If you work in marketing or social media you’ll already know who Bruce Daisley is - the Ex-Twitter VP and #1 Bestselling Author. His book, The Joy of Work, explores why workplaces can be needlessly stressful environments and how those negative effects can damage a business’s profitability and work culture. It’s a must read for any business or individual who wants positive solutions for building a better working life. His newsletter on how work is changing has become essential reading to almost 15000 people each week.
Hi Bruce, thank you for answering these questions.
From Twitter VP to No.1 Bestselling author and successful podcaster, what does a normal day look like for you? How has your daily routine changed compared to when you had an office job?
Last year I quit Twitter after eight years, to see if I could develop a business out of the work culture requests I was getting approached with. Then the Pandemic happened. My first instinct was to use the time in lockdown to get a book I was writing finished, but as time went on more firms were asking me on advice on how they should manage first remote working, then the return to the office and now how to make hybrid working succeed - a brilliant opportunity to work with a huge range of companies: huge tech firms, breadmakers, sugar makers, retail giants, local councils - all wrestling with the same issues. I’ve also completed the book so it’s been a very busy year.
I remember back in 2014 at Twitter we moved into a new shiny office at Piccadilly. I was struck by your passion to create the most positive, creative spaces possible for all your employees. As you rearranged our seating you could feel the energy of the space change depending on its layout. The momentum of an optimally designed space for creative thinking feels very important for both output and culture. If we are heading towards a future of split home and office working, how might one design that space today? Should companies experiment with dedicated ‘no working from home’ days for example?
I think what firms are finding is that one size fits none - meaning that different things might work best for different teams. If you can find the way for teams to be self-determining is one important step. There’s a caveat to that. I worked with one packaged goods firm (the sort of company that puts items on supermarket shelves) and they had made a vital change to their rule of remote. They’d deleted ‘with your manager’s permission’ from the option to work from home two or three days a week. Managers can’t be the blocker to people working in a progressive way. The big things for firms to think about is the network effect of the office - the office had its occasional magic when we knew we could chat to marketing, sales, accounts and the big boss all in a wander round. If we’re going to allow some of the accidental connections of the office then we need to think of ways to create that ‘network effect’. Is there one day a month when everyone is in? And what do you use the time for on that day? (the video down the page on this is helpful to understand this)
Pre COVID companies were obligated to provide safe working spaces and we were all expected to work in them. The commute was a drag but the payoff was we had an equality of basic codes of conduct, health and safety, ergonomic seats, cyber security and clean working environments; simple things in 2019 we took for granted. Companies I know are selling their large spaces to save money and pushing employees to work from home. Depending on an individual's personal circumstances, a company's ability to provide those basic needs has become much harder. How do you think companies will tackle this challenge? Do they (should they?) have an obligation to provide the same things for an employee's home space?
The same obligations exist for home workstations - and while that hasn’t been a focus for the last year attention will turn to this. As an alternative I’ve seen one firm (who ditched their London office) did allow workers to get co-working spaces near their homes.
Have you noticed any typical characteristics of companies that have adapted their culture and working practises very successfully during the pandemic? Are these companies now stronger as a result?
The big story is this. Over the last twelve months we’ve been very focussed on productivity - on achieving the units of work that are required - and we’ve had to compromise on the sense of collegiate togetherness. Some people have told me that they’ve gone into the office and aside from the initial thrill of seeing old friends they didn’t recognise everyone - it felt a little awkward. The best organisations are going to recognise that the fundamentals have changed - we can’t just ask for it to be 2019 again, so they need to find new ways to build a sense of shared identity and belonging. It’s definitely possible but it’s a lot harder than we think.
You have written an incredible book and I'm very much looking forward to your second. For all the aspiring authors with something to say out there, what have been the most important aspects of your process?
A lot of people find the experience of writing and promoting a book to be despiriting, you expect to see your book in WHSmiths and when it isn’t you start doubting how anyone will find it. I did eventually get into Smiths but it took a lot of hard work. If anyone has an interest in writing a book, everything I learned about that process I put into this pdf.
Of the 131 episodes of your podcast, Eat Sleep Work Repeat, which are the best episodes for creatives to listen to that will help them improve their working environment?
Over the last twelve months I’ve really tried to grapple with how we can change work to make it have more of a community feel even when we’re only seeing each other by Zoom or seeing a few of the office a couple of days a week. If we did a pre-mortem and asked ourselves now what we think we might be looking back at with regret in two years we’d say we want to ensure that our workplaces feel like ‘we’, not a series of ‘mes’. The one lesson that has come out over the last twelve months is that resilience - and our strength - comes from feeling connected to each other. It’s why if your firm has sent you on resilience training you often end up thinking ‘I can’t tell anyone but nothing has changed’. So I’ve loved the episodes on these themes here: the power of groups, and the same message in a different context