Business Impact Culture

In our experience, throughout the years, one of the most neglected aspects in organisations working for social good is planning and managing internal impact. When working in an environment where the financial aspect is secondary to the social one, too often employees, motivated to create positive social impact, slip into burnout, have guilt, frustration and stress related to failure or mistakes they make professionally as they work not only to provide substance for their lives but also towards a great goal. The greater goal often translates into greater pressure and being willing to work more, or for less compensation than is fair or healthy. Thus on top of including mental health sessions such as “how to take care of ourselves while taking care of others” in our youth activist policy lab we made sure to create a very well defined, monitored and measured Impact Business Culture with three main aspects:

Demographics – we ask ourselves not just are we truly open to employing a diverse group of people (gender-wise, ethnicity-wise but also people with a mental or physical disability) but also what kind of working conditions are necessary to be truly open and inclusive and not just tick-the-box inclusive. What are the invisible, hidden obstacles for employing marginalised individuals, individuals struggling with issues that make it almost impossible to gain regular employment?

Workload – as our societies and our worlds speed up, so does our professional communication and workload. As technology revolutionizes information in our pockets it brings work closer to home and into our family lives. This is a great risk for mental health and stress-related illness. We are testing several concepts to prevent burnout and stress such as working hours being 6 hours per day plus 1 hour of planned unplanned work. Planning for 6 hours of work a day and leaving one hour to resolve piled up work, or to help, within the company or in the community with pro bono projects allows us to keep the stress levels down but also to protect ourselves from being overloaded and not able to be agile and flexible for those who need us. Additionally, we forbid work-related communication between 9 am and 4 pm and during the weekends unless there is an extraordinary circumstance (such as if we are running an all-day event) so that we know that time off work is truly that. We make sure, especially for senior staff to de-glorify being busy. We don’t work hard and play hard, we don’t promote being professionally accessible all the time but rather productivity that’s based on health and humanity. We are testing having monthly quite days that are dedicated to reading and discussing the professional issue within the team. Last but not least, we encourage taking sic days and forbid communication during colleagues sic days, with coworkers taking on their work and compiling a briefing to be implemented upon their return. We are also, this year, testing health days, using two days a year to take time off, when we need to decompress for mental health and to be offline.

Process – In our impact business culture we have set up several processes allowing us to ensure a positive social impact within the company. Many of those processes have been described above and are related to the workload. However, and especially in working with youth/juniors, we pay attention to how we deal with mistakes/failure. Entry-level professions have special contracts that encourage them to make mistakes freely and without stress/guilt by a contractual obligation of senior staff to take responsibility and do damage control for junior staff mistakes in relation to our clients or the public. We all make mistakes and in our increasingly visible online culture a disproportionate illusion of professional success is portrayed thus putting on even more pressure on us when we fail. Thus we count on mistakes being made, we let those with vast experience and developed professional self-esteem deal with them and we leave room to then discuss them internally to learn from them and to provide support to each other. We are currently developing special impact team-building activities where we, together, work in a community that needs us or provide each other help with tasks in our lives outside the office. We make sure to dedicate time to encouragement, support and open and honest conversations about our work relationships and our work environment.

Implementing these extremely high criteria of impact business culture of course requires a lot of financial resources (and we would like to thank all our clients for placing their trust in us and thus enabling us to test and implement positive social impact internally) as well as time. POssibly more than anything it requires dedication and planning, evaluation and measurement, which we do, along with our external impact measurement, on biannual bases:

Sector Aspect Variables Ponder Final estimate
Internal Impact Demographics No. of women
No. marginalised
Salaries (internal comparison and social comparison)
Workload Working 6 +1 hours
Work/Life balance
Flexible work time
Quite days
Health leave
Process The right to make a mistake
Coworker support and communication
Impact Team Building
Environment Sustainable work environment and transport