1. The Marketing Store
Ad agency, London
UK employees: 160 | Female: 90 | Male: 70
Most popular benefit: Packages tailored to individual needs
When the pandemic hit, The Marketing Store renewed its commitment to flexible working, and declared lunchtimes, early evenings and Friday afternoons strictly meeting-free. It is this kind of approach that has earned it the top spot in Campaign’s Best Places to Work in the large employer category in 2021, having been placed third in 2020.
Mindful of lockdown stress, its trained mental health first-aiders stepped in with support, including virtual cook-a-longs and TEDTalks. There was also “TMS Share”, a direct line for staff to share concerns anonymously with leaders, while each employee was given £150 to help with remote working set-ups. Its “people team” hosted virtual workshops for managers to ensure they could provide support. Each year, alongside formal goal setting, TMS asks staff to set themselves a “mammoth personal goal”, which the agency helps them to reach. In the past year alone, three books have been published and one podcast launched.
Media agency, London
UK employees: 205 | Female: 117 | Male: 88
Most popular benefit: Equal profits share bonus
Despite the loss of the physical environment and company of colleagues, the7stars strived to maintain its vibe. And although the agency has dropped back to second place after topping Campaign’s Best Places to Work in this category in 2020, it did well with online switches.
Office yoga sessions continued via Teams, and interactive gym memberships were given out. Instead of dogs in the office, dog profiles were sent via email. Instead of the usual Christmas party, staff received Christmas hampers. And it hosted its annual company awards online, featuring video cameos and a magician’s performance.
Since its inception in 2005, the7stars has been run on a “principle of freedom” with an equal profits share, unlimited holiday, a flat structure, flexible working and training for all via the agency’s Effectiveness University.
3. Confused.com (marketing division)
Marketing department, Cardiff
UK employees: 281 | Female: 107 | Male: 174
Most popular benefit: Fun money
“Fun money”, the most popular benefit for Confused.com marketers, is a budget for non-work activities during work hours. Pre-pandemic, this included go-karting, while during lockdowns, it was diverted online for virtual murder mystery or escape rooms, or wine tasting.
In 2020, the marketing department was ranked fourth in this category in Best Places to Work, so it has done well to improve on this during a pandemic. Its long-nurtured culture of reward, recognition and openness has proved pivotal during the past 12 months.
The division also launched a wellbeing taskforce and buddy system to prevent isolation, plus a Confused.com university. In addition, it sent out care packages according to employees’ personal needs and allowed flexibility of working hours to accommodate childcare and minimise mental health implications. It has also encouraged staff to spend 30 minutes each day on something they enjoy and established “Family Time” – weekly family activities such as an online magic
show or virtual aquarium visit.
Ad agency, London
UK employees: 175 | Female: 85 | Male: 89
Most popular benefit: Contribution to gym membership or physical activity
Holding virtual yoga and mindfulness sessions during working hours to encourage teams to take a break proved popular for Croud during lockdown.
It also provided weekly “Crouded House” catch-ups and a virtual chat room “Shouting About Success”, where employees are encouraged to recognise others’ achievements.
Training was provided for all managers to support employees with their mental wellbeing, alongside on-demand access to mental health practitioners via a confidential helpline. The agency also implemented a wellbeing initiative via the Thrive app, to provide access to meditation and relaxation to all employees. Croud banished meetings during lunchtimes and issued the edict that meetings should not take up more than half of an employee’s total weekly working hours.
Branding agency, London
UK employees: 160 | Female: 88 | Male: 67
Most popular benefit: Last Friday of every month off
After noticing that Bulletproof teams were rejuvenated after bank holidays that fell at the beginning of the initial lockdown, all employees were given an additional day off on the last Friday of every month to enable extra time with their families. This worked so well during lockdowns that the agency has introduced it permanently, along with its Wellbeing Forum.
A rule of no meetings between 12pm to 1pm has been used to encourage everyone to get outside at lunchtimes, with walking phone calls being used instead of video calls wherever possible. The agency also ran a Steps Challenge, with the collective aim of walking the equivalent distance to its studios in New York, Singapore, Amsterdam and Sydney.