How much should you work?

Working differently at W+K London

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Overall the message is: we’re cool with you working less at W&K London and we’re proving this by asking people not to email each other between 7pm and 8am; we’re only having meetings between 10 and 4; if you work weekends or evenings you can claim the time back.

The main reason is to give employees’ brains the rest they need in order to be able to function at their optimum level. Y’know: devices now mean that we’re always on, so reducing the way they can swamp you with email etc. is a good thing.

Great idea. Not sure I agree with this bit so much, though:

As pointed out in Campaign, we do get called Weekend+Kennedy sometimes. Just as ‘72 and Sunny’ get called ‘72 and Sunday’ and BBH get called GBH. But there’s a reason these agencies, and others like them, have decent creative output. It’s because we work long and hard to get to the best work we can.

‘Decent’ creative output? Interesting adjective. These agencies have acquired a reputation for having long working hours because that’s one of the methods by which they believe they can create ‘decent’ ads. Has that really been worth it? (By the way, just to be clear, I’m not saying that these three places alone are producing work that is generally of a ‘decent’ standard, nor that they don’t have long histories of creating truly outstanding ads. They have been great in the past and their current output is probably of the same standard as it has always been, relative to the other agencies; it’s just that the general level has been getting worse for years and that means that what used to be 10/10 is sometimes closer to 8 or 7.

If ‘the best work we can (do)’ is ‘decent’ then working ‘long and hard’ to achieve it suggests that all sorts of things might be wrong. Sure, it could be the constant connectivity of recent years, but maybe, just maybe, there are other reasons behind the post–Gorilla malaise in which advertising still appears to find itself. Let me think… ummm… The talent drain? The reduction in budgets? The reduction in relative salaries? The ever-shortening deadlines? The sending of money and talent in the direction of ‘big data’ and ads that follow you around the internet all the bloody time? Agencies making the industry look like it’s full depressing liars by creating non-existent work in order to win awards?

I think W&K should be applauded for giving this a go, but I hope due consideration will also be given to advertising’s other difficulties, otherwise all the peace and quiet in the world is not going to change much.