If you could work any hours, what hours would you work?

London and New York agency Mint Digital’s website says:

‘There are no office hours. Work when you want, where you want.’

Interesting. I’m not sure how I’d feel about working for an agency with no set hours. In theory, I’m in favour of the idea, but in practice? I’m pretty sure I’d still feel bad if I came in at midday every day. Or only worked nights. Surely the expectation is still that you’ll be there for the core daylight hours – 9.30 – 5.30ish?

And as for ‘where you want’, again it’s a lovely idea, but would they really keep someone on who never came into the office? What if no-one ever came in? Would they abandon the office and enjoy the savings, or mandate that at least some of their staff needed to actually come to work?

I’d be fascinated to know how it works in practice. I suspect all their employees are – like everyone else in advertising – driven by guilt and actually work fairly long hours, starting and leaving at the usual times. But perhaps not – anyone from Mint Digital want to comment?

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5 thoughts on “If you could work any hours, what hours would you work?

  1. Omar Malik says:

    Hey Holly,

    A topic close to my heart!

    Mint is actually an agency I’ve been following for a while and do really clever things from a technology perspective, however I never realised this was their philosophy. If it is so, it doesn’t surprise me at all, and is one I’ve always firmly ascribed to myself (as many past co-workers and present business partners can attest!)

    I think the best ‘output’ for an agency comes from being adaptable to the individual; any agency is made up of (often very driven) individuals, and whilst the archetypal agency attitude is to exploit said individuals for this very commitment they demonstrate towards their work, in an agency where the bureaucracy has not sufficiently taken over to still allow it to retain a semblance of agility re: working practices, I firmly believe the more ideal approach is to afford these individuals with the same flexibility in return.

    Business priorities still need to take precedence of course (e.g. deadlines, client meetings), however everything else is/should be up for grabs, particularly with technology facilitating remote communication with increasingly greater ease.

    Perhaps it’s very much a startup attitude versus a traditional business attitude. And maybe a tech company attitude, to boot. If you’re small enough or fortunate enough to exclusively hire/have employees/partners that are manifestly committed to the agency/company vision, then I see no strength in any argument that seeks to create a strict framework within which your employees are to demonstrate their commitment; in effect, this often completely discourages what would have existed without your governance, instead replacing it with the ‘same old same old’ (employees ‘driven by guilt’ or such, as noted).

    Ultimately, if you’ve hired well, you’re going to have people that want to see each other and feed off each other in person, so there’ll always be crossover hours – but whether someone comes in by 9h or 10h will stop being of importance.

    I could go on, however I’ve written enough…! Bottom line is Mint aren’t alone – my agency, Half Cyborg is very much the same, and I’d be very surprised if this more liberal attitude doesn’t spread at least on the tech side of our industry and particularly amongst the new breed of agency that is increasingly being spawned on that side, from what I’m seeing at least!

  2. Omar Malik says:

    p.s. to actually answer your question, we created a free Daytum page after we moved into our new digs a month and a half ago, which among other things tracks when two of us (directors) get in to the office – http://daytum.com/halfcyborg – keep in mind that our working day often usually starts well before that, however this is purely for tracking office attendance. If you were to imagine what is visualised from the data (please forgive our lack of drinking in the last few weeks!) and extrapolate it across a larger set, you’d see that for us there’s sufficient crossover to make it work, and actually what we’re seeing is as a single entity, an obvious benefit is from one office we’re more easily able to cater to multiple global timezones with less disruption to our usual modus operandi.

  3. Carl Howarth says:

    I agree, it does sound like an interesting concept. I think that over the coming decades we will start to see a large portion of companies operating this way. Imagine the savings a company could make by having a digital premises rather that an expensive and costly building; you could even knock that building down and replace it with grass and flowers and trees.

    But I fear that with this working environment we would soon become socially mute; living our entire lives online. This is certainly not a future that I look forward to. It would be interesting to hear the views of someone that has just started at Mint Digital and then hear from them 6 months down the road.

  4. Young Creative Council says:

    I guess it kind of works, we all know how we manage our time as creatives… I guess the suits would have to be in around 9-5 as that’s when the clients are about. Most of the working day is when you can asked questions, I’ve experienced as soon as it comes 6pm everyone goes home and if you need to find something out, the chances are nobody is around to answer it.

    I think it’s flawed in that way. Of course, you could set up meetings and just make you’re there, but what if I wanted to work in the wee small hours of the night and my meetings are all booked in the morning. Fail.

  5. Adam says:

    Hey, I’m Adam – a developer at Mint. Thanks for your interest in us!

    Here are my thoughts on the matter (remember, I’m just a code monkey, not The Boss).

    To address the two points:

    “When you want” – Yeah, this seems pretty lax. I guess it is. Personally I don’t think an hour here or there matters much. The UK folks tend to run from about 10am to 6pm. Some folks start earlier and finish earlier, some folks start later and finish later. We have a US office too, so starting a bit later actually means we get more cross-over time with them. One UK dev is pretty fond of working “The Late Shift” (his phrase) – I guess he’s more of a night owl. If that’s when he feels productive then it’d be silly to make him start work at 9am!

    “Where you want” – The office can get pretty bussy if everyone is in. Sometimes you need to hunker down and get stuff done. Some folks will be in the office working together, some folks will be out at a clients, some folks will be at home writing pitches and proposals. Having a US office pretty much since Mint’s inception has meant that we have gotten pretty good at working closely with people in another place. Fundamentally though being in the office is fun, informative and helpful, so I find it’s worth going in most of the time.

    As for being driven by guilt… Well it’s possible, I guess. I’d prefer to think that each of us loves what we do, and loves the fact we get to do it at Mint. We make some cool stuff with cool people. Who wouldn’t want to come to work?

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