. Run clubs, coffee mornings, hot yoga sessions, cat-café-coffee-catch-ups… You name it, there is a group for it.

Brands can and should curate real moments between like-minded people.

And experiential agencies have the ability and the responsibility to shape these moments to be the absolute best they can.

So yes, as brands delve deeper into their community focussed activities, as Gymshark creates smaller niche running clubs, as Lululemon creates events for women to break records, it is the experiential agency that needs to match this with human design at the core.

Creating moments of magic, where memories and happiness are made.

Ellen Gaedtgens

Ellen Gaedtgens, Founder & Managing Director, Chuck Studios.jpg

Founder & Managing Director

Chuck Studios

My only work-related ambition in life is to wake up every morning feeling excited to go to work. And to laugh out loud at least once a day. It’s that ambition that I foster in my team.

Being a co-founder, alongside my partner in life and work, meant we had a responsibility from the start to both our business and our people. It doesn’t matter which brands you’re working with or how big your latest production was, without your people, you are nothing.

It is my opinion that as a leader, you should never take your people for granted. So yes, of course, our industry should be doing more to prioritise staff happiness. Big client names are great but when my team suffers from the way they are treated by a client during a production process, I would seriously consider not working for, and with, such a client again.

Of course, we cherish our clients and we will always walk the extra mile for them. But the people at Chuck Studios are our culture and the heart of our business. So they are just as important.

Creative teams should feel both seen and heard. Developing a supportive, inclusive working culture is vital if you want to see their unique flare and passion shine through their creative projects.

The balance must always be between taking your job seriously, but also having fun while you do it. That’s how the best work, and the best culture, get made.

Jay Young

Jay Young, Managing Director at Grand Visual.jpg

Managing Director

Grand Visual

The creative industry is such a bloody exciting place to be. From working with iconic, household name brands through to dreaming up new innovative ideas, many of us are passionate about what we do and work extremely hard. But this hard work can come at a cost to our mental health, and burnout can be an issue. Especially post pandemic – planning cycles are shorter; lead times are crunched and there’s no longer a breather between meetings.

I know this all too well - I went through a challenging time several years ago which left me feeling overworked. I just didn’t prioritise myself enough and my health took a knock. I ended up taking the time out to reset and focus on my wellbeing and it helped me get back on track. I’m grateful that at Grand Visual, wellbeing is something we take very seriously.

The creative industry does however have a vulnerability issue. Having flexibility and compassion as a leader and fostering a culture where it’s ok to be vulnerable about how you feel, is crucial in creating a happy and connected workplace. That’s only possible though if you’ve done your own work. I believe all senior leaders should spend some time looking inwards with a professional coach. It allows you to be a better manager and lead with compassion.

Ultimately, creativity is the result of happy and healthy humans. A happier and motivated workforce is essential to higher performing business outcomes – better ideas, better service, better bottom line.

Sam Smith

Sam Smith.jpg

Managing Director


Building an amazing company culture isn’t just a buzzword, it’s an essential tool to see our staff and talent thrive and ultimately see overall better business performance.

But let's face it, in today’s working landscape for the first time ever, this requires balancing five different generations working together under one roof; each with different expectations and needs (and quirks). Add to this the constantly changing ways of working and new evolving technologies like AI, and the task at hand gets even more complex.

There's this old-school notion that chaining staff to their desks will encourage productivity, and it seems that across the board, there is a fight to get talent into the offices as much as possible. But where is the trust? As an industry, we must continue to tangibly demonstrate belief and trust in the talent we hire, setting them up for success as a top priority.

I believe that leading with trust and respect is critical to achieving a motivated workforce. It’s not about mandating how and where people should work but instead listening to what works best for them and maintaining open communication at all times. We need to trust, respect, and listen to our teams, communicate honestly and clearly, offer workplace along with work hour flexibility, support both the physical and mental health of each individual, and set work-life boundaries.

The happiest employee becomes the happiest employee by being allowed to make their own choices, instilled with a sense of independence and ownership over their work. We're not in the business of babysitting adults; we're in the business of fuelling creativity, and employee happiness = magic.

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