Mindshare strategist Caitlin Lloyd (main photo) was sufficiently stirred by the exchange between Roy Morgan and Willie Pang on B&T to pen this very private account of her journey to finding peace while working in the media planning industry she loves…
Many of us struggle to believe our stories are worth telling. Something holding me back is the generalised anxiety disorder I was diagnosed with in my early twenties. This ‘more or less permanent sense of gnawing uneasiness’ is a lens I view my world through and something Hugh Mackay and I discussed during the AANA Masterclass Series earlier this year.
Hugh pointed out anxiety could soon be a bigger threat to public health than obesity and I can’t say I was surprised when I learnt from a recent report that 56 per cent of people within the media, marketing and creative industry showed mild to severe symptoms of depression. Added to the recent furore from the Roy Morgan call to arms and Willie Pang’s subsequent response, I realised this was something I had to write about.
It’s a very personal story and one I’m hesitant to tell after my family WhatsApp group blew up when I shared Anne Helen Peterson’s Buzzfeed article on ‘millennial burnout’. It was handbags at dawn as my baby boomer father insisted symptoms like stress, insomnia, self-doubt, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, dissatisfaction and inadequacy were not particularly prescient for 18-34-year-olds, but another example of the snowflake generation not knowing how good we had it.
As a strategist, it’s my job to be constantly thinking about how and why we make decisions. That means almost every moment is an opportunity to study human behaviour, whether I’m sitting in an Uber, ordering a coffee or online shopping while waiting for a flight. I think we’re all agreed the line between work and life has blurred, but I think many of us have internalised the idea we should be working all the time.
There’s been enough written about the crushing demands on our young workforce to tax even the toughest minds, but I think we can find new solutions when we consider how much our definition of success has changed in the past 10-15 years. Peterson summarises this brilliantly as ‘the need to find employment that reflects well on [our] parents … that’s also impressive to … peers and fulfils what [we]’ve been told has been the end goal … doing work that we’re passionate about’.
Purpose isn’t just a buzzword when it comes to our clients. While I can honestly say I love my job, I have to be honest, when I woke up at 4am for the twelfth night in a row, I questioned if it was really worth it. We’re not saving lives after all. The final straw was a retaliatory statistic from Paul Dolan, sent by my Dad, claiming ‘happiness and sense of purpose are both at their highest among people working between 21 and 30 hours a week, and misery increases in tandem with the number of hours worked thereafter’. If that was true, why was I still working 50+ hour weeks?
I couldn’t think of anything to do outside of changing my approach to work to achieve the mythical work-life balance we all seek. I was already meditating, writing gratitude lists and going to yoga daily and had been for the past six months. So instead of searching for more answers online, I did what many of us do when we can’t sleep: I disturbed the body next to me with a cry for help.
Instead of shouting, my boyfriend gave me a piece of advice I hadn’t considered before and through pure exhaustion was finally ready to listen to. He recommended I give myself permission to do nothing and advised me not to feel guilty about it. He also suggested I stop making lists and endless scenario plans and begin living in the moment.
I soon learnt ‘one day at a time’ is a cliché for a reason. It works. It helps. Many of us are planners for a living, that’s how we make money, so I don’t deny it’s a tough habit to break. But, in my experience many of the things I was worrying about never actually happened. Clients began to respect my strategic recommendations more because they weren’t overwrought and in turn I became less defensive when they asked questions.
Individual transformation isn’t enough though and I want to broaden my focus and improve our industry rather than continuing to focus on myself. I’ve committed to leading two interconnected initiatives at Mindshare, flexible working and job satisfaction, which I think will really make a difference.
I believe we need to recognise success as output versus hours spent at (often virtual) desks. The way to create meaningful transformation will happen if we focus on behaviour change instead of policy as now mandates are often either misunderstood or rejected entirely as people feel change is being enforced upon them.
Collective wellbeing may be in crisis, but I believe change is possible. Of course, there’s a commercial benefit to retaining talent and future-proofing ourselves as an industry but I’m more interested in the cultural impact. Simply put, I want to make work enjoyable again.