This was my first job after getting an MBA. I didn’t sit for campus recruitment interviews as I wanted to pitch myself and wanted to stay in Bengaluru as I have more friends here and a better support system. I joined a boutique agency I liked and settled down.
I was enthusiastic in the beginning when I started my job. My agency was a great environment. My day began between 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and I would be at work till nearly 8 p.m. In my time off, I tried to catch up with friends and invest in DIY things. One time, I just took eight meters of cloth and made curtains for my own room.
Apart from a sense of accomplishment, switching off like this calms you down and helps your mental health. But if you’re young and you do well in advertising, the workload keeps increasing. With time, I had to work more including weekends and holidays, and I was leaving work at 10 p.m.
With COVID-19, everything just became more difficult.
Part of the problem was also me because I prided myself as a hard worker. It’s only as you get some experience you learn that working hard doesn’t mean working all the time. I speak with my friends about their experiences, and read things online about people facing the same issues and you understand that advertising has become so toxic. If people pack their bags at 6 p.m., we’re asked if it’s a shortened work day.
Recently I saw that a director from a prominent advertising agency had shared a story about a colleague who died of a heart stroke because of stress. He mentioned that people in advertising flaunt dark circles as a badge of honour, and if you can’t work long hours every day of the week, you’re told you’re not cut out for this.
Last December was the first time I mentioned this added stress to my bosses — that I needed help — but it was ignored. With COVID-19, everything just became more difficult. My work days started at 10 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m., but during this time I had to figure out what to eat, clean my home, get supplies, and just do things. Your phone never stops pinging and you always have to be available, so you’re always in work-mode, stressed out.
Clients too have seemingly gotten worse.
Three months ago, I was asked to design a 12-page brochure which included writing and designing it but the client told us they wanted this in one hour. These unrealistic deadlines just get to you because it feels like nothing is working out; you’re always mentally exhausted and running late.
People who were scared of losing jobs willingly worked for 24 hours a day.
I brought this up with my bosses and they promised to help me. They thought of temporary fixes like getting an intern, but months went by and these things didn’t happen.
COVID-19 made all these issues worse. As the pandemic prolonged, our work increased as my agency picked up more small projects. Many companies reduced their advertising budgets, which gave small agencies like ours a chance to get more business. Our founders got very pumped, and people who were scared of losing jobs willingly worked for 24 hours a day.
I understand that, as people have responsibilities, some colleagues have children, but as I’m not in that position yet, I made a decision for self-preservation. My mental health deteriorated ever since the workload increased due to the pandemic. I was physically tired and just angry all the time. I barely had time to speak to my parents or my friends. And work from home made all these things more difficult because you don’t have your colleagues to share your problems with.
So, I quit my job this month. I’ve saved some money, and I know it’s a risk. Not many people can afford to take it, but this is the only way I feel I could just survive. I’ve done some good work and with time I can find something again. Hopefully it won’t be so emotionally and physically taxing.
As told to Parthshri Arora.
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