Here’s what Bruce Daisley, VP of Twitter and host of the Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast, has to say about shorter work days, company culture, and the future of employee wellness.
Vice President, Twitter and Host, Eat Sleep Work Repeat Podcast
Have you noticed the modern workplace changing standards for work-life balance?
Yes. Of course, more and more discussions are taking place on these themes but we need a more honest dialogue about work.
How can employers focus on supporting their employees with a positive workplace culture?
Many people are finding their burden of emails and meetings are becoming overwhelming. They return to their desk in an open plan space and feel they can’t get anything done. It makes for a really unhappy, unrewarding way to spend our time. We need to be more honest about what we’re trying to accomplish and how. One of the challenges is the “Evil Mill Owner” that lives inside all of us. The Evil Mill Owner says, “When I first worked, people were in at nine and left at six. When I was first at work people were on the phone all day.” Of course, computers and mobile phones have transformed work, but the Evil Mill Owner inside us often forgets this.
Why is it that working shorter days actually increases productivity as compared to working longer days?
There’s some great research into how much can our brains actually do. Can we study for 17 or 18 hours a day? Can we work for more than 10 hours? And the evidence is that we simply can’t.
Where do you see the future of work? Do you think that flexible working will become a new reality?
People who work in big companies tell me that hot-desking is becoming more popular. Not because workers are demanding it, but because the finance team say it’s cheaper. Hot-desking is proven to be less satisfying, makes us feel more disconnected, and makes us less productive. But yes, it’s cheaper. Generally, I’m pessimistic. Work will almost certainly get worse. Sorry.
There are a lot of companies debating how to do the right thing at a macro level but they’re not applying this at the micro level. It’s all very well having a wellness program but if the experience of work for most employees is 20 hours of meetings with buckets full of emails poured on top, the impact of it is that people are feeling frazzled and burned out.
What advice do you have for HR managers and executives regarding company culture and employee workplace happiness?
It seems that culture really starts at the local level. At teams. Two adjacent teams can describe very different experiences at work. A friend of mine, Professor Cary Cooper, describes this as “the line manager lottery.” More than anything, firms create a context for people to do work but culture seems to live at the team level.
In your New Work Manifesto, what is the rule you find most important and why?
I’ve written lots of suggestions — some in my book, some in my podcast, some on the New Work Manifesto. Most recently, people have been obsessed with the podcast about silent meetings. I can’t remember a reaction like it. Someone said it had changed their work culture overnight.