Bruce Daisley, Twitter's VP EMEA
Bruce Daisley, VP EMEA at Twitter
Richard Bell

Interview: Twitter’s Bruce Daisley on work, balance and the science of sleep

As the vice president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region at Twitter, you’d expect Bruce Daisley to be a man of all work and no play.

But the opposite is the case. Balance and proportion are very much at the core of Bruce’s work ethic. That was apparent to me when we sat down recently for a chat about Twitter and his debut book, The Joy of Work.

“If you look at the stats for the UK, half of all British office workers report feeling burnt out,” he said. “And the situation’s actually worse in other careers like in the NHS or teaching, where those levels are even higher.

“I’m interested in work culture. Say you work in a team and it feels brilliantly energised and positive. What are the ingredients behind it? Can you set about creating a good culture - or does it have to come about naturally, by accident?

“In writing The Joy of Work, I found myself studying a science I never even knew existed. Workplace psychology.”

Can you set about creating a good culture - or does it have to come about naturally, by accident?

After consulting with experts in the field, Bruce discovered that a lot of the things we do in work are actually the opposite of what scientists would recommend.

“They say the open-plan office is a disaster, and yet most of us are based in open-plan spaces. You’re supposed to take a lunch break because it improves decision-making and productivity, but so many of us eat lunch at our desks, pecking through emails while eating a sandwich.

“I’m interested in the science of that. What are the ways we can improve work? How can we make it feel less overwhelming, or achieve a better dynamic in our teams?”

The Joy of Work was published in January by Random House Business.

Bruce joined Twitter at the beginning of 2012 as UK managing director before moving into the role of VP EMEA in 2015.

Despite a busy nine-five that sees him connecting with people all over the region, from Spain to Germany to Dubai, Bruce makes a big effort to live the sort of existence he talks about in The Joy of Work.

“I start each day by running to the office and listen to the news as I go, or podcasts about American politics, normally at 1.5x speed.”

I wanted to explore how we can be happier at work. That was my entry point.

I wondered how someone could have the energy for that. “I avoid economising on sleep, getting between 7.5 and eight hours a night.

“When I first set out with my book, I wanted to explore how we can be happier at work. That was my entry point. And I found there are two ways to be happier, not just at work, but full stop.

“The first was to sleep more. It’s one of the most effective. The other is to spend more time with happy friends.”

When prodded for a recommended book specifically about sleeping, Bruce said: “The best is Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep. It’s an absolutely fantastic overview of the science behind it.”

Twitter’s high-profile chief exec, Jack Dorsey, is one of his biggest inspirations.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some really impressive people. But my boss, Jack, is an incredible guy.

“He’s the CEO of two businesses but makes time to avoid being overworked. He’s not the type to suggest that the secret of success comes from working infinite hours. Just recently, Jack came back from a silent retreat. He’s got a good sense of proportion and is a good role model in that regard.”

What does the future hold for Twitter?

“One of the things a lot of people used to say about Twitter was, it was unprofitable. But we’ve just had a really good set of results. Things are improving, and we’re now reaching a bigger audience than ever before.

“We’re thrilled with the successes we’re having and I’m glad to be part of it.”

Things are improving, and we’re now reaching a bigger audience than ever before.

I pointed out that, for a lot of people, it’s more of a news outlet than a social platform.

“That’s it, it’s the best news site in the world. I love it when I find myself discovering new communities I wasn’t aware of, little cul-de-sacs in communities like Psychology Twitter or Comedy Twitter.

“We’re fascinated with trying to improve the quality of debate, getting more people debating and talking in public.

“Say you’re interested in Brexit. Although I suspect most people aren’t. Could Twitter feel like a WhatsApp group for Brexit? A place where you go to hear communities of people talking about those big issues. Or maybe you’re just interested in talking about the Champions League. You can find yourself talking to people with the same interests.

“What we’re trying to do at the moment is make the platform better for people who aren’t necessarily posting their own original tweets.” The aim, he said, is to make them feel comfortable however they intend to use the platform - whether to engage in conversation and debate directly or to learn what others are saying.

Your brainpower is more like the power in your phone battery than we think.

Given Bruce’s knowledge of sleep and striking a good work-life balance - something that entrepreneurs often, understandably, fail to achieve in the early years of setting up a company - I asked what advice he’d have for someone just starting out in the world of business.

“The secret I’ve discovered is that your brainpower is more like the power in your phone battery than we think. We have this idea that we can work all the hours of the day. You hear about it more and more.

“But the science of our brains suggests the opposite. Rest and recuperation and restoration are as important as working.

“That’s it. By all means, work hard. But have a sense of proportion. Try to relax.”

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