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MENA Power List 2023: Disrupting the workplace by Havas Media’s Houda Tohme

Houda Tohme has been the CEO of Havas Media Middle East for 4 years. Her favourite hobby is reading. 

Are we on the cusp of a cultural shift in the work sphere? Our traditional notions of workplace dynamics are rapidly evolving, prompted by an unapologetic and idealistic young workforce armed with an array of social media platforms to broadcast their thoughts, feelings.. and of course, memes.

Here’s the tea: the younger generation isn’t settling for the traditional 9-to-6 grind anymore. As we navigate this pivotal juncture marked by a cultural shift and evolving generational values, it’s clear that the old saying ‘all work and no play’ is getting a contemporary facelift. This shift isn’t just about young ones wanting more; they’re boldly changing the rules of the game.

Through the vast reach of social media, they’re voicing their concerns, sharing personal experiences, and shedding light on relatable workplace frustrations. Averse to mundane tasks and quick to disengage if the challenge doesn’t meet their expectations, they anticipate instant gratification, promotions and financial rewards at every turn.

Terms like ‘Sunday Scaries’ and ‘Bare Minimum Monday’ are no longer exclusive to Gen Z’s weekend lingo; they’ve become symbols of global sentiment. Trends like ‘how to professionally say no’ have evolved into the rallying cries of a generation determined to foster a different work environment.

However, while this empowerment is commendable, we may be treading on a slippery slope. Sure, #BareMinimumMonday is trending with 2.2 million views, but what’s the long-term impact on workforce productivity?

With data indicating that 82 per cent of Gen Zers are attracted to the idea of being the least productive, of which 15 per cent are already practicing it, there’s potential for a shift in work ethic.

I am proud to say that at Havas Middle East, we have been breaking the mold by placing mental health and well-being at the forefront. Initiatives like half-days on Fridays, insurance coverage for mental health and designating a day for mental health are reflective of our commitment to enhancing employee well-being.

In the servicing industry, agency cultures are influenced, if not entirely dependent, on client dynamics. Operating in an extremely fast-paced work rhythm, clients demand campaigns at the drop of a hat, and agencies are expected to oblige, regardless of the time or day.

When clients foster high-stress environments, it invariably impacts the teams servicing them, leading to increased stress and mental fatigue.

“In the servicing industry, agency cultures are influenced, if not entirely dependent, on client dynamics”

The data from Havas’s Prosumer Report of 2023 further underscores the urgency of the global mental health crisis. With a majority of respondents citing factors such as consumerism, reduced interactions with loved ones, and digital addiction as contributors to mental health challenges, it’s evident that a systemic overhaul is due.

So, where do we go from here? The path forward necessitates collaboration. Clients, agencies and employees must unite to craft a new paradigm—a paradigm that values personal well-being without sacrificing business growth. It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other; it’s about finding a harmonious equilibrium.

Clients can play a pivotal role in cultivating a balanced work culture by setting realistic expectations, allowing reasonable turnaround times, and actively engaging in open communication with their agency partners. By prioritising the well-being of agency employees, clients contribute to a collaborative environment where creativity and productivity thrive.

Agencies, on the other hand, can be the torch bearers of their employees’ welfare. By nurturing a culture of flexibility, recognising the importance of work-life balance, and fostering a supportive atmosphere, they can transform agency-client relationships into a harmonious duet.

For the young guns entering the workforce, it starts with a simple but profound step – choosing a career that ignites their passion. Ensuring that personal interests align with professional pursuits can be the key to avoiding the relentless stress of feeling unheard and overburdened, leading to a more fulfilling journey within the industry.

As we navigate this new landscape, the goal is clear: strike the right balance, ensuring that in our pursuit of professional success, we don’t lose sight of personal well-being. It’s about finding that happy medium—the sweet spot where productivity flourishes, personal lives thrive, and a new era of workplace harmony is born.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”