"If you make widgets and gauge the success of your day by how many widgets you cranked out, then yes, more hours = more productivity. But that’s not how creative professionals work, that’s not what we get paid for. We get paid for our ideas, our strategy, our designs, and our guidance. No agency gets hired because the client hears they’re known for working really long hours" (Disenthrall blog post, disenthrall.co)
Long hours and agency life go together like peanut butter and jelly. It's a sticky pairing that has been around for eons.
A standard agency employment contract will read something similar to this: "hours of work are 8:30am to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday. In busy times the employee will be expected to work in excess of the hours stated." What your contract doesn't tell you is that "busy times" can be another way of saying "most of the time".
Is it fair/acceptable/right that you be required to regularly work long hours when your contract clearly states you have a 40-hour-per-week job, and that you receive no additional remuneration for the extra hours? It's a question that always hovers in the background, but is usually relegated to the "too hard basket" sitting under your agency manager's desk.
AgencyLand is deadline-driven. Deadlines are always present and 100% necessary for the successful delivery of projects and campaigns. Deadlines are also loaded with expectations and consequences ("if you do this, by this time, then this will/won't happen"). In order to ensure that deadlines are met and clients are kept happy, it is inevitable that you (as a dedicated account manager) will likely "do whatever it takes" to meet your deadlines - which includes working long hours.
If long hours are an acknowledged component of working in AgencyLand, it can be argued that if you choose account management as your career then you should accept long hours as something you knowingly signed up for. The question then becomes, should you be expected to work long hours every day or just occasionally?
When you interview for an agency job, a good question to ask is: "What type of hours does the account management team typically work?" Your aim is to find out if the agency has a work-hard-play-hard ethos (a common euphemism for "long hours") or is more family-friendly (a common euphemism for "getting to see your children before they go to bed").
It is unlikely that agencies will ever promise their staff a great work-life balance (though some agencies are better at this than others). Therefore, what can you do to ensure you keep your health, sanity and family life intact?