It’s time to stop celebrating crazy at work

Chris Teague - 10 mins

What’s it for: To share our insights on a business-related hot topic

Who’s it for: Anyone who wishes to improve productivity & fulfilment in the workplace.

“Working to breaking point with long hours, excessive workload, and a lack of sleep have become a badge of honour for many people these days when it should be a mark of stupidity. This isn’t just a problem for large organisations; individuals, contractors and solopreneurs are burning themselves out in the very same way. As the authors reveal, the answer isn’t more hours. Rather, it’s less waste and fewer things that induce distraction, always-on anxiety and stress. It is time to stop celebrating crazy and start celebrating calm”. “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” by the authors of the New York Times bestseller Rework. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Better is one of our coveted Rapport Codes; “Like the All Blacks we always strive for better’. Towards the end of 2018 we were inspired by “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work’ the book the above quote has been taken from and we decided to do a book review project to see what we could all learn and implement to help us all do our best work in the most time efficient manner.

As an agency we’re not naive enough to think we can create a workplace free of the occasional stressful moment; this is life but we do want to ensure these days are the exceptions. We want to be intentionally calm; rational, rather than irrational & overly emotional.

It was therefore really interesting to read how the authors & their business Basecamp, have struggled with many of the business challenges/initiatives we have in the past; bonuses, pay, personal development, resourcing, when to recruit and the utopian work-life balance.

Their software development model is very different from that of an agency like ours and many other businesses therefore not everything was practical/relevant; in fact, some ideas were downright infuriating! However, we all found nuggets to help make us better in 2019 and I’d like to share those now.

We used the altMBA ‘prompt’ format to structure the task and I share this at the end of this write-up.


  1. We identified medium/long term changes we wish to work on. Importantly we identified some quick wins which could be implemented without delay (these are listed below) none are groundbreaking; innovation rarely is – they were mostly common sense that in the daily grind were lost.
  2. We all agreed there is a need to change but that the change needed was incremental rather than wholesale change.
  3. We also all agreed accountability starts with ourselves as individuals; we are our own bosses and can make a change if we want to. (The World’s Worst Boss: Have a read)

Quick win

Channels We should agree on what channels are used/appropriate for work comms inside & out of hrs; we should limit these so we can escape/ have time to ourselves/our families by controlling what we see, when. At present we use iMessage, SMS, Whatsapp, Slack [soon to be Chat], email, phone personal & work etc. Business apps should only be assigned to personal phones if requested.

Quality of the Hour Try to safeguard blocks of time rather than jumping from one task to another.

One size does not fit all Run an activity where everyone can share what work patterns suit them and why. This would improve our understanding of how we can help and why certain people work early/late – it’s not an expectation set by us.

Stress is infectious As is language – leaders need to be conscious of and accountable for positive dialogue and demeanour: we all need to be energy givers rather than energy sappers. We need to be rational, not emotional to help others

Prioritise what’s broken Reduce new initiatives coming into play when there are already a number of projects in play. Through Kanban: minimise what’s in progress to improve the chances of completion.

Better Mtg Etiquette

  • 60mins Mtg slots booked
  • 50mins Run time
  • Allowing time for objective setting & agreeing/assigning actions
  • Mtgs to be limited to 3 people where possible
  • And to be labelled e.g. idea session, discussion, decision making
  • Limit no. of mtgs in a day to allow for actions to be completed and Quality Recovery Time (QRT)

Medium/Long term

The default setting on mobile devices is: Notifications off/Available light off. Mobile devices are supplied to help people work when they need to; there is no expectation from management to read/reply to email or chat messages outside of hours. If you are needed for any reason we will phone you.

Better briefs We need better briefs to enable people to start work when they’re ready. Avoids wasted time and re-work.

Power of 3 Explore whether limiting teams to 3 people results in more effective teams.

Project Scope We need to be able to lock down the scope of our projects so we deliver what we’ve priced and projects do not grow/increase beyond the scope of the agreed budget and resource parameters.

Agility: Continual Review We need to always review whether the priorities remain the priorities as the day/week pass.


  • “The quality of an hour: the reason we’re unable to do what we need to within the working day is our days are being sliced into tiny, fleeting work moments by the onslaught of physical and virtual distractions”. An hour can be split many ways e.g. 60mins, 2 x 30mins, 3 x 20mins, 6 x 10mins or 60 x 1min – they’re not all equal though.
  • Rather than demand whatever it takes, we ask, What will it take?” This re-frames the challenge.
  • Crazy’s in the red [debt]. Calm’s in the black [credit]. Until you’re running a profitable business, you’re always almost out of business. You’re fretting about covering overheads, making payroll etc., Profit means time to think, space to explore. It means being in control of your own destiny and schedule.
  • The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families. Allies of families.
  • You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour in the day. Creativity, progress, and impact do not yield to brute force.
  • A great work ethic isn’t about working whenever you’re called upon. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do, putting in a fair day’s work, respecting the work, respecting the customer, respecting co-workers, not wasting time, not creating unnecessary work for other people, and not being a bottleneck. Work ethic is about being a fundamentally good person that others can count on and enjoy working with”.
  • Having good relationships at work takes, err, work. The kind that can only begin once you’re honest about where you’re starting from. The worst thing you can do is pretend that interpersonal feelings don’t matter. That work should “just be about work.” That’s just ignorant. Humans are humans whether they’re at work or at home.
  • A calm company is a choice. Make it yours.

Related Recommended Reading, Listening & Watching

Recommended reading Jeff Bezos Tells New Amazon Employees There Isn’t a Work-Life Balance. Recommended listen Arriana Huffington founder of Thrive Global: Wellbeing at work Recommended viewing Simon Sinek: Millennials


We bought 8 copies of the book and using the AltMBA format we each read the book and then formulated our thoughts, observations and opinions on the subject. This process helped us each to better empathise with one another’s’ experience and viewpoints on the matter. It will also helped ensure we were better prepared for a session to help create ‘Better* [Better is one of our Team Codes – a never-ending practice]’ in 2019.


- Part One: Read the book & write an actionable summary of the book. Not a list of quotes or bullet points but a well-considered report detailing what we found helpful, practical, inspiring. What ideas do we think we could/should implement and which perhaps we believe won’t work and why. - Part Two: Review & Comment Reading one another’s’ point of view, understanding assertions and contributing insightful commentary are essential to gaining empathy as we discover the multiple perspectives on the same situation. This helped us all to see a bigger picture and to better inform the problem we wished to address. Commenting on each others review is about reflection, not criticism. Generous scepticism was welcomed as was support of others assertions. There was no right or wrong we sought to develop empathy and explore a topic together. - Part Three: Reflective Script The reflection script (RS) was the most essential part as it leveraged everything that came before it. For this, we appended our original review with an RS of what we now thought we could/should do. - Part Four: Face to Face Meeting Following the book review we all met to discuss the process and the outputs. A face to face meeting to identify quick wins we could/should implement with immediate effect.

I’ll conclude with the a final quote from the book; “A business is a collection of choices. Every day is a new chance to make a new choice, a different choice. Are we going to continue to let people chip away at other people’s time? Or are we going to choose to protect people’s time and attention?

A calm company is a choice. We’ve made it ours.

Feel free to add your comments below to keep the topic alive.