There’s been a huge hullabaloo about Wieden + Kennedy London’s recent ‘work-life balance’ announcement. In case you missed this, the company has asked staff not to email in the evenings (between 7pm and 8am), and has set up its calendar system so that staff can only book meetings between 10am and 4pm, making every morning and evening ‘meeting-free.’
Most of the commentary has been extremely positive. W+K is perhaps the world’s most admired agency, and since the shop has long been highly innovative in its output, it seems appropriate that it should now be so pioneering in its working methods.
However, it was fascinating to see that Iain Tait, W+K London’s joint ECD, felt the need to write a lengthy post on his personal blog this week, clarifying the thinking behind the move. He explained that many people asking him questions about the changes had assumed they were about ensuring people didn’t work too hard, and that this was not in fact the reason behind the changes at all.
First, he addressed the perception that W+K has an ‘overwork’ culture – which no doubt is what lies behind the agency’s nickname of ‘Weekend + Kennedy’. But surprisingly, instead of denying the accusation, Tait accepted it, and indeed defended it. “It’s because we work long and hard to get to the best work we can,” he explained. “For many of us, hanging out at work is hanging out with mates, in a nice place, and doing what we love.”
He then went on to set the record straight: the new working practices aren’t intended to make people work less hard, but in fact to give them a break from screen-time so they can work better. W+K wants to give its staff “periods for silence and reflection” and “a chance to chill-out,” the theory being they will then come up with better ideas.
So the enemy is not hard work, but the constant demands of our electronic devices.
“Our changes hopefully show that we trust our people to be the bosses of their own brain-time and brain-space,” said Tait. “And we’re removing practices that allow others to trample over them.”
It will be fascinating to see how this works out for W+K, and whether it gets adopted by other agencies. Is it something you could imagine happening where you work?