Let’s talk about non-linear workdays
Let’s talk about non-linear workdays

Published by gabriele


Let’s talk about non-linear workdays

For decades, a normal workday has meant arriving at the office at 9 in the morning, eating lunch at midday, clocking out at 5 or 6 pm and commuting back home again.

It was all we knew and accepted, until COVID and its new norms showed us that results aren’t necessarily linked to when and where we worked. Since the pandemic, many businesses have returned to the tried and tested 9-5 formula, but opinions about its effectiveness have become more diverse than ever.

The world has turned a corner. A regular workday doesn’t really exist anymore.

So, what does this mean for industries like our own? Can creative agencies step away from the 9-5 workday and still, work? Perhaps it’s time to talk about non-linear working.

 What is non-linear working?

Employees in a non-linear arrangement work asynchronously.  Completing tasks in flexible, focused bursts scattered throughout their day – rather than committing to 8 consecutive hours. Their hours are highly personal.  And they can sculpt individual work schedules around personal commitments, regular rest breaks and sleep, rather than cram life around fixed, contracted hours.

It allows people to save money and commuting time, get admin tasks done during low productivity hours, work efficiently when inspired and still have time for exercise and experiencing life.

Why should creative agencies pay attention?

Because, when certain measures are in place, a non-linear work structure can boost efficiency, wellbeing and creativity. it allows employees to do their jobs when they’re in their best, most productive form.

Great ideas arrive at all times of the day, not just during scheduled brainstorming sessions. So allowing employees to follow their natural working rhythms may optimise creative output.

A non-linear structure helps shift work from being activity focused to being outcomes focused.

In many cases, employees within creative, design and branding agencies are already practising non-linear work patterns. Doing focused work late at night or getting ahead on projects by starting work early in the morning. We call it overtime and attribute it as a cause of burnout, only because asynchronous working has yet to be standardized and built into the framework of business.

Adopting a non-linear work structure can attract top-tier talent

Free lunches, gym passes, dog-friendly offices and ping-pong tables are nice. But what employees really need is flexible working, autonomy, empathy, trust, growth and recognition.

It’s clear that employees want a change to the way we currently work. Whether that’s greater autonomy over workdays or more flexibility. (Remember “The Great Resignation” that happened earlier this year? Or the newly coined term “quiet quitting”).

When an employee feels unheard, under-appreciated and overworked they can and will switch off mentally from their roles or simply leave for greener pastures.

Employees value a business’ commitment to employee wellbeing more than ever.

The growing popularity of non-linear workdays stems from workers becoming accustomed to flexible working routines during the pandemic. In the new world of work, non-linear workdays will take a more prominent role in some jobs and sectors.

Now, talent will flock to businesses that have considered their employees and found new rhythms that support productivity, efficiency, wellbeing and creativity.

Agencies that offer more flexibility are winning over those that do not. We know this for a fact.

How can you bring non-linear work to your agency?

  • Create core collaborative hours

A big worry about non-linear work is that it will affect collaboration. Working together is important in our industry, for mentoring, inspiration and for meeting deadlines on time, so creative collaboration must be protected for non-linear work to actually, work.

It’s a good idea to create core collaborative hours in which live, synchronous work can take place, such as meetings, brainstorms, and informal chats between employees.

  • Treat your team like grownups

Set the deadline, goal and vision for your employees without telling them exactly how to get there. Believe that they can figure that out themselves.  Trust your employees to get the job done and they will.

  • Source talent from beyond your peripheral

Thinking non-linear can keep talent in the labour market who may otherwise be pushed out: Parents who require part-time work or those unable to commute daily due to lack of mobility or rising costs.

Think about how you can ‘un-bundle’ full-time positions and create several part-time roles, which offer more flexibility to your current employees; whilst providing opportunities for talent who have the right skills but require a different work pattern.

  • Remember, there’s more than one way to do it

As a business, we’ve found a groove that’s unique to us. The Gabriele team work together but also allow for non-linear if it suits. We have part-timers, early finishers and those working remotely from outside of the UK; it works because we all know what needs to be done and we just get on with it.

It’s exciting to watch more creative agencies evolve towards this type of asynchronous work. Whilst respecting that creativity needs ‘me-time’ and ‘collective brainstorming’ in equal measure. Recognising that people can thrive in this more flexible arrangement is the first step. When people are happy, it makes all the difference.


Whilst you’re here. Connect with us on LinkedIn. We share industry insights, career advice and of course, lots of hot job roles within the best creative, design and branding agencies.

More posts from Gabriele