The Answer To Dying From Working Overtime In An Ad Agency: Yoga

As you may recall, a young woman, Matasuri Takahashi, who worked at Dentsu in Tokyo, committed suicide.

That suicide was blamed on "karoshi" or "death by overtime." Following that incident, Dentsu Tokyo instituted a reduction in allowable overtime hours from 70 to 65 hours per week. Wunderman China CEO Bryce Whitman thinks he has a better solution.

In a piece he wrote for Campaign, Whitman suggests, "Agency leaders need to do a better job of listening to their employees. Millennials need more frequent engagement than the standard annual performance review. At Wunderman we have launched a program that encourages leaders to meet frequently and more informally with their subordinates. It helps us better identify and resolve the pressure points staff might be facing."

Along with these sessions, the agency aims to understand employee engagement with surveys geared towards identifying employee needs both personally and professionally to better staff client teams which, ultimately, will work more efficiently and, as a result, require fewer hours to complete a specific goal.

While these sessions address the more functional nature of improved work efficiency, the agency has also launched a yoga program designed by Chinese marketing veteran David Turchetti who left the business in 2008 to teach yoga. 



Of the program's implementation, Turchetti said. "The team at Wunderman was a little surprised at first, because many of them thought they were coming to class just to get a good stretch. But yoga, above all, is a spiritual practice. We read ancient scriptures of yoga together in every class and spend time chanting and discussing how to live yogic lives.”

The program aims to help employees find presence and mindfulness amid the distractions cause by today's incessant call for attention from mobile devices and the apps on those mobile devices. Whitman acknowledges that overtime isn't going to disappear overnight – or ever -- but aims to minimizes its negative effects by finding better ways to listen to employee needs and reduce the stress that can come with overwork.


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