A creative approach to work culture

The creative industries are renowed for their last minute bursts of frantic activity as deadlines loom. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, says Gary Reid of creative agency Nude. He has launched a poll to find out what his fellow creatives think about flexible working.

flexible working


The advertising and marketing industries are renowed for their last minute bursts of frantic activity as deadlines loom. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, says Gary Reid, managing director of creative agency Nude.

He thinks that there is an enormous amount of talent being wasted as people in the creative industries grow older, develop more responsibilities outside work and no longer want to spend precious hours down the pub with colleagues when they know that they can get just as many good ideas at home.

Gary and his wife set up the Nude agency  six years ago as a provincial, regional agency. Three and half years ago they built an office near their house in Royston as they wanted to start a family. “We wanted to be as near to home as we could be,” he says. They employed a nanny so that they could work flexibly. “We were not working any less, but we were working to our own agenda,” says Gary. “We could take an hour off in the afternoon and then catch up in the evening.” Two years ago they had a second child. About a year ago, some of their full time staff left and they employed freelancers, many from London agencies who had years of experience and many who were mums or dads. “It was a lightbulb moment,” says Gary. “They wanted to do fewer hours, but their productivity was better.”

In March, Nude opened a London office where Gary is based with an account handler. This will act as a hub for brainstorming sessions with hot desking facilities provided. It will also help the company achieve its ambitions of pitching for bigger contracts and it has already secured companies like Diageo and Coca Cola as clients. The reason for the increased ambition is partly because Gary has seen that through working flexibly he can attract top class creatives who are fed up with the kind of inflexibility they were facing in some of the big agencies but without having to pay them inflated top agency salaries. One of Nude’s staff had 25 years’ experience working as creative director of DDB, but his son became ill and was in Great Ormond Street Hospital for eight months. “He felt he was a bit lost to the sector, although he was not inactive and he had time when he could have worked,” says Gary.

To help staff work more flexibly, Nude had a system which manages clients and which clients can access to sign off projects. The system shows if the project is sticking to budget and includes online timesheets. Gary says there have been some hiccups as creative people are not used to working on a timesheet, but he thinks they will get used to it.

Working nights

One member of staff is a working mum with two children who works mostly at night, from 6pm to 12am. “That would be seen as a negative traditionally,” says Gary, “but it means if we get late work in she can get a headstart on it and the client could have some work by the next day.”

Before starting along the flexible route, Nude has done research into how other companies manage, particularly BT. Gary reels off figures about the savings BT has made and its improved productivity since its whole work culture changed to a more flexible model.

He feels strongly that in other professions people with the most experience get paid more or receive other benefits. In the creative industry, they tend to move more to the periphery, move out of London and go freelance, often doing bits and pieces for SMEs and others, but not working on the same big projects they used to in the past. “It’s a terrible waste of talent if they are leaving because the culture is too inflexible for the way they live,” says Gary.

The company is also looking to improve the facilities it offers for staff and clients at its Royston office, such as having a creche facility. “Our clients have real lives too,” says Gary. “Maybe we can help them to be more flexible. With technology and vision, we can break the 9 to 5 cycle and change the way we work.”

He is anxious to state that he is not saying the way traditional agencies work is wrong, but he wants to provide an alternative. He is so passionate about flexible working that he has launched a blog, Escape the Agency Ratrace, which asks people in the industry for their views on flexible working and whether they want to work more flexibly.

The blog is part of the agency’s relaunch marketing campaign which begins with a flyer drop in Design Week and will be carried on via social networking. The first blog is about the vexed subject of commuting. Gary writes: ”We work 9 – 5, Monday to Friday because the trains, schools, and financial institutions (hahahahaha) sorry, all work these hours, and tell us we have to work these hours. But actually, my life doesn’t “work” around these hours, not if I want to spend any real time with my kids before they go to bed, see my wife in the morning or actually have a life. Believe it or not, you can work to your own agenda, we just have to start doing things a bit differently, more flexibly.”

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