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APG & the Right to Disconnect

Matt Tanter, APG Chair | 24 September 2019

I have always said that the most important letter in APG is the G. Group community. Finding ways to enrich and support the community is one of if not the founding principle of the APG.


We continually spend time thinking how we can further the knowledge and learning of our discipline. To advance our collective expertise and make better work.  But earlier this year as a committee we agreed we needed to do more to represent and support the community of planners from a mental health perspective. Because there was seemingly not issues more pressing or pertinent in our community for the sustainability of people


Planners are a particular breed of person who are curious, empathetic, strong, sensitive, creative; those who take responsibility and often carry a huge amount of expectation and upon our shoulders.


And whether we as a community and as people are more predisposed to mental health related illness or whether are working lives and pursuits place more pressures upon us, what is in no doubt is that we have to recognise the issue and do all we can to address it.


We are not experts in this field. We don’t profess to be and have worked with expert organisations to guide us and support us on this journey. We recognise the complexity and broad ranging spectrum of Mental Health from the clinical, to the everyday wellbeing stresses.


But what we wanted to do was to start a conversation. And so we did in February upstairs in the The Crown, at our first session to discuss the prevalence of mental health issues in our community and with candid and open conversations.

The response we had was quite extraordinary from people at all levels and it compelled the APG team to do more.


So we rallied the strategic leaders from around London and indeed the country to look the issue in the face and discuss what we were going to do to tackle it. 40 CSOs and Heads of Planning arrived and we shared stories, initiatives, concerns but overall a shared ambition to tackle it and a need for a concrete plan to make it happen.


Since then we have trained over 20 CSOs at a Mental Health Leadership event. We have also paid for a similar number of nominated strategy leaders to take part in Mental Health First Aid fully funded by the APG and will continue to offer this.


But one other key element we wanted to take on is the conditions and working culture that can exacerbate and trigger mental health issues amongst our community. The 24/7 limitless demands that are now normal but are anything but.


We are calling it The Right to Disconnect: A call to arms to disconnect from the continuous work culture in order to reconnect with yourself, your friends, family and ultimately your creativity. We are championing four very simple but powerful behaviours.


We are asking Strategy leaders and agencies across London to commit to tackling them and for you as a community of strategists to demand them.


We talk relentlessly about creating cultural impact through the work we make. But surely we should start by making a cultural impact on the people we work with.


We are lucky. 

We love the work we do.

But what happens when that work turns into evenings? 


At weekends. We work.

When we are home. We work.

You’re probably still working now while reading this.

While it may seem normal, it’s not. 

It’s costing us what is most precious. 

Our mental health.

And it’s costing us our ability to be our most creative.

And all this is costing agencies approximately £1,000 per head per year. 

We need to break this cycle.

To disconnect in order to reconnect.

With ourselves, and with our creativity. 

This is not something that is nice to do. 

It is something that is our right to do.



We have worked with the strategy leaders across the industry to create a manifesto for change, based on 4 simple but very powerful working practices:


No emails to be sent outside of the hours of 8pm - 8am


Fix your core ‘in-office’ working hours and allow people to flex around them


Respect everyone’s need for a break and to switch off completely


Set the tone, make sure everyone knows it's OK to go home

APG Right to Disconnect - 4 key behaviou


Poor mental health is killing creativity.
At any one time, 1 in 6 people in the UK are suffering from the symptoms of mental ill health. Anxiety and depression limit the brain’s ability to think creatively – strangling the very lifeblood of our industry.
It costs agencies roughly £1,000 per employee (well or ill) per year. Much of the cost is unseen - shockingly ‘presenteeism’ (turning up for work but working inefficiently), accounts for twice the cost of ‘absenteeism’. 
One major trigger and accelerator to mental ill health is our 24/7 ‘always on’ work culture. We not only have the power to change this, but there is a moral, creative and commercial imperative to do so.

We're calling on the industry to create a more vibrant, healthy and creative working culture by giving people

the Right to Disconnect


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