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Working at home versus home working

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A training company is offering companies guidance on how to maximise productivity for those working from home (or home working)

Working at home versus home working – understand the difference? Employers will need to grasp the nuance of each if they are to successfully utilise remote working, be it fully or partly, long term.

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Dr Barrie Kennard

That is the view of Dr Barrie Kennard, head of professional practice at training company Call of the Wild.

While the company has itself successfully transitioned from operating from a very physical environment to a hybrid physical/virtual one, it is now helping other companies do the same by helping managers understand some of the key differences around attitude and behaviour that can impact the productivity of employees.

He notes that since workers have returned from their summer holidays, many will now be back into a work routine. However, the remainder of this year and early next will be different. Many will still be based at home. In view of the length of time many have now been based at home, he argues that perceptions around where they work and how they work has changed over the last 20 months.

According to a recent ONS report, more than 25% of the working population have worked remotely since the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in the UK.

Indeed, Call of the Wild pivoted its own offering away from leveraging the stunning, physical landscape of the Brecon Beacons, where it is based, to inspire learners to embracing the digital world and running its courses virtually. This has now evolved, with the relaxing of restrictions, into a hybrid online and face to face offer.

It designed this online offer in an innovative way, sending participants on some courses physical props to enhance their digital experience and filming real-life scenarios for use in training exercises where participants could select different outcomes based on their decision making.

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In many ways, this benefitted the company. Suddenly, geography was no object, and it has been working with companies in the US and Europe as a result.

But its founders also increasingly realised that not everyone is working in the same way whilst working remotely. And they started to wonder why.

Dr Kennard says the company started compiling intelligence on the different factors that can impact productivity and attitude during home working, while devising solutions and fixes to improve the environment for staff.

To help companies grappling with this same problem, it devised a checklist companies can use with employees and can conduct a free audit for companies looking to maximise the productivity of homeworkers in the long term.

Dr Kennard says: “We started to realise that there are many factors that affect how we work at home. The big thing to start with is the actual physical space available. Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated home office; for many, the dining table or kitchen worktop becomes their work area and that has to be cleared away each day.

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“In this case the work area may be accessed by others, which can be a source of distraction or embarrassment. In the early days of lockdown there was also the issue of home schooling and general childcare that also impacted on how the working day was organised. Many managers and leaders were required to understand the amount of ‘time juggling’ their staff were engaged in.”

But he says that almost 18 months since the first UK lockdown, and since Call of the Wild first started offering its training virtually, attitudes around working from home have changed – and the provision of companies matured. And he is keen to stress an important nuance that has emerged.

“There is a definite attitudinal difference between those who say they are working at home and those who say they are at home working. Could it be that it is the wording used that sets the comparative importance of the activity? Perhaps the phrase working at home suggests working has more importance whereas home working implies a reverse of priorities,” Dr Kennard says.

“It seems that if one is working at home then work is the primary activity for a set amount of time. Other tasks are completed at times to fit in with work breaks or around the set working hours. In contrast, when someone sees themselves as home working, the opposite is the case. Domestic/family tasks take precedence over work.”

He acknowledges that the difference is subtle, and everyone’s circumstances differ. “If families assume that having someone at home who would normally be ‘at work’ means that they are available for family-related activities, they may exert pressure upon the home working family member. This provides a genuine problem of conscience when forced to choose between work and family time. Our audits have really helped to define the demarcation between the two.”

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He suggests the best remedy for this is to actually ‘go to work’. “The journey to work may only be into another room but by setting a mindset of travelling to a workplace it may be easier for everyone in the house to accept that you are at work.”

He also suggests setting regimented work times and break times and taking the time to call colleagues in the same way you would have a coffee chat. And he adds: “The terminology for hybrid working of the future is smart working!” 

(Lead image: Ron Lach / Pexels.com)

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The Secret Hospitality Group provides enterprise education programme to three Swansea schools

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The Secret Hospitality Group is thanking the local community for its support during COVID by providing the Bumbles of Honeywood enterprise education programme to three local primary schools – The Grange Primary School, Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw and Brynmill Primary School.

Created by Swansea-based 2B Enterprising Ltd, The Bumbles of Honeywood is a suite of bilingual resources mapped to the national curriculum to help primary schools embed enterprise skills into their day-to-day learning. It’s delivered in schools via the 2B Enterprising Corporate Engagement Partner programme, which pairs businesses with local schools.

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As Corporate Engagement Partners, members of The Secret Hospitality Group have been visiting The Grange, Llwynderw and Brynmill primary schools to introduce the Bumbles of Honeywood programme and talk to pupils about what it’s like to run a business.

Cultivating entrepreneurship and enterprise skills from a young age has been shown to be of huge value in equipping pupils for their future lives and careers – and it’s now required as part of the national curriculum in Wales.

The Secret Hospitality Group is an example of entrepreneurship in action. It started life in 2017 with one venue, The Optimist in Uplands. In 2019 the company won the tender to run The Secret on Swansea seafront, and since then it has also taken on The Green Room next to Swansea Arena and the iconic Castellamare restaurant at Bracelet Bay.

Now the group has sold The Optimist to focus on landmark locations, creating venues that are as memorable as the views. As the company’s strapline says, “the view is just a bonus.”

The company was founded by brother and sister Lucy and Ryan Hole, who have since been joined by their siblings Amy and Tom. During the COVID lockdowns the team ran a coffee kiosk on the seafront in Swansea and the experience made them feel even more connected with the local community. Now they want to give something back by supporting three local schools.

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“Opening the kiosk was a turning point for us during the pandemic,” says Lucy. “We had such a great response from the community, and they rallied round when the kiosk was vandalised. The kiosk became a real hub and the beach just became alive. Now we want to give back to the community as a thank you for what they did for us during that hard time.”

Lucy and her siblings have chosen to support The Grange, Llwynderw and Brynmill primary schools because they are local to them and they have family links with two of them.

All the Hole siblings attended Brynmill Primary School, as did their father Greg Hole, who has run local news agents including Uplands News for decades. His father and grandfather, who ran the businesses before him, also attended Brynmill Primary School.

“We grew up in Uplands and used to walk through Brynmill Park to get to the school,” says Lucy. “We have really fond memories of the school, and all the teachers knew who we were because generations of the family had been there. It was a lovely school.”

Amy’s children attend The Grange Primary School and the family decided to also support Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw to help bring The Bumbles of Honeywood to a local Welsh medium school too.

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The Hole siblings have gone into each school to meet with the children, talk about their businesses and introduce the Bumbles of Honeywood programme. They have also welcomed children to their businesses so they can learn more about how restaurants are run.

“The children were great,” says Lucy. “They wanted to learn and asked a lot of good questions. They were eager to learn the skills taught by the Bumbles of Honeywood programme: to be confident, brave, kind and strong.”

She and Ryan also enjoyed being able to demonstrate that there are many different paths to forging a successful career: it doesn’t have to include going to university.

“We didn’t excel at school, but I think making pupils aware of the different routes they can take is really important,” says Lucy.

2B Enterprising founder Sue Poole, welcomes their contribution.

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“It’s really important for the children to meet and talk to homegrown talent,” she says. “Lucy and her sister and brothers are local entrepreneurs who show the children what you can achieve if you work hard and support each other.

“It’s about the support you have from your family, your community, with everybody working together, businesses will succeed.

“The Secret Hospitality Group is a young company that started off with one small restaurant in the Uplands and is now opening iconic venues right across Swansea Bay.

“It’s exciting from that perspective, and because of the history of the family, who have been entrepreneurial for probably over 100 years, I think they’re really great role models for young people.”

Lead image: Children from The Grange Primary School visit Castellamare with (L-R) Lucy Hole, The Secret Hospitality Group, Abigail Cooper, Operations Co-ordinator, 2B Enterprising, Mrs Tucker, Teaching Assistant, Ms Suff, Teacher, Mrs Minty, Year 1 & Year 2 Teacher and Mrs Griffiths, Year 1 & Year 2 Teaching Assistant.

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Duo of award wins for Swansea-headquartered Uplands Communications

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Long-established telephony and IT specialist, Uplands Communications, is celebrating a pair of wins at the prestigious Mobile News Awards 2022, where the firm was recognised in the Customer Service and the Reseller with Under 50 Employees categories. 

The firm, which has a 40-plus year history in Swansea, and opened a second office in Somerset this year, was up against some of the biggest names in the mobile industry, going head-to-head with multi billion pound network, EE, in the 5G Application category.

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Paul Hooper, Uplands MD, said: “We are delighted to come home from the Mobile News Awards with two awards and we are particularly pleased that one of these categories is for Best Customer Service.

“These past two years of global disruption for business and for consumers has taught us all how vital it is for firms of all kinds and across all sectors to provide the best quality customer care they can, in order to retain valued custom.

“A very large part of our role as telephony and IT providers is to support our customers with their communications systems, so they are easily accessible and so their interface with their customers and clients is as seamless as possible. 

“Our customers have relied particularly heavily upon us in recent years for this. We were pleased that, when awarding us in the Best B2B Reseller, the judges recognised the fact that, as a relatively small firm, we nonetheless have the expertise to serve everything from multi-million pound concerns to thriving small businesses, while maintaining the kind of small-firm ethos that sees us offer a truly tailored service.

“Being commended in the 5G category is pleasing, too, since this is a service that businesses across the board are getting to grips with and are looking to help them future-proof their operations. Again, Uplands is competing with a field of big-hitters in this field and we are proving to be a great choice to provide this service for our customers.” 

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The Mobile News Awards went ahead in London on Thursday 19 May, with 600 mobile industry guests. Uplands Communications is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.  

The firm specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier. 

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Entrepreneurs urged to attend major Swansea networking breakfast

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Entrepreneurs and budding businesspeople from Blaen-y-maes, Portmead, Penplas, and Cadle are set to get expert advice on securing “professional success and sustainability” at a major Swansea networking event next week.

The Penderi Business Breakfast, which will take place on Wednesday May 25th, is open to small business owners, and those looking to set up a business, from each of these areas collectively known as Penderi.

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Attendees to the event, which will take place at Venue no1 on Carmarthen Road from 8am, will get the opportunity to meet likeminded industry experts and receive vital industry support, information, and funding advice.

The event being run by not-for-profit housing association Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration project, will feature speakers from Focus Futures, Room to Grow, and Swansea Environment Centre. The regeneration project is aiming to positively transform the lives of people living in Penderi, with initiatives including regeneration of its green spaces, and supporting environmentally friendly business growth.

Advice and support around growing a more sustainable business will be discussed by speakers at the event.

Lisa Brown, Economy and Enterprise Lead at Pobl, said she was delighted to be bringing together some of Swansea’s most influential business experts with a host of exciting new entrepreneurs for this event.

She said: “We are thrilled to be hosting this major networking event, which will unite likeminded businesspeople and budding entrepreneurs from across the city.

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“We believe the event will be hugely beneficial for start-ups looking for crucial advice and support, and to enable them to make vital professional connections as they begin to navigate the business world.

“Our speakers will also be sharing vital advice on how to make your business more environmentally friendly and sustainable as it grows, which will be particularly exciting and informative for those in attendance.

“We would like to thank Focus Futures, Room to Grow, and Swansea Environment Centre for taking part in the event and for generously lending their support to the regeneration project.

“We would urge anyone who is interested in attending to register as soon as possible.”

Attendees will have access to parking and will also be treated to breakfast while they network.

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Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project aims to support local people in Penderi and transform their lives by improving green spaces, education, new and existing homes, health and wellbeing, community, economy and enterprise, and energy and decarbonisation. 

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

To register your interest in attending email Lisa Brown at lisa.brown@poblgroup.co.uk

Lead image: left to right) Councillor Andrea Lewis, Joint Deputy Leader-Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Service Transformation; Kate Tiernan, Summit Good; Mark Barber, Swansea City Council Biodiversity Officer; Kate Gibbs, Swansea Community Farm; Kate Davies, Orchard Project, Coeden Fach; Kate McCabe, Pobl. (Image: Pobl)

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