Team Entrepreneurship case study: Anton Bailey and Invicta Audio

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Anton Bailey, founder of Invicta Audio.

I have always had a passion for learning by doing rather than learning through academic studying, and team entrepreneurship gave me the chance to do that whilst gaining a degree at the same time. I’m currently a 2nd year student at UWE Bristol.

Invicta Audio

My business is called Invicta Audio, previously Invicta prior to Covid–19. I set up Invicta in March 2019 as an events company as I had a huge passion for events and Bristol nightlife. I was also an aspiring DJ trying to find my way into the highly competitive music scene, working for Blue Mountain club and Lakota on several projects. This helped the brand to gain a more regular and loyal following. We also put together a fresher’s event at Blue Mountain club with another member of the team entrepreneurship course. The event was a huge success and was amazing for both of our brands, helping us to grow within the Bristol music industry.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Before lockdown, I had been organising a mental health fundraiser event and also another show for the end of summer. Unfortunately, both events have been cancelled due to covid-19, which was a bit of a knock down. However, I then had the idea of starting a label as it had been something I had thought about before. I decided to diversify my business into Invicta Audio, making it a label and events company.

I came up with the idea of doing a massive launch project and with free time at hand it gave me the chance to sort everything out. I hired one of my close friends, a label manager, to help me out with the launch. I came up with idea of the launch LP, which is a 19 track LP where you download the tracks for free and in return the downloader subscribes to our social media channels and SoundCloud.

I used my social media marketing skills learnt from running events to promote this launch LP. It ended up doing so much better than I could’ve ever imagined. We gained over 1.5k SoundCloud followers in under a month and are currently at 1.7k followers and it’s growing every day.

We have now managed to create a platform where we can sell music to our followers and when events come back we now have a wider consumer base to sell our events to. We are now releasing music frequently on our SoundCloud and I’m currently working on new projects to help grow our business even further and will hopefully be able to throw a huge event for our new consumers after lockdown is fully lifted.

What I’ve learnt

During this time, I have learnt so much! I have learnt about how to run a label and what goes into the release of music behind the scenes that you never would’ve realised before. I have also developed my skills with social media marketing and will definitely be using those skills with my events when they’re back on. I have also learnt that just because we are in lockdown it doesn’t mean your business has to stop or you can’t start a new venture which isn’t affected by covid-19.

If it hadn’t been for covid-19, I probably wouldn’t have started this label as I didn’t have the time, and my brand definitely wouldn’t have grown the way it did. I know it’s very cliché, but I have learnt not to keep all my eggs in one basket!

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

I am feeling very positive about the future of Invicta Audio – the launch LP was just the start of many projects. I also want to further expand the business into a booking agency – keep your eyes open! I’m hoping we can continue to provide quality music and events for all of our consumers and I will do my very best to make this happen alongside finishing my degree. My dream one day is to be involved with putting on a festival.

Check out the Invicta Audio SoundCloud.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Abbie and Organiko

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Abbie Lifton, founder of Organiko.

I am young entrepreneur currently in my first year of the UWE Business (Team Entrepreneurship) Program. I am also the founder of a vibrant start-up, Organiko.

From a very young age I have always wanted to run my own business. Having joined the program in September I quickly realised this course would be my opportunity to begin creating my first business venture, Organiko.

Organiko

Organiko, is a start-up currently providing high-quality, eco-friendly, organic cotton t-shirts personalised with our unique logo or leaf icon. Our future aim is to provide eco-friendly loungewear and activewear to a diverse audience. The business formed from my passion to find affordable and accessible sustainable clothing, in particular sportswear, which can biodegrade or be reused when such items are no longer needed.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

COVID-19 has had a huge effect on Organiko and has led us to have to make dramatic changes to our business model. Initially, we were going to sell on market stalls as it was a cost effective, efficient method of selling but also, allowed for direct face-to-face feedback from our consumer. However, government restrictions meant taking such approach was not possible at this time. As a business, we have had to adapt and change and are currently in process of developing a website to enable ourselves to sell online and reach a wider market.

An advantage of COVID-19 on Organiko, is that it has allowed the launch to happen much quicker than initially expected. Being in lockdown has meant I have been able to focus on planning and completing the initial steps of development which has allowed for the launch to happen much sooner. Obviously, developing the website alone has taken longer than expected however, we do expect to launch in the next few weeks.

What I’ve learnt

Before COVID-19, my knowledge of how to develop a website and construct a successful social media page was minimal. However, this lockdown has allowed myself to begin exploring such areas and learn from the challenges I faced. Lockdown has not only enabled me to launch my business on social media but has also allowed me to understand the benefits of being able to sell online. Both are experiences which I wouldn’t have considered this early on if I had followed my initial plan.

From this experience I have discovered the importance of being able to adapt within business. This isn’t necessarily diverting completely from plan A to plan B , it’s about being able to take a different approach when things haven’t gone to plan. For Organiko, this involved turning to trade online rather than trade via market stalls. Personally, I saw this as being a diversion from the original plan rather than a dismissal of the market stall option.

The final lesson learnt, is to be resilient no matter what. Even though I am still within the early stages of development, there have been multiple occasions where by I could have given up. However, having known I have already invested money and time into this project I am not willing to give up easily. For me, it’s about failing efficiently and having tried all avenues before I give up. At the end of the day, an entrepreneur’s mistakes allow for lessons to be learnt and ultimately, the business to succeed from them. Being resilient through these failures gives the progression for both myself and others to succeed.

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

I am feeling positive about the future for Organiko. The market is expanding as consumers are becoming aware of the impact waste within the fashion industry is having on our environment. In particular, as the younger generation are becoming aware of the global issue, the need for sustainable clothing will increase. Obviously, there is a worry that consumer spending has been impacted by the current situation. However, I do believe that I have a unique product which addresses the evolving environmental issue, currently present within the media, that consumers will only want to invest in.

Visit Organiko’s Instagram here and Facebook here.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Luke Gandolfi and FLAVR

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Luke Gandolfi, Head of Marketing at FLAVR.

FLAVR

FLAVR is a recipe-based, grocery shopping platform, which innovatively combines the benefits of both conventional online supermarket shopping with meal kit companies (for instance, Hello Fresh or Gousto). Thus, providing an efficient, end to end grocery shopping experience where customers benefit from an abundance of choice, flexibility on commitment, the freedom to try new and exciting meals, all while saving you time and money.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Covid-19 has not had a significant impact on the way we run the business. For a tech start-up, remote working is familiar. It does not pose many difficulties, especially when compared to the plethora of other challenges we face from the economy as a whole. In any case, the team were predisposed to work in isolation before the presence of Covid-19 (isolation, of course, being the natural habitat for Tech geeks), which allowed for a swift and smooth transition to wholly remote working. 

That said, albeit not strictly regarding the manner in which we run the company, the most drastic companywide challenge for us came down to team focus; and more importantly, where to direct it. 

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have assiduously focused our resources on finding and building solutions that alleviate some of the most frequently experienced issues within our domain. 

For example, the pandemic has resulted in situations whereby most people want to avoid going to busy supermarkets and waiting in long queues. To address this, we created a concept which we are incredibly proud of – the ‘Slot Spotter’. The slot spotter allows users to track down online delivery slots to place orders online conveniently. 

Another problem which is frequently faced by customers is the annoyance when products are out of stock. This is compounded when customers are unaware beforehand meaning people have to re-plan their weekly shop or meal plans.

To address this, we curated product availability-based recipes; recipes that consist only of available products, in real-time, at your chosen store. Due to our ability to collect live data on locally available products, we have the means to provide a shopping experience that significantly reduces the chances of having to put up with out of stock items!

To assist customers further, we decided to make our services free during this time.

What I’ve learnt

The following are a few key learnings that have become apparent to me during this time.

1.    Team alignment has become crucial, even more so than before. In a period when the team cannot meet up face to face and absorb one another’s energy and excitement the source of motivation must be derived elsewhere.

2.    The benefits of a team routine are not trivial. When the majority of your time spent is in one area, most likely inside, it is inevitable for routine to slip. The transition from mid-week to weekend becomes blurred and therefore having a team routine, keeping accountable to one another is crucial to maintaining healthy headspace and an attempt at normalcy. 

3.    Another interesting concept I have discovered to appreciate more is the importance of body language when communicating effectively in face to face situations. The lack of ability to read peoples body language due to reliance on video platforms has become noticeable when participating in meetings and giving presentations (task’s which primarily rely on reading the room and adapting to the situation and atmosphere of the people around you). Weight has now shifted onto the interpretation of tonality and intonations in speech.

4.    It is also interesting how the use of technology has made way for better team democracy. As a start-up company that spans two cities, it is often the case that the city with more members becomes the centre of our ecosystem or the ‘hub’. With the use of technology; being no longer bound by any geographical limitations, we have seen an equal split between the two cities. 

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

Positive, undoubtedly. 

Whilst this pandemic has caused extensive hardships to families who have lost loved ones and to the economy, which may well take years to recover. I do believe the situation has proved to be a significant test to people’s mindsets, and there are definitely positive aspects to come from it. Individuals who have and can continue to maintain an optimistic and opportunistic mentality will prosper. 

At this moment in time, the government and population are focussed on the considerable changes to the economy, which are unequivocally viewed as disastrous. The detriment to the economy has been noted as much worse than the financial crisis of 2007/2008, a period which most people recall as being full of despair and uncertainty and when nothing positive came about as a result. 

However, it is not often considered that there is a contrary perspective. The crash of 2007/2008 proceeded into a time that gave birth to some of the most influential and successful companies of this day and age; to mention but a handful – Airbnb, Uber, WhatsApp, Slack, Square and Groupon.

Opportunities present themselves, especially in time of crisis. Although these opportunities may be riskier and are often more challenging during a period of economic downturn and uncertainty, the upside is tenfold. The reality is, valuable businesses can succeed and prosper through crises. 

If we ask ourselves fundamentally, what the purpose of business is, I would insist that it is merely finding solutions to problems (as trite as that may be). Therefore, is there ever a more noble time than a crisis to make this a reality—a time where there are more urgent challenges and demanding problems to address. This sense of finding problems to solve is certainly what gets us out of bed in the morning; the opportunity to have a more significant impact on the world should we succeed.

Visit the website here.

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Joe Stallion and Solvi Solutions

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students and recent graduates who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Joe Stallion, co-founder of Solvi Solutions.

Solvi Solutions

Solvi Solutions is an organisation specialising in Marketing Automation, using technology to streamline the marketing process, while delivering relevant and personalised experiences to a company’s audience, saving both time and money for busy workplaces.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

The drastic impacts of this pandemic have been reflected across the local and national economy, affecting the daily operations of many businesses. Whether sales are booming or declining, this environment calls for a response.

At Solvi Solutions, face-to-face interactions are preferred, but not essential, when delivering our service. This has allowed us to continue with some level of normality. We strive to maintain our high standards, giving our clients one less thing to worry about during this time. 

The focus of our account management strategy shifted to support a broader spectrum of client needs, often ranging from a friendly chat about business to website development and maintenance. We have continued to build our community through digital networking events, looking to expand this support to others.

Internally, it has been a similar story. We have facilitated change to look after our most important asset: people. For some, home working is a dream, but for others, it can lead to burnout, loneliness and declining productivity. Many of these challenges can be attributed to a lack of structure, making it important to engage in daily video calls to address pressing tasks and business objectives. It is also a great opportunity to engage in the social element of business we all very much miss.

What I’ve learnt

In both life and business, adversity is one of our most effective teachers. COVID-19 and its wider economic impacts continue to represent a formidable opponent for many businesses, including my own.

In times like these, strategic partnerships and business relationships are key to survival. This pandemic represents a common enemy through which businesses in both local and national markets can collaborate for the greater good. We have done our best to exchange the currencies of knowledge and information to assist those struggling in this time. 

At Solvi Solutions, we have reached out to our network providing cost-free advice and guidance surrounding the digitalisation of business operations and processes. In return, our network has granted access to networking circles, software discounts and testimonials. This transmission of value has been instrumental not only to coming through this pandemic afloat, but also becoming more resilient than ever before.

I came across a quote from Simon Sinek, one I wish I had seen earlier, but am glad to share with you now:

“Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan.”

As a business, we had never planned for viruses, volcanic eruptions or meteor showers… and I don’t think we ever will. Successfully planning for every eventuality makes a couple of big assumptions (1) we can accurately predict what that situation might look like and (2) that our plan goes to plan.

Adaptability in the face of change triumphs stringent planning, while also being useful outside of a global crisis. We have leant to use our agile nature to adapt to market demands and continue providing value to new and existing clients.

How I’m feeling about the future of our business

The future for businesses, including my own, remains unpredictable. However, the entrepreneurial traits of optimism and open-mindedness can overcome the uncertainty that this pandemic has created.

Feelings of negativity can become overwhelming in times like these. After discussions with my co-founder and the wider business community, it became clear that everyone was feeling a similar way. Most businesses had to adjust the direction of growth away from their desired path, adding to the pressures of the pandemic. 

It becomes important as a business to accommodate this new path and view it through a positive lens. At Solvi Solutions, we have proceeded to re-frame our offering to help those recovering from this crisis, and our marketing automation continues to support a range of businesses in the South West. Pivoting, transforming and conforming to fresh market needs is our anchor in remaining positive moving forward.

Visit the website here.

A Toolkit for Living in a New Building: a visual post-occupancy evaluation of Bristol Business School

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How does a new university building change the behaviours of the people who work and study there? Today marks the launch of the report A toolkit for living in a new building: A visual post-occupancy evaluation of Bristol Business School’, the culmination of a ground-breaking two-year collaborative study between architect, Stride Treglown, construction partner, ISG and researchers from the University of the West of England. Using participant photography, Instagram and image-led discussion groups as a data generating methodology, the report details the value of taking a sensory approach to the post-occupancy evaluation (POE) of new buildings.

Going way beyond more usual ‘technical-functional’ analyses of how new buildings operate, our report provides an in-depth, user-centred account of how the transparent, collaborative, flexible and open building affects working and studying practices. It ends with a set of future-focused recommendations and value propositions for stakeholders involved in commissioning new university accommodation.  Using innovative visual methods including Instagram, participant-led and participant-directed photography, alongside image-led discussion groups, data was collected over a full year cycle with over 250 participants contributing to the study; 30% staff, 60% students and 10% visitors. Building users were asked to submit photographs and captions of their spatial experiences in the building that addressed two questions:

How do you feel about the building?

How are you using the building?

Only 10% of our findings replicate areas covered by traditional POE, suggesting there is great utility in employing more qualitative approaches to deep dive into the value offered by contemporary campus architecture. Instead, social and psychological topics including health and wellbeing, the rhythms of food, drink and sensory experiences, reflections on identity and belonging, unexpected delights and the ‘wow’ of the building set against the reality of working in transparent and visible ways are presented alongside captivating images from the project.

Given the current Covid-19 crisis, the Bristol Business School building is currently closed – as are most university premises – and the lessons we are learning about ourselves as we work under ‘lockdown’ conditions might have implications for how generative buildings are designed in future: e.g. blending physical presence with digital connectivity more extensively. Even though this research was completed before Covid-19, there are valuable lessons in this report. Attending to the sociability of work and study in different spaces, and the psychology of location-independent working may prove to be especially significant as we navigate through the current pandemic.

The full report can be downloaded from www.myuwebbsview.com

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Benjy Johnstone and Milkman Store

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We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Benjy Johnstone, founder of Milkman Store.

Milkman Store

Truthfully, the Milkman story began one night; sometime around three am while out with friends from university in Bristol – my beloved and cherished home town.

I have always been intrigued by architecture and home design: often finding myself gravitating towards interesting objects in friends’ houses, fascinated by why they were there and what they represented to that particular person.

And so the next morning – feeling slightly worse-for-wear – I began planning my venture. Soon I was doing hours of research online and creating scores of mood boards (for drawing was never my strong point). Smell has always been something I’ve been acutely aware of, and after a while, I began to realise I wanted to focus on scented products.

I started small, working on designing candles myself, trying to perfect even just one small batch; until finally, it was time to branch out. This is when I curated my first saleable product: our wonderful 001 Lis d’Ambre soy candle. And from that point on, I decided to make it the company’s mission to create high quality, design-conscious products.

Having the ability to design and curate the products myself whilst working with high-quality suppliers and new & exciting materials has given me an amazing platform to explore, design and discover new and exciting talent to work alongside.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Customer interaction and engagement has always played a big role in what we do, and there is a huge amount of emphasis within our small team to create genuine conversations with customers and suppliers.

During this period we have moved away from in-store sales and set up our website to manage sales online. This proved challenging, as we were tasked with generating sales and customers engagement purely from our social media channels. As we have moved forward, we have noticed that most of our sales are now coming through our new website – something we had hoped would be the final result!

What I’ve learnt

We knew that when this whole situation started that our sales were going to dip due to the closures of our stockist’s stores, so we made the decision to pull the trigger on designing our website and began introducing this to customers through our social media channels. We have learnt that it is crucial to be adaptable and flexible with your approach to business and actually, putting the time and thought into that adaptation ultimately pays off and pushes you forward. Building a website was something we had always hoped to do, but these circumstances meant we had to get on with it and I am really grateful that we did.

Are you feeling positive about the future of your business?

Yes, and no. I don’t think any self-respecting business owner can confidently say they were 100% set on their future and that everything was going to be plain sailing. The ever-changing landscape means that we have to be prepared for obstacles and change, but, and it’s a big but – I am confident in my team and the friends who have supported this journey so far and we are all very proud of the products that we have worked so incredibly hard to curate.

Visit the website here.

Home-working during COVID-19

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Harriet Shortt

Harriet Shortt is Associate Professor of Organisation Studies at The University of the West of England, Bristol. Harriet’s research focuses on organisational space, artefacts, the materiality of work, and visual methodologies. Her research has been published in journals including Human Relations, Organizational Research Methods, Management Learning, Visual Studies and the International Journal of Work, Organisation and Emotion. Harriet has led research projects in both public and private sector organisations, such as the Environment Agency, the NHS, Stride Treglown Architects, and ISG Construction. This is a guest blog from Harriet. 

We are all currently experiencing a situation we have never been in before where society has had to change and adapt beyond recognition, and one of the biggest changes we have had to make is the one associated with our work spaces. Many of us are now working at home and this has meant a complete shift in where we work and left some wondering how to cope with these changes. I have been asked to put together this blog with some thoughts and reflections for those people who have found themselves unexpectedly working from home.

Before we think about space, it’s worth thinking about work more broadly first. I have seen the use of the word ‘productivity’ floating about a lot recently. Be cautious of using this word (and this goes for employers/organisations/team leaders as well as us as individuals!). Whether it’s to ‘prove’ you are being productive at work or being productive in other ways – like taking up a new hobby or learning a language or suddenly taking up running – we need to remember we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are not out of it yet. Trying to set never-ending targets for how you are going to self-improve and working to unrealistic expectations is not good for your mental health or work – it is known as ‘toxic productivity’ and we need to recognise when this creeps into our working lives. Productivity does not look the same as it did before Covid-19, so adjust your goals, your boundaries, and your breaks from work to reflect this challenging period of time.

Let’s now turn our attention to home spaces. Our homes have now become a complex shared space. It’s an office, a gym, a place to relax and for many of us, a classroom. This can make it hard to find a ‘dedicated workspace’ that also encompasses everyone else’s needs in your household. Even for those who are used to working from home, this will be a new challenge as the routine of perhaps working at home alone will have likely changed and you’ll be sharing your ‘work’ space with others. This is going to require negotiation and open conversation about how, where and when we work with a house full of people. Be mindful that everyone’s boundaries have been broken and need to be re-established carefully.

Finally, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this is going to take time. We have all been dumped into this situation and working from home is more complicated than just finding a dedicated workspace, so don’t expect to get it right straight away. Try working in a particular space and if it doesn’t work, that’s ok – try somewhere else. Some work activities may work well in some home spaces, and others will need alternative spaces, so don’t feel you need to stick to the same place every day.

So, some thoughts on creating and thinking about our ‘new’ home-working spaces:

Free up different spaces for different tasks

This might mean adapting or re-appropriating your home spaces at different times of the day, for example, currently my dining room is a classroom by day and a family area at the weekends. I often take work calls in the kitchen or the garden so I can keep an eye on daughter, but my work that needs concentration is done is quieter spaces.

Think about your space creatively

Could you use liminal spaces (these are spaces ‘in-between’, like landings, hallways, stairways) in your house as a make-shift office, a place to take private calls, or as a place to find a few moments of quiet and reflection? I recently wrote a blog for Work Wise UK that explores this very topic and how the liminal spaces of our homes can provide some important and unexpected uses whilst we’re working at home during this crisis.

‘Own’ your space

Wherever you do choose to work from, make sure you make it yours, even if this is just temporary. Research shows that the more you are able to have a sense of ownership over your workspace and create a sense of identity, the more positively it will impact your sense of wellbeing and connection to your work.   

Re-claim your ‘normal’ spaces

If you are having to appropriate a ‘normal’ space (like a kitchen table) into a workspace, try to turn it back to a ‘normal’ space at the end of the day. This might help you to manage the boundaries between work and home, and with your sense of work/life balance.

Visual communication tools and ‘being on show’

For many people, technology has enabled them to make this transition to working from home easier. However, this still comes with its own problems. It has been clear since the majority of UK businesses have adopted remote working, that being ‘visible’ and ‘on show’ in our home spaces has brought many advantages and disadvantages. So, it’s worth reflecting on some of these issues as an individual or as an employer; having your camera on for meetings is a great way to connect socially with your colleagues and the backdrop of your home can be a conversation starter! Lots of people have been commenting on the backgrounds of their colleagues’ homes, the pets that accompany the meetings or even the children that might make a brief appearance. Having spoken to a lot of people about home working spaces over the past few weeks, there is a real sense that this has made us all more ‘human’. Seeing inside other people’s homes has made them more ‘real’ and people have enjoyed seeing this informal/ private side, rather than the typical traditional/formal interactions we are used to in the office. It is this that has brought people together.

Nonetheless, let’s be conscious of privacy and visibility when using these audio/visual communication tools. Others I have spoken to feel they are inviting people into their home spaces that perhaps they would not choose to. The blurring of the work/home boundary has been emphasised by our current use of technology. So, be respectful of asking colleagues to turn on their videos during meetings – there is a case of being social and connecting, but there is also a case for privacy and managing boundaries so that we keep some of the sanctuary of our homes to ourselves.

Capturing this experience in photographs

Apart from workspaces, my other area of research involves visual research to explore the everyday lives of workers. I use an approach called ‘participant-led photography’ and this includes asking people I work with in my research projects to take photographs based on a brief e.g. ‘what work spaces are important to you and why?’ and then they talk to me about their images. This method elicits rich stories from participants and gives them the opportunity to talk about what is meaningful to them at work. Over the past 8 weeks for so I have seen so many images being shared on social media that picture what its really like to work at home. Social media platforms are a rich source of data at the moment and images captured and posted by workers all over the world depict the complexities, the joys, the difficulties and the juggles of working from home. I think this could be a great opportunity for organisations and employers to do their own visual research:

  • Organisations can collect data about the complexities of employees working remotely. Ask your team to take pictures of what it’s like working at home, where are they, how are they sharing their workspaces, what do they enjoy and what are they finding difficult. This could be a creative way of engaging your team, but also getting feedback. Remote working is here to stay in some form, so the more information and data we have about how people are doing it and how they experience it, the better.
  • During the current crisis, these images could be part of weekly catch ups and individual conversations with your line manager or be part of a PDR session. Or, they could be collectively posted on a virtual team noticeboard and discussed as a group. Either way, it might help people to reflect and share, and for organisations to sense-check how their employees are coping with working from home.
  • Post Covid-19, these images could also help us learn from this experience, as part of our recovery – teams or organisations could hold an exhibition of people’s images that document what working from home looked like for them. We will, at some point, need to come together to reflect and heal from this experience and a good way to do that might be through the eyes of employees and their photographs.

If you would like more information or to get in touch please email bbec@uwe.ac.uk.

Guest blog: Mental Illness and COVID-19

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Blog written by Laura Collett, Project Officer, UWE Bristol.

Thanks to Laura for writing this honest blog as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

I have never written a blog before and, me being me, I know my self-esteem will doubt every single word I write; however, I wanted to write something about my experiences of mental ill health during this period of lockdown. I live with depression which is inexplicably linked to self-esteem issues. The main outcome of this is that I am immensely self-deprecating and generally dislike myself (I have got slightly better, a year ago I would have said hate myself). As with most mental illness conditions, it can be really tiring and is a journey I manage every day, through exercise, counselling, medication, lots of reading (I love a crime thriller) and support from family, friends and colleagues.

Bringing the COVID-19 pandemic into this picture is an interesting one. In January, I was on a facetime call to my family and my niece was talking about her teacher going on holiday to China. She was (as the loving and sensitive six-year-old she is) concerned about her teaching becoming poorly, because there was news of a virus outbreak in the city of Wuhan. As adults we reassured her, but never in a million years did we think we would be in the position COVID-19 has put us in today.

I had the week of the 16 March off as leave, so wasn’t in the office when home working started, but in anticipation, I had my laptop with me. The first week was, well… challenging! This wasn’t because I was working from home (although the state of my kitchen was horrific and six weeks on still needs a clean). No, the real challenge for me was connecting with colleagues, loneliness and my feelings of self-worth.

My self-esteem makes it hard for me to connect with people because I think I am bothering them. Whist my job isn’t affected (because working and progressing projects gives me a reason to connect), I am usually able to combat the social side to this by saying hello to people whist walking around the building or meeting people for coffee in the Atrium. But being at home and acting upon the message ‘look out for each other – connect’ has been really challenging. I always want to contact colleagues, but in March, I knew people were experiencing the pressure of dealing with the fallout from this unprecedented time. I couldn’t just bump into someone and therefore the first few weeks were horrible for me and resulted in me doubting myself and my worth daily. The only solution was to  massively push myself out of my comfort zone in order to hear that part of myself that says ‘I am not bothering people’ and ‘I am allowed to show colleagues that I care’.

Loneliness is another big part of my depression and many other people have experienced this due to COVID-19. I am lucky and live with my partner, but his health-anxiety has been (understandably) exacerbated and talking to him about my concerns isn’t always possible. My life outside of work isn’t exactly as social as I would like it to be and I experience loneliness daily. However, during this crisis, family and friends struggle with their own personal circumstances of home-schooling, working and finding time for themselves, let alone finding time to talk to me.  As a result, my self-esteem and lack of self-worth has had something to feed on.

Mental illness is hard for everyone and all I can do is work on finding out what helps me (pandemic or no pandemic). So, what has helped me to keep going during this crisis that I don’t normally do? We all know that exercise is good for our mental health, well I have gone crazy!!!! I run or do HIIT exercises most days at the moment as it helps me work through my sadness, anger and frustration. I set up my working space in my dining room on a Monday morning and at weekends pack it all away so I can litter the table with rubbish on Saturday and Sundays. I have a candle on most days that I work which helps relax me. I have also watched the odd movie whist working. The two biggest achievements for me have been starting to bring art back into my life (Greyson Perry’s Art Club – Channel 4,  has helped evoke this passion) and I am becoming more aware of my thought patterns to the extent that my depression has areas of improvement. Some of my self-esteem triggers are diminishing and the projects I work on at UWE have gained momentum which helps me focus on what I want to achieve on daily basis, but also what I do that supports the faculty.

Mental illness is painful, no matter what anyone says, when its bad, it really does hurt. My journey has been a long one and will continue after the COIVD-19 pandemic has faded. Everyone’s experience of mental ill health is different and I hope by sharing my personal experience it might help at least one person in some way. There are so many good blogs, articles, books and websites that can offer different alternatives to help support mental health, you just need to keep trying to find what helps you best.

Ask yourself:  What do I need right now? And be kind to yourself x

Creative ways to take a short break

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As a result of the coronavirus outbreak many of us have been asked to work from home if possible. Whilst we have hopefully all been able to adapt in some ways to our new lifestyles, it’s important to remember to take short breaks for our well-being. This notion was definitely pushed out to us from every angle at the beginning of the UK lockdown, however, we wanted to see how people have actually been able to implement this into their new daily lives and share some of our tips for making the most out of working from home whilst staying physically and mentally healthy.

Breaks give much needed time to rest your eyes, stretch your stiff muscles, to unwind and take a fresh outlook on your work. They are a great way to rebalance, refocus and recharge so that concentration and energy levels don’t waiver. To make sure you remember to take a break, it’s a good idea to have it planned for a certain time of the day, so you don’t forget to give yourself some well-deserved rest.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that work the best. We’ve pulled together a short list of ideas and how they have been implemented by our UWE colleagues.

Stretch out stiffness by doing a 10-minute yoga or fitness session

Getting up from computer to do some stretches is always a good idea. Not only will you give your body a rest but your mind also. There are countless benefits to practising yoga even for just 10 minutes each day and you can find plenty of short yoga sessions to follow online. You can also find live fitness sessions like these run by UWE Bristol Sport.

“I’ve dusted off my fitness hula-hoop from the cupboard and find this is a great way to take a short break whilst working from home in the middle of the day, or when I feel tired and in need of an energy boost. I just do 10 minutes at a time whilst listening to my favourite radio station” said Rose Adderley, Communications and Events Officer at UWE Bristol.

Studies have shown that getting active, even for 10 minutes, can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which in turn can improve your overall health. Yoga also improves your flexibility, strength and posture, increases your energy, improves concentration throughout the day and so much more. So, if you haven’t thought about including a short yoga break in your daily routine, why don’t you give it a try?

Make a delicious smoothie

A lot of people like to snack while they work and sometimes it can be difficult to not give in to temptation and eat something that might not be that good for us. Taking a break to make a smoothie that’s delicious and also gives you nutritional value is a great way to take a break from working. We are also seriously missing the delicious smoothies we used to be able to grab at the Atrium Café in Bristol Business School so this is a perfect way to get your smoothie fix!

There are plenty of great recipes out there for you to choose from like peanut butter and banana to berry to green smoothies, whether they’re packed with vitamin C or protein rich, taking a short break to make yourself a treat like that will definitely help boost your energy.

The Atrium Café ‘Love Yourself’ smoothie is a tasty way to get your fruit in. They use mango, pineapple and passionfruit mixed together with coconut milk and raspberry sauce.

Listen to your favourite music

A good way to take your mind off work for a short break is by kicking back and listening to a few of your favourite songs that get you excited and your energy levels pumping. It’s known that listening to certain genres of music can affect your mood, so choose something that you know will lift your spirits up and will have you feeling refreshed to continue working.

Kat Branch, Music Enrichment Strategic Leader at UWE Bristol, has put together a playlist for her couch to 5k journey with songs that inspire her to get up and moving. You can check it out here.

Alternatively, why not delve into the world of podcasts? This way you can take a break and learn about something new. There are hundreds of podcasts on Spotify, plus UWE Bristol have a host of different subjects on their SoundCloud, including the Bristol Business Engagement Centre’s first episode of their Future Impact Podcast series

Step outside

We all know that stepping outside to get some fresh air is great for your energy levels and also for your mental health. It’s good to change your surroundings to refresh your mind and going outside for a short walk to help your mind and body to relax and recharge with new energy and a fresh perspective. Use the hashtag #UWEStillActive to share your walks and fitness journeys whilst in lockdown, or to find inspiration and motivation.

The UWE Bristol Wellbeing team are here to help if you need it. You can get in touch via the website.

Updated Guidance on holding AGM’s under COVID-19 Restrictions

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Moon Executive Search, Faculty of Business and Law Advisory Board member, have published a blog outlining guidance on holding AGM’s under the restrictions of coronavirus. Originally posted on Moon Executive Search.

The Quoted Companies Alliance is a high-profile membership organisation that champions small to mid-sized quoted companies.

To enable their membership to address the practical challenges of holding an annual general meeting (AGM) during the COVID-19 pandemic, the QCA supported the production of guidance by The Chartered Governance Institute (ICSA) alongside a collection of legal firms, the Financial Reporting Council, the  Investment Association, and The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who all reviewed and contributed to the guidance.


Businesses and organisations must continue to make the crucial decisions.

Vanessa Moon said: ‘This is a relationship that we greatly value, particularly as many of our clients are listed. We have found their resources to be extremely relevant and timely and we were delighted when Tim Ward their CEO shared this new guidance with us.’

Tim Ward, CEO of the QCA, said that: “The QCA has an impressive membership group and together we have strong collective influence – these are unprecedented times and at the forefront of our activity is our commitment and capacity to support our members. We are pleased to work with the ICSA and others collectively to produce this guidance on AGMs quickly to provide our members with information on how to navigate their regulatory obligations and make decisions needed to carry out their business.“


The Guidance outlines five options that companies can take:

1.       Adapt the basis on which they hold the AGM

2.       Delay convening the AGM, if notice has not yet been issued

3.       Postpone the AGM, if permitted under the articles of association

4.       Adjourn the AGM

5.       Conduct a hybrid AGM, if permitted under the articles of association

For more information, click here.            


The Stay at Home Measures make it harder to have an AGM but not impossible.

With the increasing impact of COVID-19, businesses are under pressure to transform to ‘the new normal’ but the AGM that is required by law cannot go ahead due to social distancing measures. At a time of great uncertainty, companies and their directors will need to focus on making the critical decisions that will enable them to get through the period with least disruption. One fully attended meeting would put the entire company and their families at risk.

However, chairing a quorate meeting may necessitate just ‘two director and/or employee shareholders of the company attending the meeting, with resolutions being passed by the proxy votes of those who have not been able to attend in person’.

The Stay at Home Measures make it harder to have an AGM but not impossible. Appropriate social distancing measures should be observed by the small number of attendees at a physical meeting and shaking hands is obviously off the table.

Whilst we must all take the utmost precaution in preventing the spread of COVID-19, businesses and organisations must continue to make the crucial decisions to survive and thrive in theses testing times.

For more information about how to safely conduct an AGM click here for the guidance from ICSA.


Quoted Companies Alliance
Quoted Companies Alliance

The QCA has also created a new COVID-19 hub (“The Lockdown Lowdown”) on its website to help QCA members. The Hub includes information on regulatory updates, government support schemes available for companies and the work the QCA is doing on behalf of its members. The Hub also bring together content from member advisory firms to help small and mid-sized quoted companies. Members can access the Hub here.

Quote from Tim Ward, who is the Chief Executive of the Quoted Companies Alliance since 2009.

“The QCA and our members are committed to playing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are proud of how our members have responded by innovating and adapting their business practices and continue to make the difficult decisions to ensure their companies are sustainable in the long term. The role of the QCA to support and act as the voice of small to mid-sized quoted companies is more important than ever and we are committed to doing everything possible to support our members through COVID-19.”