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How Pragmatic has coped with rapid growth #005

How Pragmatic has coped with rapid growth #005
How Pragmatic has coped with rapid growth #005


Podcast Guest: Tom Chute

In this episode we speak with Tom Chute from Pragmatic, a growing agency based in Brighton in the UK.

The agency has grown very rapidly, fast becoming one of the largest UK WordPress focused agencies.

Growing an agency so rapidly brings with it some unexpected situations, and that is the focus of the podcast today.

We chat with Tom about the structure of the agency and how they try to make it a place that their staff like to work at.

We also explore how the company has had to tackle issues like allows employees to have extended time off on mental health grounds. This process was a learning curve for all involved.

There’s also a discussion about how they are trying to make the office a healthy place to work.

Perhaps the most interesting take away from this is the idea of a ‘open source’ agency. A central resource of non-competitive resources that all agencies can share in order to promote happier, healthier working environments.

Interviewed by Nathan Wrigley.

We hope you enjoy the show, please do subscribe on iTunes or Spotify. We’re always looking for feedback, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do reach out.

And remember… Together we can #PressForward

Podcast Details

Nathan Wrigley: 00:19 Welcome to episode five of the WP&UP podcast. We’re so glad that you’ve joined us. If this is your first time listening to the podcast, you might be wondering what WP&UP is all about. Well, we’re a charity working in the WordPress space trying to support our community. Our help is freely available@wpandaarp.org or you can call +44 20 33 22 10 80 this support is available for all sorts of reasons. It might be that you’d like support with your business, your skills, or possibly with your mental or physical health, whatever the reason might be. Please reach out. Often we don’t like to admit to ourselves that we need support. We carry on and hope that things will just go away if we ignore them or just work harder. Admitting to ourselves that we’d like some support is one thing, but admitting it to others can be another greater challenge. Nathan Wrigley: 01:41 One of the aims of the podcast is to bring you stories from the community who have been through these things before. They’ve come to realize that speaking to someone about what they’re going through can help. These stories can be very personal, but they shine a light on subjects all too often left in the dark. Perhaps some of the areas that we cover this week are something that you can identify with. You might be facing some of the same events. Of course, it might not be you. It could be somebody that you know, a friend, a relation, a colleague. The point is that by sharing these stories and shining a light on them, we make you aware that it’s okay to open up about these things and maybe even seek out some support from WP. And up as of the recording of this podcast, we’ve provided nearly 800 hours of mentorship and amazing 3,300 hours have been donated by the many people who are now volunteering for WP&UP. So we’re very serious about supporting the WordPress community, but we’ve just got started. If you’d like to help WP&UP financially, then please visit WP and.org forward slash give if you would like to get involved in WP&UP then please visit WP&UP.org forward slash contact or look for the social links in the footer of the website. Sponsorship is also an option and sponsoring WP&UP is a great thing to do. You’ll be supporting the important work that we’re undertaking and you can also be featured on the podcast like this. Nathan Wrigley: 03:42 The press forward podcast is brought to you today by Green Geeks. Green geeks offers an awesome managed web hosting platform that’s built for speed, security and scalability while being environmentally friendly. Enjoy a better web hosting experience for your WordPress website, backed by 24 seven experts support and we thank green geeks for their support of the press forward podcast. Nathan Wrigley: 04:12 Okay, so today we have Tom Chute from Pragmatic on the podcast. Pragmatic is a WordPress agency based in Brighton in the UK. Go back just 10 years and Pragmatic did not exist, but now it is one of the largest agencies in the UK employing over 40 people. Many of those employees are distributed all over the world. As you may know, WP&UPs support is divided into the four health hubs. They are mental health, physical health skills, health and business health. Today we touched primarily on business health as we learned from Tom about some of the areas that need to be considered when growth starts and you’re not familiar with what you can do and what you must do. It’s not been plain sailing for Pragmatic. There were bumps in the road as you might expect heading into uncharted territory with your business can leave you concerned and unsure about what the best course of action might be. Perhaps this story will inspire you and give you some ideas. If you’re facing similar growth in your business, maybe there are lessons that you can learn from the way that Pragmatic handle things. I started by asking Tom to give me some context as to what the Pragmatic agency is, how large it is and where the team are all base. Tom Chute: 05:43 Yes. A Pragmatic is a 50 person agency down in Brighton. Um, obviously focusing on WordPress, but we do projects in anything that the client needs really were where we can’t do it internally. We’ll get contract is in to help, um, but yet focused on WordPress, predominantly in house teams. So team and here in Brighton. I think probably about 90% of the teams here in writing, whether we’ve got some other remote people as well who part of the team in um, Spain and uh, in, in far flung places, exotic places at Norwich as well and challenge where we’ve got not a fully distributed team and not a in how teams. So one of our meetings we’ve got to be remotely accessible, well be trying to do that by default, but it’s something that I know a lot of people try and avoid, um, is having a mixed team of, of remote and non remote, but we’d be doing the right, we service all kinds of clients from small local companies right the way through to a big enterprise and international brands such as a Bacardi and sage. Tom Chute: 06:45 And to do that, we deliver projects primarily in agile using scrum methodology. I found out about Pragmatic when I was running a charity in Brighton and I’m Dave, who’s the CEO, was working out of his bedroom on his own. And that was only nine, 10 years ago. So, um, I think the actual company started, it’s about eight years ago, um, with Dave on his own. And then I joined the company just over five years ago when I was four people. We’re now up to about 48. So it’s been quite rapid growth and not without challenges but you know, growing pains and sort of see us as a, we’re now in sort of Postgrad. If we were, if we were a a human, we’d have done uni gone for the awkward teenager phase and we’re now sort of in Pr Postgrad, uh, you know, um, phase learning new things and applying it to the real wide world. Nathan Wrigley: 07:37 So you can see that Pragmatic have certainly grown and grown rapidly. How do you do that? Where do you look for inspiration when you’re not sure what the best course of action for the agency is? Was there a methodology, a manual if you like, something that they followed to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand? Tom Chute: 08:01 I love to say we followed a strict plan, uh, but you know, what we did was set a five year target five years ago and surprised in the end it was pretty ambitious. It was to be one of the largest agencies specializing in WordPress in the UK, if not Europe. And um, that was kind of our big hairy goal her that we set and we had some really good mentors along the way, you know, people who’ve been successful in running agencies and um, they’ve helped keep us on track. But really it was just having that big target that we were going to go for. Um, as a, as a team and, and having, you know, a CEO in Dave who was incredibly driven to get us there, but no sort of template that we use. But you know, I think everyone’s got to try it and learn it themselves rather than to follow a template because you’re going to, everyone’s different in, in the agencies and temptation to put models or frameworks onto things and, and sticks them too rigidly. I think it’s important to have a little bit of flex and learn things your own way. Nathan Wrigley: 09:01 Why don’t we think about agency growth? My first thought so probably the same as yours. Growth means more clients, more stuff, more cashflow, but that can’t be all there is to it. I wondered if there were aspects of growth that were unexpected things that the business now has to do but it did not need to do when it was much smaller. Tom Chute: 09:29 Yeah. I think one of the trickiest things we’ve experienced is, you know, when you grow from a team of three or four p people to 40, there’s huge change in how you do things and processes and the sort of the stuff that goes on belief to surface around the culture of the business. And I’m trying to keep that is really tough. Especially when people are changing. You’re bringing new people in and everyone’s got a different way of doing things. And um, all culture really is a group of people acting together and doing behaviors, uh, together. And I’m trying to keep that the same as what it was when there was three people. When there’s a lot more people, it’s just really tough. So that sort of stuff goes on, bubbling away below the surface and there’s no magic wand you can cast to just say, right, this is how we’re going to do culture now. Tom Chute: 10:16 You know? So actually, you know, there’s lots of smaller behavioral changes or, or keeping, you know, maintaining those behaviors and rituals that you keep doing every week to, yeah, not, not, not sort of one thing I can think of this bubbling away, but you know, just looking after the people, it’s, it’s becomes more and more important as you’ve got more people. The single most important thing I think in, you know, in, in terms of being able to scale. There’s a lot of stuff that you learn as you go and it’s okay to be a little bit flexible with it. You know, how you treat people and how you know how you are as an agency can be quite flexible when you’re, when you’re starting out. But obviously when you get to a certain size, you put it in the way you’re doing things, you’re going to draw more attention to yourselves. Tom Chute: 11:01 As you become bigger, you’ve got to be a bit more sophisticated with the way you do things. So everything from the way you’re running projects, you know, looking down the scope because you can’t have scope creep when there’s lots of you doing that cause it adds up to quite a lot. So it’s really important that you’ve got processes in place to keep that sort of stuff in line. But then likewise, you know, if you’ve, if you’re employing people, there are literally laws that you have to follow. Um, you can’t, you can’t be flexible with those. And I always get in trouble. So they’re, they’re, they’re things that they to, to protect your workforce. So if you’ve got employees, you’ve got an ego, things like, uh, statutory, sick pay, lots of legislation around what rights the workers have to want to get to talk to legal ease. Tom Chute: 11:42 But you know, there’s lots of things you’ve got to, you’ve got to follow. It does seem quite scary and actually a lot of the time when you, you are, you’re talking to, you know, legal professionals, Dave and that’s their job. You know, knowing everything about the law is their job so you’re not going to know it all. But having some good advice is, really, really important. Having an HR advisor who, someone who knows the law inside out and can give you really good advice is so important. We haven’t always been lucky with that. We’ve had some advice in the past, which wasn’t actually correct and then it got us into a real mess because it is so sensitive. You know, you could end up in an employment tribunal, you know, um, in, in court if you, if you’re mistreating employees, however well intentioned you are actually, you know, making sure you’re following the law to the letter is really important. Nathan Wrigley: 12:31 If you start out small and grow larger, then there’s inevitably going to be a balance to be struck between the needs of the employer and the needs of the employee. Some areas of the business are governed by the law. There are things that you’re obliged to do. But then there are other areas where the employees have more flexibility, more scope to offer additional perks. This must be a hard scale to balance. You need to protect the business, but at the same time you want to keep your employees happy and productive. Tom Chute: 13:09 What’s in the or what’s in the, um, employment law around, you know, things like sick pay and redundancy pay and all this sort of stuff is, is sort of minimum. And, um, we try and always exceed that in so where statutory sick pay, uh, is not a lot. Um, and that kicks in when someone’s been off after I think it’s three days and they are entitled to statutory sick pay. We pay, you know, a few, quite a few more days than that full pay because we understand that, you know, that could add to your stress and, and actually, you know, um, your wellbeing if you’re not getting paid. And it’s one of the reasons why you get, you know, you do go employed rather than a contract cause the freelancer because you do get that extra security and reassurance that you’re going to get paid if you’re in, even if you do have a couple of days off sick. Tom Chute: 14:03 So, um, it’s about sort of using the statutory requirements as a minimum and then, and then building on that to build up your own policies but also making sure it’s really clear because the law is really clear. But it’s also really hard to understand sometimes, you know, if you’re looking through these documents, employment law documents that, you know, they’re really full of legalees. So making it really clear for your employees what what’s expected and what they can expect helps take away that sort of angst and ambiguity in, in the past where we’ve had HR issues, making sure our policy is really clear is one thing. It hasn’t always been the case. You know, we’ve had to rewrite, rewrite our policies, have a few times over the years just to make sure we’re covering all bases. That’s not to say we’re trying to stitch up employees. It means we’ve tried to remove any ambiguity and remove that spirit of that. It could be misunderstood. So really, really important to to have those clear, clear policies and make sure that people understand them. Nathan Wrigley: 14:58 Being an employer involves a lot of work. You have to make sure that it’s clear what the business expects from its employees and vice versa. One of the primary vehicles for communicating those expectations is through policies. Maybe not the most exciting things to write or amend, but vital for getting everyone in the company. On the same page. I asked Tom if Pragmatics policies were set in stone or did they need tweaking from time to time, uh, situations in the company or rose. Tom Chute: 15:34 I think that’s really important. You know, you could, you react to things as they’re going on, but also trying to use those as examples and, and, and case studies for how you can improve things. So where he’s had situations, incidents, whatever challenges, we’ve tried to learn from that really quickly. And you know, as a relatively small business, you know, it was, there was still only tens of people, not hundreds of thousands of people. We can be quite agile and our reaction. So if a recent example is where someone has own employee has been off, um, with um, mental health, uh, issues, and we’ve then taken action pretty swiftly to adjust how we treat these people. So if the policy’s quite, as I said, one thing we could, okay, right, how can we improve this? What can we learn from this experience? So yes, quite reactionary, but also doing what you think’s best at the time. Tom Chute: 16:27 Making sure you’re sticking to your policy, but also being flexible enough to say, actually, well, you know, in our policy it says we have like one or two return to work meetings with people when they’ve been off sick. But actually how about we do, you know, an extra one or two or, you know, why don’t we actually ask the person what they would like to try and remove that? The really rigid approach, which isn’t personal to that individual. You can’t change anything that statutory. So that’s, that’s just, that would just be in your policy by default. But, um, what you can do is change the terms that are in your policies. So, and that’s pretty easy to do. But for certain things, it’s really important that you make sure that employees are aware of the changes and there’s a consultation period if it’s something that’s actually going to really impact them. Tom Chute: 17:12 But often, and know I’m certainly not an employment lawyer, so you know, always seek, always seek professional advice. But, um, I would say that, you know, you’re often is the case that your contract is the contractual document and it references the policies in that. So they’re, the policies can change, but there, as long as it says that in, in, in your original contract, you know, it might say something along the lines of the employee must follow. The employer’s policies are set out in the handbook, which can change from time to time. Um, and that is, that is the case in our ones. But, you know, it’s, you make a change to someone’s, uh, policies, which impacts them. Uh, and it’s negative and you know, actually they feel that they’ve been muscled out of the business for whatever reason. You know, you’ve, you’ve, you’ve said something that’s actually affected their ability to do their job well, they feel that, you know, that you’re actually trying to muscle them out and they got a case to, you know, bring you to, to, to justice over, you know, an employment tribunal and say they’ve been constructively dismissed. So you’ve got to be careful when making those changes to the, to the documents because, you know, you don’t want anyone to sort of feel that you haven’t been listened to or consulted before changes them, impacting them. Nathan Wrigley: 18:22 Given that there’s no template to follow for growing your agency, I was interested in with a Pragmatic, had relied on their own intuition when tough choices needed to be made or have they reached out to other people, mentors, friends to seek some guidance. Tom Chute: 18:41 We had a mentor was still do actually a business, a guy called Si Conroy, um, who’s a friend of the big business. I think he was a client back in the day, but um, and he’s provides coaching to the leadership team. I think what happens quite frequently in these kind of fast growing agencies is that the people that are in the company from the beginning or near the beginning of that myself grow with the company, you know, you bringing someone on to do something and as the company grows they get more experience and you know, you grow with the growth of the company and because of that, it’s really important that you say to have a mentor or people you can call on to sanity check what you’re doing. Um, provide, you know, if they might be validating something you’re, you assume inputting to, you know, quite big changes. Tom Chute: 19:32 That is, that’s really important to get some, you know, what you think might be really good idea they could have gone through as someone who’s had that experience in it in the winter growing agency. So yeah, if you can get, surround yourself by people who’ve done it before, definitely do that. You know, there’s, there’s a number of mentor group is out there that offer it. It can be quite expensive. So make sure you pick a good one. Again, you can get a referral from someone who’s used that. Everybody good supplier or being kind of really good experience with a business mentor. Yeah. See if he can see if you can get a contact because it, you know, you don’t want to get advice for someone that’s not to it. Nathan Wrigley: 20:07 The increased burden of bureaucracy that a growing agency faces can be enough to put some people off. There’s a policy for this and a policy for that and somebody possibly you has got to write them all. It occurred to me that there might be a better way, a more open way, and perhaps we could open source some of this burden and share its creation after all, much of it’s of a noncompetitive nature and we’re all just reinventing the wheel, writing the same documents over and over. Would Pragmatic support this idea? Tom Chute: 20:47 Yeah, so I think I’m a big believer in the, uh, in, uh, the collaboration rather than, you know, competing for just because you haven’t to be another agency. We worked with a number of third party partners. Um, providing assistance to them when they, they need it. But I really liked the idea of, of uh, you know, the open source and this I think is one of the things is the these policies, you know, once you’ve got these clear, they are literally like a Bible for you and did you follow them? You can’t really go too far wrong. So as I was mentioning before, you know, when you’ve got, when you’re learning from these experiences that doesn’t go in back into policies often. And if something that you shared that policies and you’ve updated them, their lights be able to date, um, for the people who’ve you’ve copied them. So some sort of shared open source approach to the best practice around this, the issues that they’ll be paying up advocates for a thing. It would be really, really useful. Nathan Wrigley: 21:43 As I mentioned at the start of this podcast, WP&UP has for health hubs, business health, skill, self, mental health and physical health. My conversation thus far with Tom had mainly been centered around business health. And so I wanted to move things on towards the way that a large agency accommodates matters under the mental health banner. How does a modern agency deal with employees who need to have time off for mental health related reasons? How does Pragmatic support them? Tom Chute: 22:21 The key thing I’ve learned personally is that everyone’s different. And being empathetic is the most important thing you can be in these situations. You know, you’ve got to understand where that person’s coming from and you might not ever get to that point because you know you’d be, if you haven’t been through it, you won’t know. And um, it’s really important to not assume that something that works for one person who’s going to work for another lens and actually trying to put solutions onto things rather than listening to people and I’m hearing what they’re going through it. You’re not really helping out, you know, what works for you and what you might think is really straight forward and simple actually might be the worst idea possible for someone else. So being empathetic and trying to understand the, it would be bloody, she kind of what’s going on. Tom Chute: 23:05 And how you might be able to support that and being flexible as well. So while you’d like to have a set of policies, understanding that different people are going to want different things. And like I said before, what might seem like a really good idea, you know, for example, you know, meeting up and going for a coffee off site might be really the worst thing possible. If someone or like choirs coming into the office when you’ve been off with mental health issues, this is might be really a nightmare. Whereas some people might think that’s a really good idea. So it’s just about really trying to understand the individual and, and where they’re coming from and doing what you can to make things as I’m comfortable and what they need rather than what you think they might need. A lot of the policies we’ve had in the past kind of generic. Tom Chute: 23:46 And so when we had the first instance is someone going off with the, uh, with mental health, um, as the, cause we, we were kind of going a bit blind, but we made sure that we did as much as we could to to find out what we could do, but also be really honest with that person and say, you know, actually we, we never had this before. Um, and we’re kind of going into this new, but so help us help you really answered and like let us know what, how we can do things that are going to, you know, help here. Um, yeah, using a generic template is, is okay. But I think what we learned was that actually, like I said before, everyone’s individual, so being able to flex and say, actually, you know, this is, this is how we’re going to do at this time with the clear understanding of what’s actually expected legally, you know, be flexible don’t break the law. Tom Chute: 24:36 If you, you’ve got statutory sick pay to pay. Make sure you know when that kicks in. You know, when, when does someone become a, when do they need to get a doctor’s note? What kind of professional support can you get for that person, you know, to, to help them. Um, and to understand the situation so you’re not everyone is going to be an expert in this stuff. In fact, no one is in our businesses. A few people who you know, are interested in and are advocates for what we’re doing. But no, no one’s a, a professional in this, in this space. And so making sure you’re calling on the right people at the right time is really important and it’s not get out of your depths and try and fumble through because it’s only going to make the person who is suffering suffer more. You know, any kind of, any kind of ambiguity and uncertainty is a stressor. You know, that’s one of the key factors in this stuff. It’s not people not knowing people questioning what’s going on and not knowing the answers and having you fumble your way through it. It’s not going to be great, great assistance there. Nathan Wrigley: 25:33 If someone phones up and says that they have a broken arm or a Migraine, everyone has a very real understanding of what that means. As agency owners, you could easily adapt because you already have expectations about how serious this is and how long it will likely be before the employee will return to work. But with mental health issues, it’s not so clear cut. Each person is unique and Pragmatic. Asking how they can help could be described as bottom up. Letting the employee have some say in how their return to work is implemented. Tom Chute: 26:15 The bottom up stuff is really important. So you know like talking, thinking about empathy, it’s about understanding different people and unless you ask me, different people are working with different people, you’re not going to get their viewpoint on things. So we established a, because of my own awareness that like certainly don’t have the answers for this stuff and actually we’ve got 50 people in the business who might be able to help. So I sort of opened it up and said, who wants to come and join this working group? I know it’s a bit of a formal nine feet, but what we do is meet up every quarter and have a chat about what, what’s going on. You know, how what we’ve done that’s going to sort of try and help this stuff, you know, wellbeing initiatives and um, creating that space for people to feel that they can have a conversation. Tom Chute: 26:59 And a lot of really good stuff’s coming from that. Um, you know, people who’ve been through stuff or in that group, people who’ve wanted to find out a bit more because someone may have confided in him. I mean that group as well. So it really is like a peer support network. And I think biggest thing I’ve learned is that actually it’s okay to talk about this stuff. It’s okay to, you know, better than okay is this, is, it should we should actively be encouraged because then it takes away that stigma and the risk that someone’s sitting there not talking about it. That’s the worst thing that can happen. That’s why I know when you’re not in an agency, things like that, WP&UP are so important because people just need to get those people to talk to. Nathan Wrigley: 27:36 Of course, Pragmatic is a business and it needs to keep producing websites in order to survive. I asked Tom the uncomfortable question about whether or not the company had given any thought to what they would do if someone’s mental health support needs were ongoing and a return to work was not yet likely. Tom Chute: 28:00 Whatever you do is that relies on there being a business. So if, if you know, do you have got the bottom line to, to, to think about? Of course. You know, we all want individuals in the business to be a happy, to be doing their best work, to be given a space and tools to do that. If someone’s having these kinds of mental issues or you know, long term sickness issues, they’re not going to be happy and actually in at some point, depending on what the issue is, you’ve got to actually have to have that conversation at some point and say, you know, we might be when they’re, they’re bad, but you’re not doing anyone a favor by not having that conversation. You know, if the work that doing is causing them, you know, it’s not suited for their personality or you know, they’re not having a good time doing it, you’re not doing them a favor by not actually discussing it in, that’s not necessarily a sickness issue. Tom Chute: 28:48 It’s actually about the individual. What are their strengths and what they’re good at and is this is the role they’re doing that. And if not, perhaps you can find another job for them to do. But having that really having that conversation is important because you don’t want someone to be actually jeopardizing their health by doing a job that’s not suited for them. So, but yeah, but ultimately you want people to be coming back and being really happy. And so the, the real onboarding of the, the person who’s been off is really important. But like you say, if it gets to a point where, you know, we’re talking months and months and months down the line you’d been paying statutory sick pay for at that time, can you get some professional help from an occupational health person to come along and do some uh, work with that person to make sure they are capable of doing this job? You know, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to, you know, the stress that would cause someone. If, if you, if you’re trying to get them to come back to do a job, just aren’t getting met to do for whatever reason. It is unfair to beat, to be putting that pressure on someone. Nathan Wrigley: 29:50 At one time in the past, Pragmatic, we’re able to benefit from the knowledge of a family member. You had a different perspective on how a return to work. Mike, look, hi. Asked Tom to tell me more. Tom Chute: 30:06 Yeah, so take your case. You know, we’re lucky to be, they haven’t had too many people go off this kind of stuff, but it’s something that’s always on our minds and so maybe go could uh, keep an eye out for it. But one of the cases we had someone was actually we’re doing the reaching out and making sure we were in contact. We realized that this person was thinking that they needed to come back to work because of financial reasons and they were friendly. A lot of pressure actually it was only for a conversation with the, that we’re a family member that we understood the gravity of the situation. And I think it was, I’m not sure what the person that approached me directly or if we were, we were past the contact details. I can’t remember exactly, but it was a, it was a, it was a real help to have someone who was not in their business and knew this person really well to say, I think what we’re doing here is adding more and more pressure and um, well it’s, it’s really great that you guys are keeping the job open for this person. Tom Chute: 31:05 Actually, I think we need to look a little bit more fundamentally here and say, is this going to be right in the, in the short term? And remember what we’re talking about here is not permanent things. And it might be that someone can have a bit of time off. And actually the F if you take the stress of actually you’ve got to come back in and as soon as you fit, if you take that away and say, you know, actually perhaps it is best if you have a longer period off and maybe a break from this kind of work and come back and see if there’s something else that you can do. It’s just, but often that for the person in this situation, you don’t know what kind of pressures they’ve got. So speaking to a family member or friend can, can help. Um, obviously you’ve got it in a BP, extremely sensitive around how you’ve got that contact. Last thing you want to be doing is breaking someone’s trust by, uh, you know, approaching someone without their authorization, you know, so it’s really important. That’s the, is dealt with very, very sensitively. Maybe even ask that person, is it someone we could talk to who you know, who might be able to shed a bit of light on the situation from another viewpoint. Nathan Wrigley: 32:07 We can’t all be experts in everything and most of us working in the WordPress space are not likely to have any formal training in the area of mental health. That being said, an agency like Pragmatic might be well poised to buy in experts to train their staff. Was this something that they had plans for Tom Chute: 32:32 as you picked up, I’m certainly no professional or someone that is, you know, we’ve, we’re looking at, it’s getting some training. Um, I think a quick mental health first aiders so people that you can go to and know that they’re going to have a really good understanding of ways you could, different ways of responding to this, this, these kind of issues. We’re really lucky. We also partner up with the University of Brighton doing some mentoring there and they’ve got lots of fantastic resources that we can get access to. So while it doesn’t see that it’s actually free. So we were giving some time for mentoring their students, but we get access to some really good resources. So for smaller agencies or smaller or even people you have working in there on their own, it might be a good way. Have a look at, see what local universities are offering in terms of support. If you, uh, if you help them out they can ask them, give you some resources and materials. So there’s, there’s a few different ways of getting that support. Nathan Wrigley: 33:25 Moving on to physical health. I wanted to know if there were any initiatives that Pragmatic had implemented in order to promote this important area. Tom Chute: 33:38 So I think we’ve always had a flexible or remote working, which has meant that, you know, you don’t have to hit the gym the same time everyone doing a nine to five is so you could do, let’s start a bit later. I think one of the things that’s sort of managed, just stay with the company as it’s grown. There’s been this, uh, kind of freelancer mentality. You know, the reason why people like the freedom and the flexibility of being a freelancer is cause you can, you can go down the gym at 11 o’clock in the morning and, and catch up afterwards or work a little bit later, you know. So we try and bring that to the, to our policies. We do have what we have done. I think that at the moment there of um, were they getting reviewed but we’ve had health and wellbeing, um, benefit, which means people can go to the gym and a claim a bit of money back for that or go to yoga classes. Tom Chute: 34:22 We’ve just moved into a new office and we have lost the showers, which has actually been really quite important to people. So, you know, our old office, however rubbish it was, we did have a couple of, I had a shower. So we, if you, if you’re getting people to go out and do runs or cycling and things like that at lunch time or before work, having someone where they can, you know, shower for afterwards is actually really important. So we’re looking at getting that sorted. And I’m afraid to say if you look too nice in that cupboard at the moment, his foot of usual suspects. So I think we’ve, while we do have fruit and a this kind of stuff, yeah, it has got crisps and stuff like that. So looking at that as well as is this something we could do? Nathan Wrigley: 35:02 Some people are very disciplined and take a much needed time to get out of that chair and get away from the screen. Even a short screen break can be very beneficial. Perhaps we need someone in our offices to tell us to do this so that we don’t get to the end of the day and realize that we’ve not moved at all. Tom Chute: 35:25 That’s a really good idea. Yeah. I think when you’re working on your own personal office, there’s, I think there’s more risk of you sitting down at your desk on your own and not getting up. But I think here, because there’s quite a few meetings and stuff throughout the day, like they’re actually called stand up. So you do have to stand up. But, uh, you know, so people are passing around the office quite a lot, but then it’s good. I did sort of reminders and things like that. I used to be the pin, the opinion that when people share these kind of reminders and you know, have you done this or have you eaten a bit of fruit today? It’s like, Oh God, it’s been nine. But actually now I’ve realized that you know, is so important. And actually just a little reminder to go and have a walk around the block. You know, we’re about three minute walk from the beach so go and have a look at this. The for it it be, you know, if you’re feeling like bit stressed, you know all these things you can break up, you know, if you’re feeling a little bit down or you know, be here mental block, you know this, all these things you can do. So I am at two now in favor of these little reminders. Nathan Wrigley: 36:25 Turning now to skills accompany that it’s working with large clients will need to have skillful employees, employees who are up to date with the latest industry trends and who have a firm grasp of new technologies. Our industry never stands still. And so I asked Tom if Pragmatic provides time and resources for their staff to keep topping up their skills. Tom Chute: 36:53 So I think there’s, there’s two bits to this. Yes, we really do encourage learning and constant development of yourself. So we’ve got time set aside in the, the weekly, uh, scheduling to do some personal development. Also we do a day a month where you don’t have to work on client work is called Prag lab. So you can work on whatever you want really, as long as it’s sort of linked to, to, to what we do. It might be trying out a new bit of technology. Of course, that’s, that’s something that if you’re a freelancer, you just do that stuff anyway, but you don’t get paid for it or you go, you’ve got to work out. But, so it’s one of, one of the luxuries of being in a large rain. So you can do that stuff. But that I do think with this, you know, every, everywhere now it’s people talking about it was got everyone’s multidiscipline on, they’ve got lots of different skills, are constantly learning a new framework or new language or new process or new model or, and I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly thinking, Oh, I’ve got a bit of a fear of not knowing and getting, and I think it’s that there’s a bit of imposter syndrome isn’t it as well. Tom Chute: 37:55 You know, when you start thinking about something and you’d look into it a little bit and you got, Oh, there’s actually people already doing this and they do it so well and, and you know, I’ve got to learn this, you’ve got to learn that. So I think it’s about balancing out this desire to learn, but also being focused and saying, actually, I’m happy to, to learn this one thing and go really deep on this and not feel the constant desire, like a magpie to fly off to the next shiny thing. We do try and give people the opportunity to try out different things at different technologies. But what tends to happen is people become very good at doing, you know, like a particular area. So, um, yeah, it’s, it’s an, and that’s really, you know, that can get really boring if you’re just doing the same thing on the same projects. Tom Chute: 38:39 Um, I, oh, so look after the recruitment here. And one of the key things that people tell me when they’re doing when they’re moving job is that, uh, I’ll always get put on the x task too. I always get put on the, you know, the backend tasks and I really want to try it up if javascripts or, you know, there’s, so I think what we try to, I think we’ve got people looking out for that and if anyone makes a request, we do try and accommodate it. But you know, like you said, you’re going back to the whole business thing. Sometimes you’ve got to sort of just say, well, you know, not everything is going to be what you want to be doing, but as long as you can sort of take learning from whatever you’re doing, you could. And what about trying to automate those things that you’re doing, you know, every, all the time pushing, pushing everyone to, to try new ways of doing things is important, but, and giving people the opportunity to do so. Nathan Wrigley: 39:23 I really enjoyed chatting to Tom and I got a great insight into the inner workings of a large WordPress agency. I wanted to give him a chance to take the floor and let him sign off in whatever way he wanted. Tom Chute: 39:41 Yeah, I think sort of congratulate and big up WP&UP for all the fantastic stuff you’re doing I think is really, really important to have these conversations. I really enjoyed this, but also talking with people internally and in the community about what’s going on in this space. And I think the more we can do about this stuff and the more we can collaborate, I think this is an area where we can’t afford to be in competition. We need to collaborate with everyone. Where would that be? Other agencies, individuals, our clients even, you know, and, and, and raise the awareness of this stuff, but also share best practice. So, um, you know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll be speaking to our working group about how we can open source more of the stuff we’re doing and try and get some other agencies who are doing other good things I know to, to contribute to that stuff and anyone who wants to contribute on it. And um, hopefully that will help. I mean, I think this sort of thing that could have, you know, in the WordPress community, a, you know, the contribution team, um, and treat you like an open source project. Nathan Wrigley: 40:55 Remember the WP&UP is here to help you visit WP and aarp.org or call plus four (420) 332-2108 the press forward podcast is brought to you today by Green Geeks. Green geeks offers a specially engineered platform that gives WordPress users web hosting that is designed to be the fastest, most secure and scalable hosting available in multiple data centers. Their WordPress hosting makes and managing WordPress websites easy with automatic one click install managed updates, real time security protection, SSD raid 10 storage arrays, power, Cassia, and expert 24 seven support to make for the best web hosting experience. And we thank Green Geeks for their support of the press forward podcast. That’s it for this week. Please let us know if you’ve enjoyed the podcast. If you’re finding it useful or helpful, you can reach out to us at wpandup.org forward slash contact. 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