UWE Bristol launches The Bristol Distinguished Address Autumn 2020 Series

Posted on

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series (BDAS) provides a unique opportunity to hear about challenges and decisions being made at the highest level of strategic leadership by high-profile business executives from across the country and is back for Autumn 2020. Normally, the lectures are held at Bristol Business School, however, we are now running an online version of the talks.

Upcoming Bristol Lectures

The Virtual Annual Bolland Lecture 2020: NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol Panel Discussion

14 October 2020

The Nightingales are part of a nationwide effort to respond to the greatest global health emergency in more than a century. The temporary hospital at the Exhibition and Conference Centre on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus was vital to help support NHS efforts with the COVID-19 pandemic and support the local community and wider region at an exceptionally challenging time.

NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol was a truly collaborative project across a wide range of organisations and companies. Completed in just 20 days, the build of the 300-bed hospital demonstrated incredible team effort and the speed at which the hospital was been built is testament to the dedication, hard work, and teamwork from UWE Bristol staff, the Army, the NHS and the contractors, Kier. Collaboration was key with all stakeholders uniting and working together, safely, swiftly and with absolute skill and commitment. The agile response from all involved – with teams working 12 hours a day – was central to the construction project being complete in such a short time.

We are delighted to host a panel discussion focusing on the construction of the NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol, panel members include:

  • Professor Steve West CBE, Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Marie-Noelle Orzel, Chief Officer, NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol
  • Tim Whittlestone, Chief Medical Officer, NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol
  • David Snell, Operations Director, Kier

Virtual Bristol Distinguished Address: Doug Perkins, Chair and Founder and Dame Mary Perkins, Co-founder, Specsavers

04 November 2020

Doug and Dame Mary Perkins founded Specsavers with the aim of offering affordable eye care to everyone. They will talk about how they saw the opportunity to revolutionise the optical market, following a relaxation of UK regulations, which allowed opticians to advertise products and services for the first time.

Specsavers is not built on a stock exchange model but rather on a unique joint venture partnership, where directors part-own and manage their own stores. Theirs is a values-led approach to business, which has led to a world-wide organisation that turns over 3 billion a year, operating in 10 countries and employing 35,000 colleagues.

Doug and Dame Mary met in Cardiff while studying optometry at university. After graduating they bought Mary’s father’s optometry business in her home town of Bristol, which they built into a successful chain of more than 20 stores across the south west. This provided invaluable experience when they set up Specsavers.

With Mary being Bristol-born and educated and Doug living in Bristol for 15 years (and even playing for Bristol rugby club), they will describe how their business experience in Bristol acted as an extended pilot for the birth of Specsavers and inspired their vision for affordable eyecare and audiology at scale.

After selling their original chain of stores, it took a further three years of worldwide research of partnership and franchises, which were unheard of in the medical sector, to create their unique business model.

Virtual Bristol Distinguished Address: Perminder Mann, CEO, Bonnier Books UK

11 November 2020

Have you ever felt like you needed to conform to fit in? What does aspiration mean to you? Do you have inspiring role models in your life? Perminder Mann, CEO of Bonnier Books UK, a publishing company with sales of over 80million and a regular on the publishing industry power lists, shares an honest account of her path to success. Overcoming personal obstacles and challenging stereotypes head on, Perminder argues how we all must bring our authentic selves to work. As a passionate believer in the power of books and the role the publishing industry must play in our society, Perminder also lays out her manifesto for positive change.

You can discuss all the events on Twitter by using #BristolLectures. We’re running this series online so you can watch from the comfort of your own home. This event will be hosted on Microsoft Teams – you can either view via the web or download the app. To join the event, please follow the link that will be sent in your event reminder a couple of days before the event.

UWE Bristol alumni launch new Family Wellbeing app

Posted on

Benjamin Draper, Business Management with Economics graduate and William Testeil, International Business graduate, have created an app that makes it fun and simple for families to improve their wellbeing by encouraging them to exercise, eat well and stay mentally active together, and all within their own home if necessary – very pertinent in the current climate and beyond.

The app differentiates from what currently exists in 2 primary ways:

Firstly, it is the first app specifically catered to families, covering all 3 fundamental elements of wellbeing, exercise, nutrition, and mental health.  Within each category is a variety of challenges and activities, appropriate for both children and parents. These range from simple workouts to more innovative challenges with different difficulty levels and time taken to complete them. This range of activities means the app can adapt to a busy family lifestyle and diverse needs. This allows families to easily implement health habits into their routine to achieve their desired health and effortlessly spend more quality time together.

Secondly, the app combines health activities with gamification through an engaging personal avatar that tracks their progress. This enables the family members to visualise the positive impact their healthier lifestyle is having on them, providing a fun and motivation experience to improve wellbeing as a family. Keeping everyone’s character healthy = keeping the family healthy! Additionally, to further motivate each family member, the app also contains a simple and engaging rewards system. Each time you successfully complete a challenge you gain a seed, collect multiple seeds in a row and you can earn a wellbeing flower! The aim is essentially to grow and collect as many wellbeing flowers as possible while enhancing your own health and happiness.

As we all know having a healthy family unit is incredibly important. When a family spends more time together and keeps a healthy routine, they tend to be much happier.

Benjamin and William say that “while there are a significant amount of health and fitness resources to help individuals, we have recognised a lack of solutions and support available to families. The current lack of solutions to this problem can result in children becoming disinterested to engage in healthy activities, and with parents having numerous responsibilities and limited time, it can be a challenge to implement essential health habits into a family routine.”  

From this realisation, they believed it was time to fill this gap in the market and provide the tool families deserve to help them stay healthy and happy.

After a full year of extensive market research, they have been able to gain invaluable insights from talking directly with children and parents. “Through this customer-centric research approach, we built numerous prototypes, to test our assumptions and allow families to give us feedback to develop a compelling concept. In turn, the combination of our passion for health, helping others and our research has led us to leveraging modern technology to provide this simple and engaging mobile application with one objective in mind – help children and parents collectively achieve their desired health in a fun and convenient way.”

The app has had very encouraging feedback from both children and parents:

Parent’s feedback;

“This is a great idea and would have been amazing when my kids were younger. I searched for similar at the time and never found anything like this”

“I love this idea, my girl is 6 and she loves anything that may be a challenge!”

“Translating the health of the app-user into a facial expression is a great way to motivate the user to care for themselves”

“I really like the selection of challenges. Cleaning or climbing upstairs is something you do every day without realising the benefits”

Children’s feedback;

“I think it is really cool to take care of your own character, and it has definitely motivated me to be healthier”

“This makes improving my health fun and not so boring sometimes!”

“Downloaded the app 15 minutes ago, we have completed something out of each category. I think the workout 1 is the most I’ve been able to happily get my 5-year-old to move during lockdown. Also the food lucky dip he has just happily eaten an apple. He’s already asking what else we can do next. Really enjoying it so far. “Yep I’m enjoying it” – George 5 years”

What was your biggest challenge?

“One of the biggest challenges so far has been funding for the project. While we are very driven individuals, we have only recently graduated university and lacked the start-up capital we needed for this amazing project. That is why we set up our Kickstarter campaign, to present our idea to the public and get people as excited about it as we are. Fortunately, the campaign got amazing support and we achieved 115% of our funding goal.”

“Another challenge we face concerns choosing features to include in the app to further its development. We want to make sure we are providing families with exactly what they need and want to achieve their wellbeing goals, so making sure the correct features are included is very important to us. While we have conducted extensive research on this, there is still room for more improvement by testing not just what features will be included but also how they are integrated to provide families with maximum value.”

How does it feel to have launched the app and secured funding?

“We were completely blown away by the community involvement in our app, as well as the belief in us and this project. Securing 115% of our funding goal was amazing and we did not take it lightly!”

“Since then, we have worked very hard to create something that truly helps families and that we would be proud of. To have all this hard work come to fruition and get the reactions we have already had from parents and children feels amazing. It is a very fulfilling feeling to see and be told by your own customers about the positive impact that we are making on their lives.”

“One of the most exciting things for us is that we are only at the very beginning of this exciting journey and we are only going to improve what we provide from here. We cannot wait to introduce the app to more and more families to help them achieve the health and happiness they have always wanted.”

What are your hopes for the future?

“Our ambition is to be the go-to, trusted platform, families can easily access to effectively improve their health in an enjoyable way. Offering a simple solution to a large problem.”

“We also hope to create partnerships with schools, as well as local gyms, to reach and positively impact tens of thousands of families on a global scale. On a personal level, we cannot wait to continue positively impacting families lives and get more people healthier and happier. At the moment we are only able to work on this part time so getting funding to enable us to have this as our full-time work would be amazing. These are our goals over the next 12 months.”

Find out more on the family wellbeing website.

Challenging male dominance through the substantive representation of women: the case of an online women’s mentoring platform

Posted on

A new research article that analyses ‘alta‘ an online mentoring platform for women in aviation has been published by Susan Durbin, Professor in Human Resource Management at UWE Bristol, Stella Warren, Research Associate in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre at UWE Bristol and Ana Lopes, Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Newcastle University (UK).

Susan Durbin is also a board member of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network 14, Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State. Her research fields are women working in male dominated professions and gendered careers.

Stella Warren has a background in applied social research. Her research topics include social marketing and the understanding of psychological pathways for behaviour change in health; gender and inequality in organisations; the gender pay gap; and women working in male-dominated industries.

This article analyses the design of an online mentoring platform—for women by women—in a high‐technology, male‐dominated UK industry: aviation and aerospace. Based on interviews with professionals and managers, they analyse the journey of the women involved and contribute to the understanding of the role of women (individually and collectively) in challenging gendered norms in a male‐dominated industry through the theoretical lenses of ‘critical actors’ and ‘critical mass’. They combine these concepts, usually seen as mutually exclusive, to explain the success of the online platform. This shows how a small number of self‐selected critical actors represented, listened and responded to the needs of the women in their industry, thus achieving the substantive representation of women. They also argue that while critical actors were key to its inception, the mentoring platform now needs a critical mass of women to ensure its success. You can read the article in full online.

Find out more about alta in their recent case study about the importance of mentoring platforms, especially relating to the corona-virus pandemic. Stella Warren also took part in our Future Impact Webinar series to talk about supporting women in male-dominated industries which you can listen back to online.

Case study: Jerry Barnor, BA(Hons) Banking and Finance

Posted on

Jerry Barnor is a final year BA Banking and Finance student studying at UWE Bristol.

I always knew I would study Finance at University, it’s something that I’ve always been interested in. I would regularly follow the financial news and read articles about inflation and interest rates and how this affected the economy. It was fascinating to me even though at that time, I didn’t fully comprehend what it all meant.

As I’ve progressed through my course this has all fallen into place and I have a much deeper understanding of the subject matter. I still continue to follow the financial news the difference now is that it makes complete sense to me.

Friends, finance and facilities

My time here at UWE has been really good – I’m close with all my classmates and the teaching and staff have been great. Very different from what I was used to previously (at college). There’s a good mix of lectures which focus on both theory and practical application. I’ve been involved in debates and presented both individually and as part of a group. This was something I had never done before. I’ve also been involved in reflective essays critiquing my work to understand how this could be improved.

“I’ve made some very good friends both in and out of class and I’ve taken advantage of the facilities such as the Bloomberg Trading Room. The data you have access to is incredible and has been valuable to support my studies, in particular with writing my dissertation.”

From Bristol to Barcelona

The great thing about UWE is there’s always something going on. And I had heard about an event called Go Global. Go Global is an opportunity for students to work on a short-term internship in a different country.

There was a position at a tech firm in Barcelona which I applied for and got the job! The firm specialised in gaming which is something I know about (being an avid gamer myself).

The placement was over two months in the summer and through Go Global and Erasmus I was given a bursary of £1,500 which helped finance my flights and accommodation.

The role was quite varied, I was working in the marketing department supporting recruitment of new clients. This involved writing emails and setting-up meetings. I was also lucky enough to attend some of these meetings and present to prospective clients. I would create estimates, getting the balance of each pricing model depending on the needs of each client, which was a great way of bringing my financial knowledge to the role.

Being in a working environment you learn so much. I feel I had a good grasp of different software (Word, Excel etc), but using this in a real scenario was very different! I feel like I’ve learnt a lot.

“Taking part in the Go Global scheme was such a fantastic experience and I made new friends who I’m still in touch with now.”

Team Entrepreneurship case study: Abbie and Organiko

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Home-working during COVID-19

Posted on
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.

Creative ways to take a short break

Posted on

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.