Make it Thrive Podcast: Championing Six Hour Days

Make it Thrive Podcast: Championing Six Hour Days

This post is a write-up of Liberty Mind’s podcast, Make It Thrive. You can listen to this podcast in its full glory here, or on Spotify or Google Podcasts.

This week I’m talking to Lee Carnihan, the Marketing Manager of Curveball Media.

Curveball Media have adopted a six-hour work day since 2016 and today Lee’s going to tell me all about how they’ve been getting on with six hour day, and what flexible working has done for their company culture.  So let’s get started.

Hi Lee, and thank you so much for joining us today on ‘Make it Thrive.’  Give us an introduction to yourself and the company culture you have there at Curveball Media.

Thank you, Lizzie.  It’s a pleasure to be on the podcast.  I’m Lee Carnihan, I’m the Marketing Manager for Curveball Media.  We make animations in films, usually about 90 seconds long, and as far as our company culture goes – actually you’ve caught us at a really interesting time because we’re revisiting our values and kind of defining those now that we’ve grown a bit.   Generally speaking, our company culture’s very informal. It’s a bit like a family. There are about ten of us permanent employees with a good half dozen or so freelancers popping in from time to time, so it’s very informal and the culture is obviously informed by the people that are here, but it’s not dominated by the Directors or anything like that.  There is very much a family feel to the culture, so we do look for consensus all the time in terms of the decisions that we make.

There’s no management team, but it’s not like things are being dictated or just – I don’t know, dictated, I suppose, in that sense.  We are very conscious that we are like a family, and in that way we want to have everyone on board as much as we can with things. Yes, there are certain decisions of course that need to be taken by the Directors, but generally speaking – certainly on an operational sense –  yeah, we look to have consensus and we look for that, we invite everybody to participate in how we work and why we should work in certain ways. We’re also naturally good at being creative people, we’re always looking at that culture from a wellbeing point of view, but also from a productivity point of view because that’s part of us as Curveball.  We wouldn’t be Curveball, if you like, if we didn’t do things in a slightly different way or want to do things in a slightly different way.  

We are very much like our name says in that sense.  We’re always looking for different ways or different questions to put to ourselves to make us think about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it – which, I guess, some of the other questions I can see coming up as you’re going to lead into that.

I love that… Curveball, you are going round it a different way and I think that’s really interesting that you’ve managed to not only just have that in your name, but you’ve actually acted upon it as well.  I talk to companies about this. It’s not only having a vision, but it’s actually behaving by that vision as well, and that has to be engrained into the company culture.

It’s so interesting because I know we met many months ago – it feels like many months ago, the time goes so quickly – but we met on a panel discussion about workplace wellbeing in company culture and what really intrigued me is obviously you guys have had a six-hour work day since 2016.  A lot of companies have trialled and played around with it, but what made you guys decide on the six-hour day compared to some of the other flexible working models that are out there?

Yeah, that’s a perfect place to start because it’s an interesting answer in that when we look back in hindsight, it sounds like we very deliberately did this.  

One of the people who used to work for us, Marie, she was very interested in psychology and wellbeing and productivity.  She was doing a lot of research into flexible working and other ways of working that would be beneficial for people within an organisation, as well as the organisation itself.  She found that people were happier, more productive essentially, the more flexible or the fewer hours that they worked. There’s this idea that you can do the same amount of work in six hours as you can in eight or nine.

But there’s an irony, she didn’t like coming in early.  So I think she was looking for an answer that would help justify her saying, “Hey, can we have flexible start times, please?”  I wasn’t here when it was instituted so I can’t tell you – I can only report, if you like, that Daniel and Ollie here were very open and just like, “Yeah, alright.  Let’s think about this. Why do we work eight hours anyway and should we just switch to having flexible times or shorter days or whatever it is?” What is this eight hours thing about?”  

So it wasn’t a very conscious decision to start with – “Hey, we need to change the way we work.”  It was an accidental discovery almost you could say.

It triggered that conversation and our curiosity to ask the question – “Well, why are we doing this?  Seriously, why are we doing this?”

In the media industry there are very long hours and sometimes that’s held up as a badge of honour somehow, and it’s like “Does your client actually know that you spent 25 hours doing this? How does that actually help you or them?”  It doesn’t a lot of the time. This is bonkers.

"Well, why are we doing this? Seriously, why are we doing this?”

It’s very relevant and I think too much in society we praise over working and it’s just so unhealthy for us.

Yeah, absolutely.  Like we’ve said before, a lot of it is a hangover from the Industrial Age where quite literally if the factory owner could get an extra 100 people pumping out an extra 100 widgets per hour, he would make an extra £100 per hour or something.  You could force people to work longer and harder and he would earn more money, not them necessarily.

And then of course you get certain professions, like the legal profession in many instances, where they are literally charging you by the minute.  So there is a perverse incentive for them to work as many minutes as they possibly can bill for, but even then you think, “Okay, there’s a financial incentive there, but actually what happens to the quality of your advice after 12 hours of giving legal advice?”  It’s not like it’s dead simple, that kind of stuff, is it?  

It’s very complex analytical thinking in that way, so I just … Anyway, yeah, there is still present in our culture this idea that somehow if you’re not working long hours it doesn’t count. You’re not actually working. What’s that about?  What on earth…

It’s very relevant and I think too much in society we praise over working and it’s just so unhealthy for us.

Yeah, absolutely.  Like we’ve said before, a lot of it is a hangover from the Industrial Age where quite literally if the factory owner could get an extra 100 people pumping out an extra 100 widgets per hour, he would make an extra £100 per hour or something.  You could force people to work longer and harder and he would earn more money, not them necessarily.

And then of course you get certain professions, like the legal profession in many instances, where they are literally charging you by the minute.  So there is a perverse incentive for them to work as many minutes as they possibly can bill for, but even then you think, “Okay, there’s a financial incentive there, but actually what happens to the quality of your advice after 12 hours of giving legal advice?”  It’s not like it’s dead simple, that kind of stuff, is it?  

It’s very complex analytical thinking in that way, so I just … Anyway, yeah, there is still present in our culture this idea that somehow if you’re not working long hours it doesn’t count. You’re not actually working. What’s that about?  What on earth…

To listen to the full podcast, visit Anchor FM, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

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About The Author

Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.