Discover how Something Familiar prioritises mental wellbeing in the workplace during Mental Health Awareness Week. From exciting activities like cold-water swimming and rock climbing to encouraging open conversations, they share their journey towards building a supportive and mentally healthy team.
How are you feeling? Really.
Wellbeing, and particularly mental wellbeing is something that’s come into focus since the pandemic. With people being much more aware of it, supported by things like Mental Health Awareness Week (this year May 15th to 21st), there are now far more conversations and articles about it than ever before. And most positively, there are lots of businesses putting energy into it.
We’re one of those businesses, and perhaps because Something Familiar was formed just before the pandemic, the wellbeing of everyone here has always been something we’ve tracked and worked on. It’s an ongoing focus for us, and we’ve consciously put lots of activities and measures into place to ensure that we can all maintain a healthy mental outlook.
In our previous post, Kris briefly talked about his interest in mental health, and his positive experience doing a mental health first aid course. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the things we’ve been doing to help maintain our team’s mental wellbeing in the potentially stressful agency environment.
We’re fortunate in that the ‘young’ agency environment has always been a fairly relaxed one. So things that other businesses are introducing to help employees feel better about being in the office, are ideas that we’ve always embraced. Who hasn’t been in agency with a dog or three wandering about (ours is a Romanian rescue dog called Moon)? Been buzzed by someone on a skateboard? Or nodded along to the agency’s playlist?
More exciting than you think!
As great as those things are though, we’ve reached the stage where the approach needs to be considered and evaluated. Which admittedly, doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world. But although it does demand initial focus, the benefits, the activities and the rewards of it all are certainly worth it.
We’re going to talk about some of the things we do, and how they all feed into the wellbeing of all of us here.
But before we do this, we’re sharing in case what we do inspires you to try similar things. This isn’t to highlight how amazing we are, but to show how fairly simple things work really well for us. The idea is just to start having conversations about mental wellbeing and help to ‘normalise’ it in the workplace.
So what do we actually do?
There are two main strands to our approach. The first is the activities we do (often, but not always together), where the wellbeing element is below the surface. It’s all about bonding, or challenging ourselves and just having/sharing experiences.
So we have cold-water swimming, rock climbing and a running club, but we also have a trip each year (Bruges last year), plenty of casual socials, training and in the summer months we have shorter working hours so everyone has more time to do these kinds of things.
The whole team is encouraged to get out of its comfort zone so none of us feels in a rut. If someone loves hitting the half pipe on their BMX, or risking their vitals with Taekwondo, then we don’t want to get in their way. Literally or metaphorically. Why? Because that’s what makes them feel good.
Talking it out
The second strand is more formal (but not entirely, as you’ll see), but it wouldn’t work without the looser activities above. By ‘formal’, we simply mean that we’re addressing mental wellbeing directly. Everything here relies on people being comfortable enough to truthfully talk about how they’re feeling, and to open up to others. And that’s exactly why the activities we do are important – they build those bonds of friendship and trust that open the doors to the kind of conversations which could make somebody feel vulnerable in front of others.
These take many forms, and have evolved over the time we’ve been working on this. For example, for a long time we’d been having a beer of the month – just a simple sit-down beer once a month to talk about the projects we’d been working on. It then became more focused, with ‘thank yous’, encouraging the team to talk about people who’d made the work possible. It then evolved further to include feedback and to actively reflect on projects; the good, the bad and yes, the ugly too. It can be awkward of course, especially at first, but now everyone realises why we’re doing it.
We also make it a priority to ask people how they’re feeling, but with the aim of actually finding out! If someone asks, we need to answer truthfully, and out of 10! If someone’s feeling low, or angry, we want to know so we can leave them alone, make them a cup of tea, or give them whatever support they need.
This kind of thing doesn’t work unless people are willing to tell the truth, and we have a culture here in which everyone feels comfortable enough to do that. We all understand that it’s not prying, it’s looking out for each other. That’s actually one of the best things that can come out of this higher level of awareness: recognising the signs in others (and yourself) and not being afraid to flag them up.
There’s no denying, it can be a leap to go from saying ‘good morning’ to someone to asking them how they feel, how they really feel, and it can’t be done overnight. But it’s important that we’re all on that journey. For anyone looking to start the process, we created a Wellbeing Workshop for Miro which will give you a framework to talk about wellbeing, and help you to put a plan of action together with the rest of your team. It’s a good first step, and ignoring the fact that we created it, it’s a great starting point if you’re looking to develop your business’ wellbeing plan.
Another great source of info on wellbeing is mind.org.uk, which gave us a lot of insight when we were building the workshop.
…and keeping going
One thing to note is that the things we need to remain happily mindful change over time, so our support should continually evolve. What worked last year may not be as effective this year. We’re always looking to bring in new ideas to keep those conversations going, whether they are silly social events like a charity-shop tracksuit-a-thon (which we’re seriously considering, see below), to different ways to share the mental tools we’ve all developed, such as our workshop.
And that could be where you come in. We’ve mentioned getting out of our comfort zones, and we’re looking for something new this summer. We’ve shortlisted some ideas, and are committed to doing the one that gets the most votes. So just take a second to head to LinkedIn and click on the one you think we should be doing. Whichever one we end up doing, the experience will benefit us… even if it isn’t at the time! If you have an idea you think we should be considering, then please let us know and we’ll add it to the poll.
I’m very pleased to announce that we have officially joined the ranks of B Corps (a B Corporation is purpose-driven and creates benefits for all stakeholders, not just shareholders).
Avid Torchbox watchers will have seen this coming. As far back as June 2022 when I was already confident that we’d gain accreditation having finished the Impact Assessment, I wrote about why it had taken us a while to get on board and how the assessment was improving us. The wait since June was partly due to the B Corp queue, partly to the verification process (when a B Lab representative works with you to evidence your claims), and partly because changing our Articles of Association to encode our intent ‘to have a material positive impact on society and the environment’ took longer than it should have.
The assessment process has been really useful and I’ve no doubt that it’ll continue to make us a better business over time. The framework isn’t perfect – there are things that surprised me, for example, while it assesses fair pay, it doesn’t assess the gender pay gap – but it is strongly rooted in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and certainly drives positive change in businesses, as it already has done in ours.
There has been some negative criticism of B Corp, notably the FT article from February this year which raised issues including a couple of big ones for me:
Nestlé subsidiary Nespresso getting “B Corp” status in May 2022
A loophole which allows certain organisations to concentrate on scoring highly in one pillar to achieve 80 points while largely ignoring the other pillars of better business that B Corp champion
Nestlé has a dubious record on human rights (I started boycotting Nestlé products as a student due to the baby milk scandal) and as the Fair World Project says, Nespresso’s single-use coffee is hardly a ‘force for good’.
I did feel like the B Impact Assessment was more focused on how you do business rather than what you do. You can get points for having a positive impact through your business purpose, but I don’t think you lose points if you have a negative impact. And, if you can still get to the magic 80 by doing well in other pillars, that explains some surprising B Corps. That said, you do have to commit to being a force for good, which was the “changing our Articles of Association to encode our intent to have a material positive impact on society and the environment’ bit that I mentioned earlier.
Apparently, things are gonna get better, particularly the single pillar loophole. According to Includability:
B Corp is planning changes in standards from next year, which will force B Corps to be more transparent about where they are around 10 specific topics – including fair wages, diversity and inclusion, human rights, action on climate change and risk standards – to resolve the issue around companies being able to rapidly meet the minimum points requirements in a single area.
We’re fans of Doughnut Economics, and as an employee-owned business, we’re excited that Kate Raworth believes that employee ownership can be a ‘powerful starting point’ to help redesign business. In the FT article, Erinch Sahan of the Doughnut Economics Action Lab says of B Corp:
“What they do really well is creating a community of business people passionate about sustainability,” adds Sahan. “When you tell everyone you’re now a B Corp . . . people expect that you really do prioritise people and planet. But that’s not necessarily the case.”
However, as we graduate as a B Corp, I think it’s important to focus on the bit before Erinch’s ‘but’. From the process we’ve been through, the B Corps I’ve met and the events I’ve been to, it feels like we are joining a club of business with energy and ambition to be a force for good. I thank B Lab for that and encourage them to continue in their mission to ‘not stop until all business is a force for good’.
A score of 80 qualifies a company for B Corp Certification (Nespresso scored 84.3). The median score for ordinary businesses who have done the assessment is 50.9. Torchbox achieved a B Corp score of 114.5. The focus is now on improving our score next time, so I want to end with a hat tip to a couple of friends who are giving us something to aim at, Wholegrain Digital who scored 122.1 (they were early adopters and have been assessed three times already, they’ve also made Best for the World lists four times) and our recruitment friends at Adlib in Bristol who recently re-certified with an incredible 130.3, nice one!
Launched in 2018, Studio Floc is the brainchild of our founder Florence Cassell. Armed with a loyal iMac and a vision to design for good, she started the journey that we’re now on as a growing (and currently fully female) team – supporting great people doing great things in the world through effective and beautiful design.
We’ve taken the time out of our regular routine to learn from her experience and be encouraged by a real life, real time example of a female business owner.
What inspired you to set up your own agency?
Hello everyone – Florence here! Great question – two key things come to mind. Firstly, my experience of starting out as a designer was a tough one. Most of the agencies I worked in created harsh and very isolating environments. I’m grateful because I did learn a lot in those early days but I believed it was possible to have an encouraging and honouring studio culture whilst still achieving excellence. This inspired me to start Studio Floc. My aim is to create a place where my team and I work hard and efficiently whilst also encouraging and supporting one another.
And then secondly, I’m passionate about playing my part in making the world a better place and love to use design as a tool to do that. Last year we had the privilege of rebranding Love Your Neighbour, an incredible charity who are committed to helping people overcome pressing social challenges by tackling the root causes of poverty through crisis support, debt advice, employment training and community care. We’ve been able to give them a visual language to communicate their message effectively in order to impact more lives. So good. I appreciate that we’re only one agency empowering a select handful of clients but imagine the world we’d live in if everyone played their part.
What has been your biggest challenge as a female founder?
When I was about to start Studio Floc back in 2018, only 16% of founders in the UK were female. I was surrounded by and learned from men. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot from those guys and many of which I still turn to for advice and are supportive in all I do. The presence of men has never been the issue, it has been the lack of women to encourage, trail-blaze and to be inspired by that has made the journey more difficult.
What has been your biggest learning point as a female founder?
I continue to lead the business that I feel called to run even though historically (and sometimes discouragingly) the odds aren’t stacked in my favour. Oh and the other thing is that Imposter Syndrome is a bitch. It has taken me a while but I’m still improving my ability to differentiate the helpful, guiding voice in my head from the unhelpful, self-doubting one. If you’ve got the tools there in front of you but need that extra push of confidence, just be bold and go for it.
Do you have any advice for women starting out in business?
Three key things – firstly, surround yourself with a support network of friends/mentors who will encourage you on the journey. Secondly, never stop learning. And thirdly, in my experience, more often than not, people respond to expertise delivered with confidence, not gender.
Driven by purpose, we use creativity to enable the makers, equip the innovators and empower the world-changers. We specialise in branding, print and digital design.
Have questions for our founder? Looking for help with branding, print or digital design work? Let’s chat! Get in touch at [email protected]
We’re delighted to share that Unfold have taken on organising the Smart Cookies meetup group, started by the wonderful Nic & Nat Alpi, previously of Cookies HQ.
Smart Cookies is a quarterly meetup group of over 1,000 entrepreneurs, involved in the Bristol creative and digital industries, passionate about design, development and marketing.
We want to continue the events in the same spirit and ethos as our predecessors, promoting collaboration between disciplines so we can devise better solutions for all aspects of the creative process.
Each meetup will feature either individual speakers or an expert panel, where discussion will centre around a set theme related to building and growing digital ventures.
Whether you’re a tech professional, an entrepreneur, freelancer or student, there will be something for you. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, make connections and join a community of smart cookies.
Come along and be inspired or – if you’d like to share your own experiences – why not contact us about becoming a speaker?
Win three months tenancy at Boxworks, Bristol
The spaces or ‘Boxes’ are ideal for teams of up to six
Boxes include superfast fibre, 24/7 access and use of Engine Shed facilities
Closing date is Friday 24th February
Boxworks is a unique workspace in the heart of Bristol’s Temple Quarter. Twenty shipping containers have been re-imagined into stylish, affordable private studios perfect for small teams. The studios, or ‘Boxes’, are super-insulated, come with superfast fibre and 24/7 access. Tenants get access to facilities at Engine Shed too, including lounge access, a communal kitchen, showers and meeting rooms
Startup at Boxworks: Win a Bristol workspace tenancy
To celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of Bristol’s creative community, Forward Space has teamed up with Bristol Creative Industries (BCI) and Circus Journal to launch Startup at Boxworks, a competition to win three months tenancy at Boxworks.
Aimed squarely at new businesses, sole traders and freelancers, the competition will provide much-needed support for the early stages of a business by giving the fledgling enterprise the space to grow and explore ideas, without the pressure of workspace costs.
The competition is open to all businesses with a turnover of £150,000 or less. To apply, entrants simply need to outline why office space would help take their business to the next level by submitting either a written statement, a presentation or a short video.
“I’ve loved seeing the countless businesses we’ve worked with over the years grow and find success after using one of our spaces. Helping to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurial talent in the South West is something I’m very passionate about too, so I can’t wait to see what interesting proposals we see over the coming weeks.”
“Bristol Creative Industries is thrilled to be partnering with Forward Space on this initiative. A three month Boxworks residency is such a brilliant opportunity for one of our members, particularly fledgling startups who may currently be working entirely remotely. Finding the right office space is key to the success of any business. Right next door to Engine Shed, Boxworks is the perfect place to get immersed in Bristol’s thriving ‘createch’ community; making new connections and exploring opportunities for growth.”
Simon Tapscott, co-founder and publisher, Circus Journal said:
“Circus is all about celebrating creativity and community in the south-west, and with a third of our readers running their own businesses discovering workspaces that inspire people to come together and collaborate is an important and recurring theme
“We are delighted to be supporting this fantastic initiative to enable the next generation of creatives in Bristol.”
I had root canal treatment last week. The highlight was the end.
Not for the reason you think (modern dentistry means the only discomfort is the bill).
It was because as I left and went downstairs to face the credit card machine the dentist let out a cheer.
But not because they wanted to see the back of me (I was a patient patient).
It was because I have “strange anatomy”. There are four roots in this troublesome tooth and one had embedded itself at a jaunty angle (that’s another thing – there are normally three roots per tooth, but this one is greedy).
At the end my dentist admitted it had been difficult. Her calm professionalism meant I was unaware. This cheer let me know that the jaunty root was a bigger challenge than I realised.
Overcoming a challenge
It reminded me how rewarding it is when you overcome a challenge.
For the dentist, it was my troublesome roots. For me, it’s when a client wants some website functionality I haven’t done before.
I rarely say “no” because with research and having a play, I may discover how to do it. If I can’t at least I’ve tried and I’ll learn something on the way.
If I can, I feel a sense of achievement and add it to my list of things I can do.
Most problems can be solved with patience, perseverance and experience.
And sleeping on it.
New challenges are what keeps work interesting. They advance our skills and knowledge. They stop us stagnating. It means we are progressing and giving our customers and clients an even better service than before.
That’s what makes work rewarding.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
2022 was a pretty transformative year for Keep Art It.
Completed multiple video commissions with amazing clients such as Bristol Energy Network and Daler-Rowney.
Amazing reporting on art events from institutions like Upfest, Bristol Old Vic, RWA (Royal West of England Academy) and Spike Island Artspace Limited
Interviews with major creatives such as Miles Chambers, Eurgh, Frances Bildner and Hazel Mountford
Crazy events hosted and curated such as the 10 day multidisciplinary art festival “Artivist in a Box”, Sofar Sounds, the Affordable Art Takeover and Rotary Live Art where we worked with the Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club to Raise over £1500 for charity (thanks to Andrew Burns Colwill and the other artists involved.
Special thanks to:
Rhys Ashton Tucker
DJ Awesome Wells
Jenny Harrison and so many more amazing people!
Director Douglas Karson highlights:
Most art sales and commissions of high value artworks in one year.
Selected for the exclusive Singulart partnership with the Bradbury
Completed the WECA Creative Sector Growth Program
Accepted and started the NatWest Commercial and Institutional Accelerator Program
We’re thrilled to bits about what’s coming next!
Earlier this year we pledged to become a climate conscious web design agency by supporting global projects to offset carbon emissions and plant trees, helping us to become climate positive and support the global need for tree planting through our work providing web design in Bristol.
Since signing up to Ecologi in April 2022 we have so far planted 335 trees, supported 14 global projects and offset 5.7 tonnes of carbon, that’s not bad for 7 months of work, but we know we can do more.
Each month we plant a minimum of 20 trees as our commitment, then for each client that hosts their website with us we plant a further number of trees depending on their hosting plan, the bigger the plan the more server resources are used and the more carbon offsetting is required, just viewing a web page can generate up to 5g of CO2.
We are genuinely concerned about our planet and the global need to plant more trees to reduce humans global CO2 emissions and as a company we want to help in any way we can. Our team are passionate about the world we live in and helping to protect the planet.
The tech industry is fascinating from a brand perspective. Its growth has been so fast, disruptive and organic, with so many quickly expanding start-ups, that it has barely had time to pause and draw breath, let alone ponder what role brand might have to play in its future. When your numbers are good, something like brand scarcely seems to matter. Most companies have thrived despite, rather than because of theirs. But the hour of reckoning may be near.
In all industries there comes a point when it isn’t enough to have a great product or service to build a successful business. Knowledge spreads and grows. What once was groundbreaking rapidly becomes standard, imitable, improvable… the marketplace crowds and alternatives proliferate. Your ability to communicate your difference and your real value becomes ever more important as competition intensifies. Which is what makes the current situation in tech, digital and data analytics so interesting. With a plethora of similar-looking brands that use familiar language, the sector has evolved into a homogeneous playing field. The overwhelming sense is that everyone looks and sounds extraordinarily similar. That, for the wise, presents a far bigger opportunity than a few more lines of groundbreaking code.
It’s easy to see how things have come to be the way they are. All that mattered at the outset was the innovation. Companies started small and agile. Many really struggled to keep pace with their own success. Brand was often lumped in with digital marketing, handed to less senior people to take care of, and frequently seen as superficial – “just a logo” – and therefore low priority. The great thing about digital marketing from a digital company’s point of view? It’s easy to measure. Brand, which is bigger in every way, less so. All this is understandable: companies had people to hire, products to develop and customers to deal with. Even many who understand the importance of brand have simply put it off.
But now the situation has evolved. Many of those companies that started with two or three people now number twenty or thirty or substantially more. Now internal purpose, morale, discipline, decision-making and behaviour weighs heavier: bigger overheads, bigger clients, bigger responsibilities… each new step carries greater implications. How do you keep this ever-growing number of people together as a meaningful entity? Who exactly are you, as an organisation? What do you actually stand for?
The questions keep coming. How will you thrive consistently in the tech big battleground that is the fight for talent, when demand outstrips supply? What’s going to make high quality people choose you, instead of a close rival, for their next job, so you can maintain the high standards of the work you do as it scales up? Your good name and future business rests on it. And how, when you know that your product is better than your lookalike rivals out there, are you going to convince potential customers of that? How will they know who to believe? What’s going to get you the market share your innovation undoubtedly deserves?
Decisions going your way is the answer to these questions – and all of the great myriad of micro-influences that lead to that. But it’s easier said than done. The science of decision-making is fairly well documented. We’re not such rational beings as we’d like to believe, with up to 90 percent of the choices we make based on emotion… and later post-rationalised. This is just as applicable to tech as it is to buying chocolate in the supermarket or choosing a house. Instinctive decisions are made before we even know it ourselves. And this is where a brand – when it’s done well – comes into its own.
A brand isn’t simply a logo, a strapline, colours, imagery, fonts – it’s the sum of how all these are orchestrated, plus the behaviours and feelings that this leads to. It’s the whole experience of your organisation at every moment it has contact with someone. It’s the sum of every gesture and action by every employee as well as every facet of every piece of communication. A smart brand is alive to possibilities not just online or through marketing but anywhere there is engagement or the opportunity to bring its big core idea to life. Why can’t you make someone smile when they least expect it, in – say – the company car park for example? A brand is how you make your customers (and your own people) feel, which influences their behaviour towards you. And that’s why it’s a key strategic tool. The right thinking now can shape big, big decisions later. This is not a slap of paint.
To return to the tech sector in particular. It tends to be the case that tech companies focus intensely on what they have developed. It’s what they know, it’s where they feel comfortable. But what do they – or you – really know of the person who says yes or no to you, the key decision-maker with the final word? Or of what goes into that decision? Are you sure the technology itself is even within the grasp of this individual? Does it even need to be? Perhaps what matters for them is simplicity, ease of use, an instant sense of reliability and effectiveness: impact. Often, it’s not until much further down the line that verification of the tech offer is sought – usually by someone else, long after the important decision has been made. It’s no coincidence that so many tech businesses only thrive when they become human, literally, in the form of a meeting or presentation. If that’s the only time your “brand” is alive – then you don’t have a brand at all.
The fact is that many businesses in the tech sector focus their communications around dry, technical language set against a visual backdrop of technology cliches or familiar-looking process diagrams. Whilst it might be a necessity to articulate the nitty gritty of a technology, platform or service somewhere, this is often given priority at the expense of the wider, more human and beneficial story. Complexity stymies simplicity. Many businesses are missing the opportunity to connect their brand with customers in a much more powerful way.
So what can (great) branding do for you:
— Revolutionise credibility
— Influence the big decisions people are making about your company
— Improve your talent acquisition
— Support your business strategy
— Radically alter morale and engagement internally
— Increase business leads and new business / revenue
— Inform strategic decisions
— Bring stability and reassurance through demanding times
— Drive IPO or sales valuations higher
— Change the future.
Digital Gaggle, the best inbound conference for marketers in the South West, returns on Thursday 13th October to the Watershed in Bristol with tickets now on sale.
If you’re an in-house marketer looking to meet new people in the industry, snag best practice advice, and get the creative juices flowing ahead of your next marketing campaign, Digital Gaggle is the event for you.
Proof is in the… testimonials 💬
Here’s what previous Gaggle attendees had to say about the day.
“Great energy. Lovely welcoming crowd of like minded souls. Interesting speakers”
“Different kind of vibe, expert speakers, talks not too long, great randomised networking”
“Genuinely interesting and interactive talks full of the latest trends and ideas to take home”
Don’t miss out ❗️
A limited number of tickets are on sale with 30% off until Friday 30th September.
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