Why hybrid working rotas completely miss the point


This is an opportunity to redesign work for the better, not a timetabling exercise, argues The Culture Builders Founder and Director Chris Preston.

Horrible though the Covid lockdowns were, they were far less complex than the situation facing organisations now. At least with mandatory home working, you knew where you were, literally and figuratively.

More than one company has admitted to me that they are in gridlock with hybrid working. There’s a pressure to produce a policy stating definitively who works where and when, even though really there is no formula that solves for this problem. 

Three:two, two:three, all hands in on alternate Wednesdays – they all miss the point. To work effectively in the post-pandemic world, businesses need to stop thinking about managing office utilisation and designing clever rotas, and start thinking about what actually makes people effective at their jobs. 

Long-term productivity, at an individual, team and organisational level, depends on many variables. Some people work better on their own, others in the buzz of a busy workplace. Some teams require constant collaboration, others don’t. Some organisations have rapid staff turnover and rely on strong, office-mediated cultures to keep them engaged, others don’t. None of these things are fixed in stone.

As a result, we’re moving to a much more complex working landscape that goes far beyond the simple dichotomy of at home or in the office. That’s why I don’t like the term hybrid working at all – it’s just too reductive. 

(We’re calling the new way of working ‘poly-working’, because there will be so many variations even within teams. You could call it flexible working, though for my taste that is a little too reminiscent of flexi-time to account for the radical changes to come. It doesn’t really matter what you call it – the point is, it’s already here.)  

To make polyworking work, you need to stop trying to manage performance on when and where people show up or log in. That’s just a roll-call, and it’s counterproductive. This is an opportunity to reset how we measure performance, and the relationship between employer and employee, to one based on trust and empowerment.

There’s a great phase flying around at the moment – ‘insisting on your rights, without acknowledging your responsibilities, isn’t freedom, it’s adolescence’ – which I think captures the reticence some employers feel about empowerment, and about workers refusing to come into the office when required.  

It’s true, to an extent. People do feel they have the right to work where and how they choose, because they’ve proven it works. That’s why so many are resigning when companies try to force them back into old habits, because doing so is completely back to front. 

What polyworking offers is an opportunity to share responsibility with people, not take away their rights. This isn’t about being soft, it’s about getting better results. Trust employees and then hold them to account, instead of micromanaging their seating plans, and you’ll see how much more they’ll deliver. 

So long as you’re clear about your expectations and have good, regular conversations between managers and team members, they will respond.

Is everyone going that way? Almost certainly not. Late last year, The Culture Builders surveyed 150 HR leaders and found that while just over half said they would give their employees greater autonomy as a result of the pandemic, a sizeable minority were doubling down on control, with 15.9% considering surveillance technology like mouse monitoring software to help manage performance of remote workers.

This is clearly a terrible idea. If you buy surveillance technology for your workforce, the cost will be the trust of your employee base. And once that’s spent, good luck getting it back.

As the light fades of the dumpster fire that was 2020-21, we’ll see which organisations get it wrong and either slide back to pre-pandemic ways or attempt to force arbitrary rules in a hybrid muddle.

Fortunately we are already seeing lots of companies getting it right, though admittedly many of them were already practising empowerment before the pandemic. For those that weren’t, now is the time to start trusting people. In the era of polyworking and the Great Resignation, it’s the only way that will work.  

If you’d like to discuss how we can help your organisation, get in touch to request a free virtual coffee chat with a Culture Builder. Simply email katie@theculturebuilders.com and we’ll be in touch to arrange a suitable date.

Since the global crisis began, a new world of work is now taking shape. Each organisation is drawing from its own experiences of the pandemic to establish a sustainable way forward. And as individuals, we too, now see work differently. 

So, we really did our research and published a full report. It features findings of a survey we commissioned, where we asked people leaders about the effects that the pandemic has had on their organisation’s culture. It revealed why employers must now move beyond so-called ‘hybrid working,’ to an evolution that better addresses the complexities of this emerging world.

We have coined this term ‘poly-working’ and have identified five interlinking areas of focus that we recommend are critical for the recovery and long-term sustainability of organisations, and the adoption of a poly-working model.

Engagement

First, our research questions centred on how the global pandemic had affected employee engagement, as a means to shaping and preserving work culture. What we see from the responses is that the biggest challenge for organisations was indeed to stay connected with their workforce, and maintain their employees’ connection with each other.

It’s up to leaders to develop strategies and initiatives to encourage an inclusive work culture, where employees feel connected to their team and wider company.

Wellbeing 

Culture, employee engagement and mental health and wellbeing are inextricably linked, so it is no surprise that we discovered issues with worker wellbeing during lockdown. The pandemic’s impact on employee engagement was matched by its effects on mental health and wellbeing, our survey found. 

It is clear that mental health and wellbeing must become central to business priorities, for the shift from crisis to new ways of working.

Purpose

In 2021, leaders have had business critical decisions to make on issues that have no precedent. They were compelled to revisit their purpose, their mission and their set of strategic goals, and it is clear that many remain uncertain about the best route to take.

Our interviewees, all with responsibilities for overseeing the employment of people in their organisations, saw positives in how they had managed the crisis. Our survey found uncertainty, however, in their preparedness for the transition to a post-lockdown world of work still needing to deal with Covid-19.

Performance 

In this new working world, leaders will need to find new ways to track how their teams are performing. It’s important that leaders balance trust and the need to manage performance, with an employee base that is more out of sight than ever before.

Some of the options available for helping track and boost performance include: giving employees greater autonomy and support, introducing regular one-to-one performance meetings and setting quarterly goals and objectives. 

Leadership 

In particular, we studied two elements we consider crucial to how leaders lead in the future: resilience and trust. It’s important that leaders have the tools to handle a working environment which looks a lot different from before and that they’re willing to put more active trust in their teams to get the job done right.

Leaders will not lose sight of the business critical, but our interviewees believe leadership in this new, blended world of work, will require deeper empathy, more flexibility and greater trust.

We explore and explain these five pillars in greater detail in our whitepaper, which is free to download and offers an eye-opening insight into the workplace as we now know it.

As a part of our research into the evolution of hybrid-working and the rise of Poly-working, we spoke to business leaders who were able to give us a personal account of what flexible working means to them and their organisation. 

Leaders who give their people a say in how they structure their work around life, are recognising that all individuals are, well, individual and that everyone’s realities look very different. Whilst 9-5 may work for some, 6-3 would work better for others and travelling into the office everyday certainly isn’t for everyone. 

Imagine the productivity and happy teams leaders could create, by offering the workplace flexibility that people are craving. We believe that is exactly what Poly-working offers. Poly-working is ‘poly’ because it recognises that not one-size fits all and that there’s multiple different ways to work. 

We’ve been speaking to leaders that have adopted a more flexible approach to work, post-lockdown. Although John Frith, Chief People Officer at Check-a-Trade doesn’t yet identify their work culture as ‘Poly-working,’ Check-a-Trade’s new approach to work is taking on a new, more flexible shape. Allow John to explain…

I believe that flexibility works both ways. The more flexible I am with my team, the more flexible they will be in return, increasing trust and driving engagement.

As we moved out of lockdown and returned to the office, we adopted a ‘hybrid’ approach across the company, with colleagues asked to come to the office for a minimum of two days each week. I trust my team to deliver, so I gave them the opportunity to choose the days in the office that work best for them. Everyone is different, and by giving them the choice of where to work I know I will get the highest levels of performance. I also believe there are peaks and troughs in workload, particularly in HR, so when it’s quieter I try to give time back to the team.

The best of both worlds

Prior to the pandemic we were predominantly an office-based company with most people in four or five days per week. The pandemic gave us an unique opportunity to test remote working  and during this time we didn’t see any drop in performance – so we know that it works. 

That said, we missed having time together in person so I fully believe that hybrid working will give us the best of both worlds, provided we use it effectively. That means embracing new technology more than ever and being willing to change direction as we ‘test and learn’ our new hybrid model.

I haven’t heard anyone say that hybrid working is the wrong approach for us – almost everyone is embracing the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Of course, there are people who prefer to spend the full week in the office and I am sure that will continue. Even those who wanted to stay fully remote have enjoyed being back in the office and having the opportunity to socialise with their team, especially those who joined us during lockdown. 

Testing and learning

Hybrid is still a new concept for us  – we launched in mid-September – so it’s still early days. We set a trial period to give us all time to find our groove, and we continue to test and learn as much as possible to really embed it. As a result, I believe it’s too early to say we have seen a benefit, but I am very confident it will be successful and drive higher levels of engagement. I also believe that remote working isn’t right for everyone (including me) so had we just offered remote working as a business that would have created more issues.

Trust has always been critical for any leader and leadership team and while I don’t think hybrid working has changed that, I do believe it has taken on a new importance. When working remotely, you have to step back and trust your team but equally know the right moments to check in.

I believe everyone is different and remote works well for some roles and individuals – but certainly not all. To that end I can only speak for us at Check-a-trade – and we believe hybrid is the way forward. 

Homeworking allows us to enjoy the benefits of quiet space and focus, all while embracing new technology, and returning to the office allows us to reap the rewards of teamwork, collaboration and creativity that come with meeting in person. It’s early days, but so far it looks like hybrid working could really help us take our performance to the next level.

Our whitepaper, Poly-working: The Evolution of Hybrid Working, offers an in-depth insight into how leaders are responding to the demand for more work flexibility and we provide the five interlinking areas that organisations must focus on to keep up with the curve. 

You can read it here

As a part of our research into the evolution of hybrid-working and the rise of Poly-working, we spoke to business leaders who were able to give us a personal account of what flexible working means to them and their organisation. 

Poly-working is not hybrid-working, it’s five steps further up the flexible working ladder. Poly-working is business leaders empowering their people to make their own decisions about how they want to work. It’s true flexibility around how, when and from where people work. It’s leaders gifting their people a big dose of trust and measuring results by output, not by contracted hours. 

Large businesses all over the world are adopting a poly-working approach and they’re reaping the benefits. For some though, this is nothing new and they can vouch for the power of flexible working because their organisation has adopted it from day one.

Blinkist, the app which helps us consume books really fast, has always allowed its people to work flexibly. Caroline Arora, VP of People and Culture at Blinkist, explains what this looks like for the organisation. 

From day one at Blinkist, we have adopted an approach where people choose their working pattern. We don’t have a rigid schedule of work as we appreciate that people produce their best work in different ways. That might be from home. That might be early mornings or late evenings and we encourage and enable people to choose what works best for them, in their teams. 

We have an amazing office in Berlin where we have a beautiful kitchen (La Cantina) providing free and super healthy food for everyone as well as an open-plan, relaxed environment aiming to drive creativity and collaboration. 

Our approach is ‘Berlin first, remote friendly’ and since the pandemic we have seen an increasing number of people choosing to have a more flexible and fluid hybrid working style, which we support. For example, our VP of People and Culture is based in Barcelona!

Retaining the best talent

We have always operated this way. We recognise that to attract and retain the best talent, we need to provide flexibility for people to be able to produce their best work and this isn’t always at one desk between the hours of 9-5 pm. 

The pandemic encouraged people to have even more choice over their working pattern and this has created the opportunity for us to really focus on how we engage, motivate and retain everyone in this hybrid world of working. We introduced a remote playbook to support people’s understanding of hybrid working including health and safety support, communications and ideas for collaboration to further enable people.

We run engagement surveys every quarter and our most recent survey in September showed that 94% of employees felt that Blinkist enables them to balance their work and personal lives. In addition, 91% of our employees felt that we have adapted well to working remotely.

We have always seen the benefits of working flexibly and empowering people to own their roles and accountabilities. It’s part of the DNA of how we work, which started from a Holacractic operating model and now expanding with our focus on empowerment. 

We believe empowered people are more engaged and productive, and we see this on our ongoing engagement surveys. This approach, which is really natural to us, enables us to attract, engage and retain the best people and create a really special, engaging community of people. 

Empowering people through leadership

We started Blinkist working in a Holacratic way of working and our approach to leadership has always been more about empowering people to deliver their role however they feel fit, rather than micro-management. 

Empowerment has always been a thread throughout our history and continues to be a key way of working. We do not have ‘managers’ at Blinkist, we have leaders focused more on coaching and developing individuals to learn and grow, rather than managing their day-to-day work. 

In the tech space and especially in Berlin, we see hybrid working as the norm. We see an exciting trend where people who used to be office based now have the freedom and choice to decide how they want to work. So, we have people working from numerous locations rather than one desk, 5 days a week, 9-5. This brings with it some challenges specifically around workplace safety and collaboration but these are all elements of our always evolving people and culture strategy that we try to focus on, address and use to enable people. 

Our whitepaper, Poly-working: The Evolution of Hybrid Working, offers an in-depth insight into how leaders are responding to the demand for more work flexibility and we provide the five interlinking areas that organisations must focus on to keep up with the curve. 

You can read it here

As a part of our research into the evolution of hybrid-working and the rise of Poly-working, we spoke to business leaders who were able to give us a personal account of what flexible working means to them and their organisation. 

If you’re new to the term, Poly-working is the approach to workplace culture that offers people true work flexibility. Poly-working is business leaders knowing that work represents a different slice of the life pie to each individual. Poly-working is knowing that we can’t go back to 2019 ways of working – people want to work from home (or not), they want to be a present parent at sports day, they want more time to do what makes them happy, which in turn makes them a more productive employee. We believe that Poly-working is the future and we’ve done our research to show you why. 

Emma Berry, Senior Director and Global Lead or Colleague Communications and Engagement at Pfizer, was kind enough to share her experience of Poly-working with us. 

With 57.6% of HR leads calling for ‘empathetic and supportive’ leaders to help transition the workplace into this new phase, it’s great to see a company being just that. Take it away, Emma…

For me personally, flexible working started long before the pandemic, as I was in roles that covered large geographies and time zones. It has become increasingly important to me over time as it gave me a chance to juggle my family and personal commitments and helped give me balance in my life. Even though my daughters are now grown up, I still value the flexibility I have to manage my health and personal energy as well as prioritise my relationships. It actually makes me far more energised and effective in my work.

‘And at Pfizer we have a culture that puts colleague health and wellness first.

We work extremely hard, but we are empowered and trusted to get our work done in a time and way that suits us personally.’

My manager focuses on the outcome – not the hours I work! We have clear goals and these are regularly talked about and assessed every 6 months. And of course, the reality is that when you empower and trust people, they give you more. Equally, it is our responsibility as a colleague to build that trust and not take advantage of the situation. 

At Pfizer we are highly energised by our purpose – delivering breakthroughs that change patients’ lives, and if you have a strong sense of purpose, this drives personal accountability. I think we have already made that move beyond hybrid working to a model whereby people can be trusted to work in a way that suits their individual lifestyles. And it will be very difficult to turn back the clock.

The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different – with different needs and preferences. So flexibility is vital and I believe that colleagues will want a range of options in the future and they will choose to work for the organisations who offer it. We also need to understand the needs and preferences of the next generation of colleagues. Young talent will expect us to offer flexibility in my view, but this includes and goes far beyond the option to work from home – they want to travel, have innovative space to work in and the latest technology in their hands to enable flexibility. One of my daughters recently graduated and I am seeing first hand the decisions her friends are making – and these factors are top of mind!

Our whitepaper, Poly-working: The Evolution of Hybrid Working, offers an in-depth insight into how leaders are responding to the demand for more work flexibility and we provide the five interlinking areas that organisations must focus on to keep up with the curve. 

You can read it here

By Jane Sparrow

The word on the lips of so many leaders we’re talking to right now is TEAM. In some cases people feel that the COVID experience has resulted in teams that are, in some ways, stronger than they were before due to closer connections, a level playing field and shared vulnerability. 

But, in other situations, we’ve heard of teams that have struggled to keep connected, have lots of new joiners and/or are just feeling ‘flat’. Building and maintaining bonds in the long-term chronic situation that we’ve been in hasn’t been easy. Whether virtually or in person, reconnecting and re-energising teams as we move forward into a Poly-Working world will be paramount. 

Delivering transformational team experiences

We’ve been enjoying supporting more and more teams as they come together to reconnect, realign and re-emerge and have lots of this in the diary to come. Today, as you read, The Culture Builders team is at Dorney Lake in the UK with the ViacomCBS Leadership Team, delivering a (COVID-safe) day of reflection, collaboration and team connection. 

As well as time together in a beautiful setting to share and explore, with the help of our faculty member and double Olympic gold medallist, Steve Williams OBE, the team will also ‘stress-test’ the ideas and approaches they’ve explored whilst rowing on the UK Olympic lake in Dorney. It often gets described as a transformational and life changing collective experience so we’re incredibly excited for the team with us today. For them, the reconnection will be critical in strengthening the bonds of cohesion that will ensure they face 2021 together as a united group and have a clear direction to ‘row’ as things change and re-settle.

Dynamic and experiential virtual sessions too 

With more and more requests coming through for in person team experiences, we are really feeling the green shoots of progress arriving. Whilst some aspects will remain virtual beyond the pandemic, some of the great benefits of face-to-face, including building trust, relationships, focus and alignment (faster!) are undeniable.     

Despite a COVID safe delivery, of course, for some it’s not what they feel comfortable with yet or it’s not something they’re able to do (including our longstanding global team clients). It’s important to acknowledge and properly respond to this – it’s one of the many, many critical factors that factor in the poly working world. Therefore, we’re continuing to deliver a high number of dynamic, interactive virtual team sessions too.

Team experiences that think different, think smart

Whilst many teams are grabbing the opportunity to come back together, they are definitely thinking differently about how they do it. We’re supporting organisations with plentiful plans around gradual transitions including re-familiarisation days, ‘in-day’ onboarding and experiential team lunches as the first interaction just to ease people in. 

We’re also supporting teams to deliver a range of brilliant virtual experiences with a fresh approach. Some of our favourite recent examples include a colour themed treasure hunt with a major software development company and a ‘locked room’ activity with a Scottish housing association.

Helping teams to understand their DNA

We’ve done a lot of work with teams on personality and personal styles during the pandemic and this continues in the team connection conversations and sessions we are running. Today at Dorney, the team will enjoy an experiential personality profiling session to enable them to understand each other more deeply, their team dynamic and what they each bring. 

We know that the highest performing teams have the highest levels of insight about each other including communication, decision making and learning preferences but also where they’re likely to go under pressure. This deep sense of knowing activates a deep sense of trust, an aspect that will become even more important in a Poly-Working world. 

Teams who own it together will be the teams who thrive

Teams need to own the task of creating sustainable ways of working, with the recognition that, more than ever, each one will need a unique approach that mixes personal circumstances/preferences with the need to deliver on requirements and do it in a way that keeps everyone thriving and creates inclusiveness. 

The only place to start on TEAM is with the team. We’re helping many, many teams right now to come together, be together and shape their future in a way that they can all commit to, a shared language they can all adopt, a common philosophy that promotes principles they all agree on. 

How will YOUR team reconnect, realign and re-emerge? We’d love to help.

By Chris Preston

Whilst there’s a great deal of opinion and guidance on how the future of work will shape up (including our take on the rise of poly-working), many organisations are struggling to identify the foundational steps that will help them move from ideas to implementation.

Our Poly-Working article set out the major factors for the future and now, in this update, we share the four key components that organisations will need to define and execute in order to cope with the next phase of the pandemic; and a longer-term future where everything is up for grabs.

They are:

1. Identifying the vision for the organisation’s new way of working – this is proving exponentially harder than anyone anticipated (see number two). We’ve been spending a great deal of time on virtual calls with leadership teams to help them pick through the myriad of factors that will form their future strategy. 

What’s emerging is that the blend of bravery and commercial reality is the thing to focus on. In the red corner, we have the desire by many leaders to capitalise on the results of the ‘experiment’ that was a lockdown, and free up a workforce to work anywhere and everywhere. There’s a dawning realisation that people can be just as effective at the kitchen table as in the boardroom. This gives a number of possibilities that we’ve been exploring with companies big and small. But, in the blue corner, these options have to be held up against the need to keep a business running, and to keep people connected on a ‘real’ human level. And that’s just your business – bring in your customers, suppliers, stakeholders and the jigsaw of the future gains a few thousand more pieces.

To make this point starkly, if your local supermarket allowed everyone to work from home, your weekly shop would be a disaster. Now, you say, we just move it online. But not all customers want or need that, and e-commerce doesn’t solve every need, nor does it fit for a large number of organisations. It’s no exaggeration to say that these factors are keeping leaders up at night. One C-level leader told us they are losing more sleep about the return than the lockdown. The workshops we’ve held are highly challenging, and see a great deal of angst around the ‘possible and the probable’.

2. Working through the many, many dissonances that the new ways of working will throw up – less time in offices and workplaces will reduce collaboration, fewer people in the shared spaces will diminish the culture, lower exposure to the direct outputs and the ‘mechanics’ of an organisation will diminish passion… the list goes on.

So many senior leaders have shared the issue of diminishing cross-team collaboration, and how they fear that the organisation will be totally siloed by the new ways of working. We’ve been told by ‘talent’ that changing jobs in a virtual environment is an anathema for them. And, we’ve been advising organisations that have onboarded thousands of employees over the last year, who have never once stepped into their work spaces, how to get them ‘into’ the culture.

This second stage is about identifying the levers that leaders and managers can utilise to overcome the dichotomies that poly-working creates. Right now, managers are crying out for practical tools (virtual) that give them the simple tips, stories and reassurance that they are on the right track in managing people in a volatile environment. Our virtual learning content is flying off the shelves at an incredible rate. As organisations realise they don’t have the knowledge or experience to guide people through the transition, they are looking externally to bring it into the organisation. And they need to do this darn quick.

3. Helping teams to find their own sustainable way of working – we are seeing many organisations propose admirably broad, all-encompassing statements that offer people something along the lines of ‘three days out, two days in’ (or vice-versa… or something completely different). Saying it is one thing, but implementing it is another. 

What does it mean if you never actually get your whole team together physically? Or what if you never again have a ‘traditional’ meeting with your counterparts in a different part of the organisation? How will it work if we ‘tell’ everyone the days they can come in. Oh, the problems we weave…

Again, this comes back to conversations and guidance. Managers need the tools and confidence to discuss these, and many other challenges with both their peer groups and their direct teams. Finding local ways to implement organisational policies will need leaders to pass on trust to their managers. Trust that’s shorn up with solid principles that help teams make the right decisions.

For one of our clients we’ve just completed a long series of team conversations to enable exactly this. Turns out, these smart people can quite quickly work out how to make it succeed. They just need some direction and a dose of autonomy. We can give them the former, but the latter has to come from the ‘centre’. Within this exciting mix you’ve got individuals that all have their own personalities and preferences. This should (and can) be factored in as part of a solution that fits everyone. Given this, it’s no surprise that we’ve been running more team profiling than ever before.

4. Re-thinking development for the leadership cohort – whilst this is number four on our list, clever companies are already thinking about this one in earnest. The fundamental truth is simple: no one is equipped to manage the future. That’s likely a ‘gulp’ moment – but it’s true. Just like nature never intended humans to drink cows’ milk, modern commerce never factored in everyone staying at home to do the job. Management development needs a paradigm shift both in terms of content and approach to delivery.

We kept going with our development work during the summer of 2020, and it was incredibly tough. One of our team, an Olympic rower, talks about looking people in the ‘whites of their eyes’ and the critical nature of that connection. The magic is diminished remotely, and the learning dulled.

New routes to development are going to be needed, new attitudes to what constitutes ‘good’ are required and, as the starting point, a whole different focus for the content. 

Actually, when we say different, we really mean a new emphasis. If we were betting people, the key elements for leadership will be Trust, Coaching, Engagement and Resilience. They tell a story – trusting and supporting a far more remote team, and being there for them in ways that overcome the distance that virtual working creates and ensures people continue to work sustainably.. They are not ‘new’ but their application will be.

If they are the top four, then there’s a myriad of components that support them – wellbeing, communication, tasking, individualisation of management… Some of these people are already working towards them, but others, such as 100% remote team management will be a new skill for many. Our programmes for 2021 are exciting and new – we are relishing the task of creating a new blend and experience.

As ever, we recognise that a short list doesn’t do justice to the huge task that the future presents. But, often, to tackle the big challenge, you need to break it into smaller chunks to enable you, and your people to ‘get their arms around’ the requirements and start to make it feel achievable.

Because, the future is on it’s way – we will either get lost in it or navigate our way through it. And, sometimes, a simple ‘you are here’ map is the best starting point.

By Jane Sparrow

It’s International Women’s Day so we are taking a moment to celebrate women everywhere. Over a tough year, the stories of the many women who’ve continued to play their part and inspire others, leaving a positive impact on the communities and nations around them, have been widespread. 

And let’s not forget the many inspirational women, from all walks of life and global locations, that are part of our network and reading this right now. It’s a pleasure to work alongside you. A call out also to everyone that champions equality, diversity and supporting talent everywhere, regardless of gender. Thank you, your role is vital.

Making inclusion a cornerstone of the agenda

Inclusion and championing women everywhere has been a staple of our organisational agenda since conception and we live this through our message, our network, our women’s afternoon teas across the country (continued virtually through lockdown!) and more. We’ve uploaded three brand new podcast episodes from inspirational women to mark #IWD.

Hilary Wells – Keeping an eye on the talent ball

Diana Jupp – Leadership in the charitable sector

Selina Hales – Working with purpose at the heart of culture

The women who inspire us

We also want to share some stories of the women who have inspired us. We loved sharing these stories with each other and if you can get your team together to talk about those who have inspired you, it’s a great conversation.

Jane: There are so many women that have inspired and helped me grow during the years so it’s difficult to single out just one. It was a wonderful exercise to create a list of those that have had an impact on me professionally and personally. I gave each name a number,  then asked my daughter to pick a number so I could feature just one. But, she reminded me of the story that she’d told me that I often refer to – Yusra Mardini from Syria that had made the journey to Germany, saved her fellow travellers and become an Olympic swimmer – a story that reflects so many values that I hold dear. So, instead, I’m picking Yusra to celebrate. We then talked about my wonderful Mum and her positive impact on both of us that is beyond words. She has been an inspiration and strength in every chapter of my journey. Thank you to all the women in my life –  all help me grow, enjoy everyday and give to others.

Chris: I can only begin to imagine how Rosa Parks felt on that bus, when she refused to change seats. She said ‘nah’ because she felt it wasn’t fair, and that must have taken a colossal amount of bravery. I wish I had half that courage.

Owen: I wanted to choose someone famous for this, but in the end I had to go with a former boss of mine, Heather Sim. She taught me so much about myself, and how to unlock potential in other people. She never told me what to do, always paused me, and asked questions to help me think differently, to think deeper. Then, when the time came that she wanted to step away from the charity she’d created, she did so with a poise, grace and dignity I don’t think I’ll ever be able to emulate, all while helping me and my colleagues step up in her wake.

Anna: What does it mean to inspire? For me, it means to love selflessly without judgement, to empower and nurture others and to put yourself out there even when you’re scared, so that others can learn from your story. There’s a woman who embodies all of this for me – in the way she connects, the spirit she embodies and the quiet way she makes her support visible. She knows suffering yet she brightens every room, she is one who is so wise yet she’s a lifelong learner, she seeks out and hears the voice of everyone from every corner. She’s a total legend and she’s called Pam August

Jo: I think that the woman who has most inspired me is Sojourner Truth. Born into slavery in New York, she escaped with her infant daughter in 1826, having already ‘lost’ her son to her master as he was seen as plantation property. She later went to court to recover her son and, in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

Shona: For me, I had the pleasure of getting to know a wonderful woman by the name of Dawn Flockhart who I met when she was my NLP Master Practitioner in 2009.  She was a true angel on earth, a free spirit which radiated energy and a beautiful soul. Dawn taught me more than she will ever know, by being such an amazing selfless teacher and friend who was instrumental in shaping me to be the person I am today.

Annie: Baroness Doreen Lawrence who found purpose from unimaginable loss and stood up for justice and reform. She is a heroic figure who wishes there had never been a reason to know her name. Her modesty and composure tells me to be interested in quiet people because they are the ones most likely to change the world. 

Katie: When I think about women that have shaped my life and truly inspire me, it’s very easy to think of the amazing ones that raised me – my Mum, my Nan, my Aunties – all wonderful, caring, independent and strong. But today, another person springs to mind, Anna Jester. Anna has been a constant pillar of support for me since I joined The Culture Builders team two years ago. Regardless of how many plates she’s spinning, Anna is always there. She has challenged me, mentored me, helped me through tough times and taught me a heck of a lot. She’s a rockstar business woman, an amazing Mum to her boys and a great friend and colleague! 

Dolly: Dolly Parton of course! Not just for her music, dry sense of humour, infectious laugh & resilience either.  But for her many, many kind acts, (most of which are hardly mentioned) and charities she supports. Dolly needs to join the list of the greatest philanthropists of all time in my opinion. She’s certainly no 9 to 5 gal!

Female diverse faces of different ethnicity seamless pattern. Women empowerment movement pattern. International womens day graphic in vector (Female diverse faces of different ethnicity seamless pattern. Women empowerment movement pattern. Internation

More stories from inspirational women

We couldn’t resist sharing some other stories from amazing women over the past year or so too. Pick one that inspires you and have a listen as part of your #IWD celebrations – you could even get your team to do the same. It will spark a brilliant conversation and a session of story sharing, which is, in itself, a huge part of how we will continue to change the narrative around equality.

Kellie McSorley – Talent in the new reality
Libby Townsend – Energising a magnetic culture
Samantha Bramley – Culture change through ethical investment
Heather Golding –  Creative cultures are founded on trust
Suzana Thurston – Growing and managing an international culture within DAZN
Beccy Matthews – The balancing act that is personal wellness
Grace Hannah – Building a strong culture across a UK radio network
Pam August – Looking beneath the wings of WestJet

From the whole of our team – enjoy celebrating International Women’s Day – we all have so much to be proud of.

By Jane Sparrow

Statistics show that during the latest lockdown in the UK, 40 percent of people are exercising less than they were in the previous two, with people opting for a Netflix session over a workout. 

With energy levels challenged and resilience being tested to the max, it’s really easy to understand why this is the case. Of course, we also all know that staying active is crucial to tackling both of the aforementioned. 

Something we’ve really been shouting from the rooftops about lately is walking and talking. We’re all doing more Zooms than ever, in many instances without breaks in-between. Swapping out one or two of those each week for a walk and talk instead can work wonders on every level. 

As part of our Walk and Talk campaign, here are eight things you can do to literally create movement with your team – you will not regret it! 

1. Regular screen-free meetings 

We recently joined one of our key clients at their weekly team meeting to talk about ‘unplugging’, which for that week, they had decided to make it a screen-free one. They gave people the option to move away from their desks, sit in their favourite chair, make their lunch, or walk whilst listening. As this was an all-staff meeting it meant that everyone was on the move for 45 minutes, a solid way to ensure people were moving at least once that week. 

2. Planning ahead

How many video calls do you have that really could be done over the phone? Take a look at your diary for this week and find one call that can be converted to a walk and talk meeting. Embark on an act of kindness and encourage the other person or persons to do the same – a mood booster for all of you!

3. Team challenges

I’ve previously talked about the benefits of encouraging everyone to take on a team physical challenge, and a walking challenge is a great way to do this. Recently we have heard of people joining together to walk to India or Canada, for charitable or other reasons. If your team is small, you could even start with a hundred-mile challenge. Racking up the miles whilst on your team call is a great idea too and everyone reporting back on progress every week keeps the motivation high! 

4. Scavenger hunts 

A scavenger hunt is a fun way to make walking a little more exciting. Create one that’s right for your team, whether you are all based in a town, a rural area, a city or even shielding and therefore walking around the house/garden. Making sure there’s something for everyone regardless of their situation creates a real team feel. 

5. Beat the 3pm slump 

We all know that 3pm is the time our energy dips – one of the reasons we experience this is that we have been sitting still for too long. A great way to combat this is to go outside, get some fresh air and move. Do you have a 3pm video call that can be moved to audio-only? Galvanize the team around the 3pm slump and all get outside. 

6. Getting to know you

Challenge everyone in the team to take a walk each day and send a picture of something interesting that they have seen. You’ll end up with an album full of images of cities, countryside fields, wildlife, views from people’s homes and so much more. Great talking points in your team get together. 

7. Create natural stopping points

One of the most talked about topics of our 2020 & 2021 workshops so far is unplugging. Although we all know how vital it is to switch off, move regularly and eat properly, research shows that over half of UK workers aren’t taking a proper lunch break. A 20-minute walk and talk could well be the solution to remaining productive whilst getting outside and breathing in some fresh air – even if it’s just to the garden, balcony or an open window. 

8. Lead by example 

If you’re a leader or line manager, probably the most important thing of all is to think about what you’re up to and the tone that sets for the team who work around you. Do you schedule back to back meetings with no break? Do you ensure you unplug and get your people to do the same? Do you encourage movement and fresh air and schedule walk and talks with your team? If you do, they will follow.

There’s no doubt that the ongoing pandemic is having a massive impact on people’s mental wellbeing across the globe – so self-care is vital. The simple act of going outside every day helps to reduce anxiety, improve our mood and clear our minds – and it’s something we can all do, in some way, however small. 

Walking and talking isn’t just for lockdown. Kick off your own Walk and Talk campaign today for the long term – and we’d love to hear about the results.

By Jane Sparrow

As if by magic, it’s the end of February! A challenging couple of months for most and probably not the start of the year many of us had hoped for. However, like the many months that went before it, we have knuckled down, carried on and done our best to thrive, in a very different normal. 

Talking of thriving, we wished many of our clients and contacts a Happy Lunar New Year last week as we said goodbye to the year of the Rat and hello to the year of the Ox – a sign of new beginnings and boy do we all need some of those! With a new lunar year comes opportunity – for a new start for all of us, a clean slate, some fresh good intentions. 

If you’re one of the many people who’s New Year’s resolution has fallen by the wayside (nine out of ten will have, and the end of February is the classic time for this!), grab this opportunity to refocus. Ask yourself, what needs a course correction, what needs a new plan of attack, how can you get back on top of those new behaviours you set your heart on achieving? Perhaps there are great behaviours you and the team agreed to start too that maybe are losing intention?

Embedding positive new behaviours, i.e. creating habits, doesn’t just happen – there’s a real science behind them. In actual fact most of our daily lives are driven by a thousand different habits, we just aren’t aware of them. If we think about it, each of us will have created a myriad of new habits because of the challenges the pandemic has thrown at us. With a light at the end of the tunnel on that front, now is a great time to reflect on this and consider which of these new behaviours do you want to keep as we move beyond the current reality. If you do want to keep something for the long term, you’ll need to be intentional about it. 

We’ve been talking to a lot of groups about habits recently, as leaders and teams grapple with both the personal and organisational ones they want to create or keep as we slowly move beyond the current phase of the pandemic. So much so, we thought it was the perfect time to launch our latest module on Sourcecode, our virtual on-demand development platform. 

Packed full of thinking, inspiration, multimedia content and of course, practical ideas for you, your team and organisation, the module includes everything you need to know about making, changing and sustaining great positive habits. To give you a flavour (and to whet your appetite for more!), here’s a few tips on smashing habits.

What’s the why?

We talk about ‘why’ a lot and habits are no different. If the motivation isn’t strong enough, the action simply will not follow. Ask yourself, what will this new habit give me, why does it matter and what’s the long term impact? Write it down, know it inside out, have it ready to smother the unhelpful voices that might try to talk you out of it. 

Be specific 

A vague intention is about as likely to succeed as a chocolate teapot. For any behaviour to become consistent and eventually, become a habit, it has to be specific. What are you actually going to do? When? How? Who with? You get the picture. 

Get accountability

Some people are self motivators and able to hold themselves accountable, others are not (I’m saying nothing!). If you need that extra layer of accountability, get a habit buddy – this means telling someone (and asking them to check in about it), involving someone (anyone you can rope in) or simply letting your friends know you’re trying something new and asking if they can become your official cheerleaders. 

Nudge, nudge

Nudges are brilliant. My colleague puts his running shoes at the end of his bed every night so they’re the first thing he sees every morning, prompting his morning run. Our lives are full of visual nudges, get in control of yours to support the behaviours you want to create. You can find a brilliant podcast on Nudge theory in our Habits module on Sourcecode – check it out here.

Habit plus one 

My vitamin D spray is next to my tea bags so that I remember to take it everyday when I make my cup of tea in the morning. What embedded habits do you already have that can help you to embed new ones. A friend of mine used putting the bin out each week as a ‘habit plus one’ strategy to remember calling her mum every Sunday (don’t ask about the bin link!)

A positive change   

When we attempt to cut something out (a negative removal), we’re destined to fail. Whereas when we work to bring something new in (a positive addition), our brains respond so much better and our motivation levels are higher. If you want to cut out unhealthy snacking at 3pm, try replacing it with a new positive habit like a 3pm walk or chatting to a friend. 

Small wins the day 

When it comes to habits, too big will also mean failure. It’s tough to change too many things at once! Start small and add rather than start massive and fail. Every small win builds motivation and leads to big wins in time. Conquer one habit and then move onto the next. 

Expect a level of failure 

Everyone lapses when trying to build a new healthy habit – it’s part of the process and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. On average we will fail 16-24 times before we succeed so be ready for the occasional slip-up and know it’s OK! What’s important is that you use it as a way to understand your triggers and learn. 

Celebrate success at every step 

Embedding habits is hard work! Ensure you give yourself and/or the team plenty of rewards along the way – no matter how small the win! This will always motivate you and others to keep going, they remind you or your progress and they bring in some fun! Chunking it down with little rewards along the way will win!

Great habits are essential to so much of what is mission critical right now including resilience, productivity, overall performance and wellbeing. The biggest piece of advice I can give you when it comes to habits is to start with one – you can add more in once one new pattern is created. Never forget that as human beings, we are a system, so one new habit has more far reaching impact than you might think.  

In the words of the Lao Tzu, “Any journey in life towards GREATNESS begins with one step and a leap of faith. Nothing is guaranteed, but take every step at a time and you will get where you want to be.”

Check out the new habits module now live on Sourcecode.