Time to challenge the productivity equation

“If we are to thrive rather than survive, we need to learn to treat our people and ourselves better."
Marc Nohr
Fold7

I was so encouraged to see Marc Nohr interviewed about his flexible working on Campaign as part of the Timewise Power 50. He works a four day week and has done for the last two years. Crucially, on productivity, he acknowledges, he has also “become far more productive in that time”.

There, it’s been said. I firmly believe it isn’t a simple ‘more time spent = more productive’ equation. In fact, I know it isn’t. Certainly for me and, I would wager, for most other people. I’ve got seven years’ experience of not working a standard five-day week, in a 19-year career, and I’ve been joined by two colleagues doing the same. We’re an incredibly productive business, we’re growing and we’re getting great results.

What makes people productive isn’t working longer hours. It’s often the time outside work that revitalises and refreshes them.

I had a coffee with a potential PR freelancer yesterday. She said she didn’t want to get back into the agency world she’s been out of for a few years as it was a myth that you could work part-time in communications. I’d like to keep calling that myth out.

“Flexible working should help everyone – men, women, mothers, non-mothers, young and old people.”

Yes, our industry is perceived as being always-on. But just because we can tweet, instagram and reply to emails 24/7, doesn’t mean we should. I rarely reply to client emails outside of work hours. In a crisis, I would. But someone asking a routine question doesn’t make for a crisis. Equally, we need to be responsive to journalists. If a journalist needed something at the weekend or after hours – particularly with the number of freelancers we work with – we would naturally deliver. But again, that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Marc speaking out is particularly important because flexible working should help everyone – men, women, mothers, non-mothers, young and old people. Our account manager, Steph, wrote about working a four-day week as a younger person last year for PR Week.

Going back to the productivity equation, that time stepping away from the business really does mean we can focus on it when we’re back in. If we worked an extra 20%, would we be an extra 20% more productive? I honestly don’t think so. I don’t want people I work with to feel jaded or burnt out; I don’t want anyone not to able to enjoy precious time outside of work because things from the working week are spilling over.

Over to one of my favourite phrases – it’s PR, not ER. And we need to start seeing that as a way of life, not just a slogan.