A Friday afternoon Minister

foxWhen people of a certain generation buy or use a product that does not work quite right, they sometimes refer to it as a Friday Afternoon item, reflecting the idea that the item concerned was manufactured on a Friday Afternoon when the workers were focusing more on going home for the weekend than they were on the quality control elements of the manufacturing process. In the days when I worked in a manufacturing business, the manual workers got Friday Afternoons off so they could attend to activities with their families (or perhaps have a good afternoon at the pub) and then come in on Saturday morning to ensure any last minute orders were completed and could be shipped out for delivery on a Monday. However Fridays remain an interesting day in the week for MPs who are in their constituencies, no longer operating to a Westminster timetable, but focusing on their families, on their constituents needs and on taking time to relax. I suspect every MP operates in a different manner, but all of them will get requests to attend meetings and hold surgeries on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. They will all need to ensure they make good use of the whole of that time. Just as it would be offensive to an MP, and ignorant to suggest that they only work 4 days each week, so it is dangerous when MPs start to make comments about people they know nothing about. This becomes even more disturbing when the MP concerned is a Minister and has a portfolio that relates to business, and his ignorant comments relate to men and women in a business setting. Conservative Way Forward (CWF) is a group that vigerously promoted the leaving of the EU, it is a body that had close links with Margaret Thatcher and it holds many events throughout the year to raise funds for its campaigns. One of these was an evening event on Thursday and the guest speaker was Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade. He is reported to have said

“There needs to be a change in British business culture, people have got to stop thinking about exporting as an opportunity and start thinking about it as a duty. This country is not the free-trading nation it once was. We have become too lazy, and too fat on our successes in previous generations. Companies who could be contributing to our national prosperity – but choose not to because it might be too difficult or too time-consuming or because they can’t play golf on a Friday afternoon – we’ve got to be saying to them if you want to share in the prosperity of our country you have a duty to contribute to the prosperity of our country.”

I confess that my business experience is much more down to earth than that of Liam Fox who has sat on the boards of a number of very large companies. I worked in a business that I started and ran for 10 years, I now work for someone else in a strategic role in a small business with 11 employees and have done so for 7 years. I have worked in other businesses but tend not to rely on experiences from 30 years ago as being of contemporary relevance. In both of my most recent roles, I have worked extensively interacting with other companies. I have not seen any evidence of this race to the golf course or shyness at exporting goods where this is possible although neither of my businesses have any real exporting potential. On the subject of Friday afternoons, my boss and I were at work until 7pm last night, and that is consistent with our experience over the last 18 months since the business has begun to grow extensively. In the last two financial years we have seen average growth of 45% each year and that appears to be continuing into this year. Thankfully there are people other than Liam Fox who have advice for businesses. One example comes from a lady called Jacquelyn Smith who writes for a website called Business Insider. She suggests that successful business people use Friday Afternoons for the following:

  1. They reflect on their accomplishments from the week.
  2. They figure out their priorities for the following week.
  3. They establish a schedule and to-do list for the following week.
  4. They carve out downtime for the following week.
  5. They get organized.
  6. They let people know how accessible they’ll be that weekend. 
  7. They think about their weekend plans.

8. They plan a fun Friday activity. Some successful people have a fun ritual that helps them create a definitive divide between their workweek and weekend. “It may be an afternoon cocktail with a group of friends, an hour of volunteer work, or a regularly scheduled gym workout or game of tennis,” Kerr explains. “What’s key is that it be something they look forward to, so they view it as a reward for reaching the end of the week, and that it’s something that gives them a complete mental shift.”

9. They acknowledge others’ accomplishments and hard work.

10. They say goodbye to people around the office.

Our Fridays at my current business have yet to lead to regular fun activities apart from by exception when we might get in Pizzas if the engineers all finish early, we are also working to inject fun from time to time in other ways. Based on my experience and the words of people like Jacquelyn Smith, I would suggest that Dr Fox is less suited to advise businesses than he realises. Perhaps he needs a new role before he does some real damage?

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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