Let’s talk about flex

Image by Joshua Miranda from Pixabay 

As a seasoned home worker (10 years plus!), it won’t surprise you to hear that my ears pricked up at a Radio 4 Programme last week week (Positive Thinking) which considered whether or not working from home might catch on in a post-coronavirus world.

While enforced remote working in a pandemic is not flexible working (for many it is more about simple survival, at home, during a crisis, while trying to work!) but it has started some big conversations.

Against the advice of many, I set up SoLo eleven years ago to offer a fully remote and flexible working environment. I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of a remote model and called for smart businesses to join the flexible working revolution many times.

But I was interested to hear on the programme than a study has been done that proves what I know anecdotally to be true: that working from home increases productivity.

Thank you, Nick Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford University, California. Nick published a study of a Chinese travel company, Ctrip, that looked at the benefits of its working from home policies. The study found that a random sample of 1,000 employees were 13% more productive working from home than they were in an office – 9% of this was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (a quieter and more convenient working environment). After the 9 month trial, over half of the home-working employees opted to return to the office – having fallen foul to the 3 great enemies: fridge, bed and TV – while the others continued working from home: this led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%.

If there is one silver lining of the COVID pandemic, I desperately hope that employers reconsider the benefits of working from home – not just to the employee, but also for their business. Through productivity, staff retention and the ability to recruit  some of the best talent going (much of which happens not to be able to commit to the 9-5 grind for whatever reason – parenthood, caring responsibilities, anxiety, age…), the benefits of home workers are clear. Indeed, they are assets.  

Sure, working from home does not suit all sectors, all jobs, or all people. In our business, for example, while planners and strategist can work from home just fine, things get trickier with collaborative disciplines like creative.

There is also wellbeing to consider. As the mother of two 30-something advertising boys, I noted that for the “family” version, lockdown has delivered benefits (and challenges!), but for the DINKy it has been hard socially. Isolation and loneliness have been a theme for many during this enforced period of working from home, and many will be desperate to get back to an office.

But the conversation has started to be had, and for that – if nothing else – I am grateful to COVID. Let us keep up the dialogue about work being about what you do, not where you do it; about working to live, not living to work; and about putting people and their lives at the heart of what business does. 

Steph is Champion of Change Winner in the Management Today Inspiring Women in Business Awards

On 4 June, Steph was one of 21 inspiring women recognised at the Management Today Inspiring Women in Business Awards.

The Awards celebrate talented, visionary and ground-breaking businesswomen of all ages, at every level and across all sectors. Steph was recognised in the Championing Change category, honouring those making dynamic and brave changes within their workplace or industry.

The award is the fourth win for SoLo in 2020. Earlier this year Steph was recognised at the Timewise 2020 Power 50 Awards and in Campaign Magazine’s Female Frontier list; while SoLo was shortlisted in two categories in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards.

The judges applauded SoLo for disrupting the traditional and often harsh ‘bleed-to-succeed’ advertising agency model. They also praised us for being one of the only Community Interest Companies in the business (investing 50% of profit in social value projects) and our inclusive, remote working model which offers flexibility and work-life balance to mums, carers and OAPs. 

Steph says:

“It’s wonderful to be recognised by so many organisations for our unique business model and hope that I have inspired others to understand that business should be a balance of reward and rewarding. Applause goes particularly to my team and the clients who have come on this journey with me.”

Read more about Steph’s brave vision for Social & Local and where it all began.

See who joined Steph on the Management Today Inspiring Women in Business Winners List

SoLo coronavirus update

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay 

We hope you are safe and keeping well. Life is a roller coaster for all of us right now, as we wonder how the next few weeks and months will develop.

At SoLo, we’re operating our usual remote model to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, whilst also staying focused on delivering for our clients.

We’ve been working ‘remotely’ since we founded (nearly 9 years ago now!) and we’re geared up to deliver our work from our desks. We can run planned face-to-face work digitally and are happy to give guidance if you have any questions on how this can work.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 

 

SoLo’s Guide to effective remote working

SoLo’s virtual office in action 

Are you working from home for the first time? At Social & Local, we’re seasoned remote workers (nearly 9 years now and counting!) Here are five things we have found make home-working work best.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace: Find somewhere to work that’s free from the interruptions of home life. There’s nothing more distracting than an unmade bed in the corner of your eye or a washing machine bleeping for attention. Even if you don’t have the luxury of a home study, a pop-up desk in a corner of a room can work better than the kitchen table or sofa because it demarks a space that’s solely about work. This helps you to focus on work during worktime and then escape it when you’re done.
  2. Connect (digitally) with colleagues: Make time to connect with colleagues – at SoLo we have a virtual Skype “office” – a daily Skype meeting which we log into for the day to connect with colleagues, foster teamwork and keep loneliness at bay. Regular, scheduled catch-ups over the phone or in the Virtual Office provide opportunities to exchange information informally and regularly, keeping work efficient and focused and ensuring the team is working seamlessly together.
  3. Take regular desk breaks: Create some structure and routine for your day. 8 hours alone at your desk can be a daunting prospect. Research shows that we’re better working in short, intense bursts. That’s why you’ll often find Steph on an 11 o’clock dog walk and Jess making her lunch to the backdrop of the World At 1. Give yourself a structure which includes short regular breaks and schedule a brisk walk if you can. You’ll probably sit more than usual and may need to make time to move. Remote meetings are usually shorter too – another bonus of home-working!
  4. Dress for the day: Though some might relish the chance to stay in PJs all day, we find it helps to get your head into ‘work mode’ by dressing appropriately… Not necessarily in a power suit, but somewhere in between. Being dressed ‘for work’ can help create the distinction between work and home, when there isn’t a commute to do that for you.
  5. Meal plan: Fill your fridge with goodies so that you can make yourself a nutritious lunch. Without the joys of Pret or Itsu on the office doorstep, a few tasty ingredients can quickly be fashioned into a healthy lunch to refuel for the afternoon ahead. Smashed avocado and poached eggs on toast is a team favourite, as well as a selection of weird and wonderful salads.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 

 

Steph honoured in Timewise Power 50 Awards in hat trick of awards success for SoLo

 

 

 

Steph has been named in the 2020 Power 50 awards: a roll call of 50 powerful executives in the UK – who all happen to work part-time or flexibly.

The award completes a hat trick of awards success for Social & Local, with Stephanie recently named as one of 50 Female Frontier honourees by industry-leading brand, Campaign magazine; and  Social & Local being shortlisted in two categories in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards.

The 2020 Timewise Power 50 Awards have been compiled by Timewise, a flexible working consultancy, following a nationwide search. Co-founders Karen Mattison MBE and Emma Stewart MBE publish a fresh list annually, in order to prove ‘what’s possible’ when you work part time or flexibly.

Steph says:

“What an honour to be recongised for this award, thank you Timewise.

“I set up Social & Local following redundancy from an advertising firm in 2011. At 55 and female I knew there was no future for me in the advertising world. I started to build a vision for the first social advertising business. Witnessing the poor treatment of people in the industry – from terribly-paid, over worked managers to discriminated-against pregnant women, I wanted to do things differently.

“Social & Local was designed to put people at its heart. The idea didn’t float with everybody at the time, but this award just goes to show that the world is finally changing – in favour or more flexible, humane working practices. I hope what I have shown in my own small way is that doing the right thing by your people goes hand in hand with business success.”

Flexible hiring and working practices are integral to SoLo. The entire team works flexibly and remotely to suit their lifestyles. A ‘virtual’ Skype office and good communication between colleagues about when and where they are working ensures that deadlines are hit, and client needs met.

For Steph, this means starting early (6am) with a morning break to walk her dog and visit her husband in his Nursing Home. Others work around the school run and into the evening, maximising time with their children. The result is fulfilled, creative, diligent, professional staff and happy, retained clients.

Timewise co-founder and judge Karen Mattison MBE, who led the initiative from the start says:

Success doesn’t come in one shape or size. With 9 in 10 people wanting or needing flexibility in their next job – it is vital we find and showcase modern day role models to aspire to. Stephanie is blazing a trail – all whilst working part-time or flexibly. Achieving serious success, in less days. Not only proving that it can be done – but how. The Timewise Power 50 exists to award innovation like this. Every person who tells their story openly, helps to make change happen.”

 

Social & Local CIC shortlisted in 6th Annual Better Society Awards

We’re happy to share the news that we’ve been shortlisted in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards. The news comes just weeks after Steph was named as one of 50 Female Frontier honourees by industry-leading brand, Campaign magazine.

The Better Society Awards celebrate the efforts that commercial organisations make to create a better society, and are organised by the Better Society Network.

Social & Local scooped nominations in two categories: Consultancy of the Year and Impact Company of the Year. We were particularly excited to be recognised alongside huge businesses like RBS, Aviva and Deloitte.

The judges applauded Social & Local’s commitment to social impact, our entirely remote-working model, and the fact that we are one of the only Community Interest Companies (CIC) in the business. We were recognised as an inspiring example of what can be done when business puts humanity at its heart and for proving that a people-centred business model is not only the right thing to do but goes hand in hand with business success.

Social & Local Managing Partner Natalie Richards says:

“We founded Social & Local as a CIC because we felt there was a better way to do business. Our industry – the creative industry – has a poor track record in looking after its people and flexing to their needs. We are proof that anyone can earn a living doing what you’re good at and do good too. We might be a micro business but our mission is big!” 

 The winning companies will be announced on 14 May.

Welcome Jessica, new Business Director – External Communications

We’re delighted to welcome ex-Kindred Client Service Director, Jessica Duncanson, as Business Director, External Communications.

Jessica brings 14 years of experience leading campaigns for public, private and third sector clients, from £1 million fee income Government clients to consumer campaigns for BabyCentre and the British Cheese Board.

Jessica will help strengthen our external communications offer, to complement our other award-winning services.

She says: 

“I am beyond delighted to be joining Social & Local. I’ve long admired the team’s work from afar and couldn’t be happier to be coming on board. The flexible, remote model means I can get my teeth into some brain-stretching work with a great team of people and clients, whilst juggling life as a mum of three.

“Knowing that the work we do is also benefiting the community through the 50% of profit that goes to charity, is a substantially sized cherry on the top.

“SoLo is a remarkable creation and I’m honoured that, Steph and Nats, are entrusting me to help them grow their external comms function.”  

Managing Partner Steph says: 

“Many of our clients have modest budgets. Rather than appoint multiple agencies they are increasingly asking us to go ‘beyond the strategy and core creative’ into elements of implementation. We already have a strong activation team in place for Partnerships and Internal Comms, but recognised gaps in our PR & Social disciplines. We searched hard to find somebody with the experience and skills to build our offer at the highest level matched with a passion for driving forward our social business model and shared beliefs.” 

Find out what our new team member does with her lunchtimes, why she loves the Park Run and about her brush with national TV fame here

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local #externalcomms

Why smart businesses should join the (flexible working) revolution

1 minute read

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

SoLo is all about flex – our entirely remote and flexible model means our staff flex their ‘work life’ around their ‘life life’. It’s not the when or where but the WHAT they do that matters. Talent and dedication (not desk time) rule. But it’s not just people that benefit from this, it is businesses too:

  1. Virtual working keeps your overheads low – paying for people not premises makes good business sense. At SoLo, the money we save by not having an office translates directly to better prices for clients.
  2. Flexible workers are committed workers – staff want to work somewhere that’s life enhancing, but they understand that the privilege is only afforded by client acquisition and retention. As a result, we have some of the most committed people in the industry working here.
  3. Happy workers stay with you – if you create somewhere that’s a pleasure to work at, why would anyone want to leave? Staff retention stays high, clients benefit from teams with intimate knowledge of their businesses and managers are free from the headache of constant recruitment.
  4. Flexible workers are accessible – with no time wasted travelling to and from meetings teams can be more accessible and available when you want them. And flex works both ways – if you’re flexible with staff, they’ll be flexible back.
  5. Individuals with lived experiences bring ideas to work – being recognised for being people – as well as professionals – enables staff to bring unique, people-centred perspectives to their work, resulting in work that’s the highest quality.

#WorkLifeWeek #social&local #socialbusiness #sociallife #flexibleworking #flexappeal

Social & Local engage the IPA and Young Creative Council in helping award winners to get their feet under the table.

Creative Conscience, IPA, Social Value, Social Business Mentoring
Everyone knows that we bang on about the impact our industry could potentially have on changing the world if only it put its mind to it! So, we are thrilled that on July 4th the IPA in association with the Young Creative Council kindly agreed to host an event for Creative Conscience Award winners in the hallowed halls of Grosvenor Square. The event brought together some young inspirational creatives already in adland to talk to winners about the opportunities and pathways into advertising and were able to hear about the passion and capability young talented people have for doing good and pursuing rewarding careers. YCC’s Charlotte Kushi said: It was a great event to be part of, and all the work Creative Concience and the IPA are doing is great. I & the YCC are really passionate about inspiring the next generation so let us know if there’s anything else to get involved with.

Attendees were also impressed and informed:

“I didn’t realise the ad industry was ‘good’ and put on events like this just to help young people out.”

“There are so many more routes into a job than I thought, and it’s ok to be me.”

“I didn’t know much about advertising. It’s quite exciting.” (from a young children’s book illustrator)

“Advertising is so much more diverse than I thought.”

BITC Applaud Business Model

Social Business, Social Value Agency, Social Entrepreneurs
We recently had occasion to enter our business model for a BITC award – relating to ageing workforce and ageism. As you know this is one of the aspects that we try to address as a social business. Whilst we didn’t win (perhaps some way to go as yet), there is some lovely feedback which I am sharing in the spirit of our collaborations on all things Social.

“Social and Local is an impressive business with a great social mission. The assessors were impressed by the all-encompassing purpose that drives Social and Local to solve societal issues, particularly in areas that the sector is lacking. There is strong business case which is unique to the business. It is clear that Social and Local have very strong leadership from the top, which is necessary for responding to the ageing workforce and ageism. It was clear to the assessors that Social and Local lives and breathes their brand, and have strong engagement with key people both within their sector and beyond. There’s no denying that this business model is innovative and has had a positive impact on the advertising industry. The overall approach the business has taken in its sector is admirable and a beacon to the wider industry. Social and Local’s work is very inspiring, with clear evidence of both high-level impact on government policy and the wider sector, and lower level impact in terms of the individual support given to entrepreneurs.”