Creativity Needs Headspace – 4-Day Week Update

This article written by Amplitude Managing Director Jo Burns-Russell originally appeared in the October edition of All Things Business magazine.

Welcome to another chapter in my monthly column here in All Things Business following Amplitude’s journey as part of the UK’s 4-day work week trial. For those new to us, Amplitude is a creative marketing agency based in Northampton, working in branding, film production, animation, photography, and design. We pride ourselves on being people and planet first, and so decided to literally put our money where our mouth is this year as one of the businesses taking part in the official UK trial. It’s the biggest reform in the work week in over 100 years. We’ve had lots of support from the official 4-day work week scheme, which has enabled us to completely overhaul how we work, our processes, and more. If you happened to miss my earlier columns, you can still catch them online.

Three Months In

We’re now at the halfway point – three months in – and I must say, this feels like it’s the crunch point when it comes to us truly knowing how successful the trial will be. Simply because we are so busy! August historically for us is like a ghost town client side, but once the schools go back we’re inundated with creative projects and tenders, so it’s head-down time. I must admit, myself and my co-director have definitely popped a few extra hours in over the last few weeks, with a view that the better we organise the team during this ramp up the better they can use their time during delivery.

Hopefully this won’t be a regular thing, more a necessity to manage a big leap in the workload, and something I always knew could happen (as the business owner I’m not complaining!). The important lesson for me here is delegating more and ensuring people other than the directors can manage the ‘go-live’ moment of a project, so some further training for the rest of the senior team is already in the works. We know that having a flat non-hierarchical culture is key to this new model sticking as we manage growth.

Flipping this on its head though, the headspace the team are having with their extra day off is really paying dividends on the creative side. As a full service agency, we manage most of our projects from the ground up. Brand design, storytelling, visual identity, copywriting, implementation planning, creative concepts, and more, all built from scratch. Seemingly plucked out of the air in a creative flourish, ta dah! It really would feel that way if you were a fly in the wall in a concepting session, but actually it’s years of training and on the job learning that makes this happen. We ‘sell’ ideas; our creative pitch is often the thing that wins the work, followed by our ability to deliver this at scale and in multiple formats, so it’s essential we get this right.

Creativity in Full Flow

And creativity is certainly flowing! The team is full of enthusiasm when it comes to concepting sessions and ideas are bounced around all over the place, making the whole pitching process leaner, quicker, and (fingers crossed) better for ROI.

This boils down to the fact that creativity needs thinking space. How often do you have a great idea when you’re walking the dog, or in the shower? You can’t force a genius concept, your brain is often doing that kind of work in the background. Although we do have brainstorming methods we use to help get ideas flowing (I love a good mind map) a tired team can only create so much. The general enthusiasm and quality of concepts that have been coming from our creative team has really blown me away the last few weeks, and to me this can only be a sign that fewer days makes for a better team.

The next six weeks will be crucial, I think, as we ramp up on some of the biggest projects we’ve ever done. We’ll be bringing in some more people to support this, and that will be the true test of whether the plans play out in practice. But so far, so good.