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Time: the best gift you can give someone at work?

Posted by Debby Penton on 13th July 2020

Back in those halcyon days before Covid-19, working from home (WFH) was considered the panacea to productivity. Cut the commute, avoid office distractions, wear what you want and productivity will go through the roof. Boom!

So lockdown should have massively boosted productivity everywhere right?

Not necessarily.

Sure, at Wildfire we’ve adjusted pretty well. But with everyone forced to work from home, we’ve had to make other adaptions.

No longer able to holler across the office at a colleague, other types of communication have gone through the roof. Our days are typically back to back with Zoom meetings, and post-Zoom Zoom meetings to debrief on the call that just happened. And plenty of studies tell us how exhausting being on camera all day is.

So it should come as no surprise, as we passed 100 days WFH, that the team at Wildfire recently started showing signs of “video fatigue”.

Despite all the effort to schedule Zoom fun times, quizzes and friendly check-ins, it was just adding to the feeling of “death by video” and generally busy-ness.

So we gave everyone a day off — a long weekend — to focus on their mental health and say thanks for all the hard work. And that was gratefully received, obviously.

But we needed a better solution for the long term.

In my search, I stumbled across a TedTalk by Jason Fried “Why work doesn’t happen at work’. It’s from 2010 so pretty out of date in many places but the bit that struck a chord was this quote:

“The greatest gift you can give an employee is four hours of uninterrupted time.”

And it made me realise that we’ve all fallen victim to a succession of calls, meetings, check-ins, chats and quizzes interrupting our days. And, depending on your seniority, most of these are out of our control.

PR has always required us to multitask and be flexible, but when you have meetings dropped in your diary at regular intervals, sometimes with little time between to even go to the loo, how can anyone get anything meaningful done?

How can anyone write, pitch, read or even think when you’re snatching minutes between YET ANOTHER CALL?

It reminded me what it’s like to be the parent of small children – the greatest gift anyone can give you then is time and space (and probably a night of uninterrupted sleep!).

So, we’ve taken an agency decision to give everyone that gift.

Four hours a day, every day, clear of scheduled client and internal calls.

From today, the window between 11am and 3pm is sacrosanct for people to actually “get shit done” and have some lunch in peace, wherever they’re working.

We’ll be communicating this to clients and we know they’ll be supportive, just as they were about us giving the team a day off. And maybe it will even catch on!

We’re hoping it has a positive effect on productivity as well as mental health. But we know there is more we can do, so do let me know if you’ve found better working hacks for your businesses as we’re all having to adapt together!

Debby Penton

Motivated, competitive and highly experienced, Debby drives excellence across the agency and leads by example, going the extra mile to create stand-out campaigns and a dynamic agency culture. As CEO, Debby champions a new breed of PR that meets the evolving communication needs of today’s tech companies.