Agency /Should I stay or should I go (in-house)?

Should I stay or should I go (in-house)?

The Clash said it best: “should I stay or should I go?“. They may have been talking about a relationship, but the question is just as relevant here too.


There often comes a time in a creative’s life, when they’re working at an agency, and they’re faced with a tough question – do I continue working at an agency, or do I move in-house?


Creatives didn’t spend three-five years at university and then however many more building their careers at an agency where they do exciting and varied work, collaborate with awesome brands and contribute to epic campaigns to go, “I think I’m going to go somewhere with less variety and potentially less exciting work”. But as the Creative Natives team talks to both clients and candidates, we’re seeing many people leaving, or looking to leave, the agency life for an in-house role.


So what’s behind this shift? We’re glad you asked.


We recently did a poll on LinkedIn asking what would make creatives currently working in agencies leave and move in-house. Overwhelmingly, 45% of respondents said they would go in-house to have a better work/life balance. This was followed by 29% looking for greater salary and benefits, 18% wanting to work on one brand and 9% wanting a more grown up workplace culture. These numbers may not be much of a surprise, but are very telling.


We all know that workers have been re-evaluating what they want and need from their workplace since the pandemic, with work/life balance being one of the biggest driving factors. Working in-house may result in less variety in the work and potentially less creative license due to a stricter corporate brand, but workers are able to slow down, relax and get some balance and wellbeing back in their life.


What can agencies do?

The 45% of respondents is telling us that there are some agencies out there (and we’re sure some non-agencies too) that aren’t doing enough to give their team the work/life balance they need to succeed. However providing ways for your workers to have better balance in their lives will ultimately benefit the agency in the long run. Happier and relaxed workers are more likely to be productive and engaged and have lower rates of absenteeism and presenteeism (rocking up the office when they’re sick because they feel they have to be there and then infecting everyone else) in the long term.


The best thing to do is speak to your staff and ask them what they need to have the best work-life balance. Ask them anonymously in a survey, in a one-on-one chat or have a team brainstorming session –  If you want some extra ideas, here are a few things that your agency can try:

  • Build a strong team culture where staff feel included, that they can contribute to the discussion and know that they can turn to each other for support (and a laugh)
  • Take the mental health concerns of your staff seriously. Put together a plan to manage their workload and provide support so they don’t exacerbate their condition
  • Consider pushing back on, or adding more resources to, particular clients that require a lot of work and management
  • Encourage your team to take their annual leave and actually switch off. Tell them to leave their laptop at home and delete any email, chat or other work related apps on their phones
  • Implement a work from anywhere policy. It’ll give your team a change of scenery, allow them to rediscover their passion and hopefully provide some inspiration for their work. Read more about work from anywhere
  • Try meeting free Fridays, monthly wellbeing days or working nine day fortnights


Things for creatives to consider

If you love your work, but you’re thinking about moving in-house to escape burnout and get some balance in your life, have a conversation with your manager or HR leader about what you need to get things back on track. Hopefully they’ll take the steps to support you and keep you around doing awesome work, rather than see you leave and then go to the effort of finding someone new to fill your position.


If they’re not willing or able to put the processes in place to support you, then it may be time to go find somewhere that will. In the long term, there’s nothing more important than your mental health and wellbeing.


We work with some amazing agencies that do prioritise employee work/life balance, so if you’re keen to learn more about them, get in touch. And if you’ve decided it’s time to move in-house, we can help with that too! Drop us a line at