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How Cuckoo are bringing life back to work

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Wellness and culture in agency life.

Manchester based design agency Cuckoo know that good work comes from good culture. The Drum Network caught up with managing director Justine Wright and creative director Phil Rainey to talk about what exactly culture means, and how easily implemented it can be in business.

Define what the term ‘culture’ means for you?

Phil Rainey (PR): Culture is the way we bring our lives into our work. The way we help people be the best they can be. Cultures cascade down from leadership, ethos, history and location. They can be anything, they move with the times and are a consequence of bigger social cultures. Put simply ‘good’ culture is applied by using common sense, allowing people the space in which to deliver results and perform.

Justine Wright (JW): Culture comes from the top. It is about treating people how you want to be treated and providing an environment that you would want to work in.

Do you believe traditional agency life tends to burn people out?

JW: In past years I think it did and still hear stories from people either coming to Cuckoo permanently or temporary who talk about past experiences “we couldn’t leave the agency until, at least 8!” I can count on one hand the number of times we have asked our team to come in early or work late. We just don’t do that. We work hard 9-5.30 – we are organised, brief well, review well and know our stuff.

PR: People get burnt out not being engaged fully in a project, feeling they are just being told what to do. Utopia is when staff actively want to work on something no matter how long it takes and when. I believe no one gets burnt out doing something they love and feel valued for. The challenge is to engage, communicate and empower staff so they have everything they need to succeed.

How important is it to you that Cuckoo provides the right culture? What are the consequences of good culture?

PR: Does anyone know what the ‘right’ or a ‘good’ culture is? Everyone is different. A positive culture is an understanding and empathy that no two people are the same. Not everyone can make, or enjoy, that after work drink or team building weekend away. Regular discussions, listening and understanding individuals and what makes them tick, is the way forward in a positive work culture.

JW: It is essential. Good culture leads to good work and a good business.

Wellness of mind leads to wellness in business. Do you agree? How do Cuckoo promote wellness throughout the day to day?

PR: Absolutely agree. Especially in the creative industry. We’re keen on breaking people away from that ‘at desk, on computer’ old school way of thinking. It’s not rocket science, a simple walk or 10 minutes of fresh air could just be enough to unlock that creative problem. A lot of people tend to think the answer is on the internet, we try to get them to realise the answer is in their head.

JW: Start on time, be organised, drink water (we have a water purification system), eat well (we provide fresh fruit) always have a lunch hour, leave on time and have a good evening.

It’s not just about having a dog in the office and a pool table- what more needs to be done to promote work/life balance?

JW: Support, communication, flexibility, taking time to know your team, training, creating opportunities

PR: A consequence of modern life is that we’re always connected. We’re never far away from work whether we like it or not. The work/life balance ultimately comes down to trust. Trusting someone will get back to you, and trusting that if they don’t they’ll be a very good reason why they didn't!

Cuckoo Design are based in Manchester and work with clients such as Manchester Business School, Doubletree Hilton and Crowne Plaza.

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