Work Is Broken

I’m going to start this post off by saying that in my current job I’m the happiest I have ever been at work, probably because it’s kind of a family business, that’s not what has sparked off this post though. Many people will know that in various previous jobs I’ve been extremely unhappy and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

This morning I got an email from Glassdoor about the top 25 places in the UK to work in 2015 (well it’s not 2015 yet, so I think that should really be 2014). If you’ve not heard of Glassdoor it’s like the TripAdvisor for work. People leave reviews of their places of employment.

So without further ado, here is the top 25 with their rating out of 5 stars.

1. Google – 4.4/5 – 2.7k reviews

Ok, so not only are they one of the most popular websites in the UK, they are also the most popular employer. No big surprise really, Google have some unique working practices and they do a lot of HR research and testing I believe.

2. John Lewis 4.3/5 – 89 reviews

John Lewis, renowned for the way they are structured, all employees become partners in the company and hence have a sense of ownership. No doubt this contributes to the rating.

3. Microsoft 4.1/5 8.7k reviews

I’m not really sure what is great about working at Microsoft, but they seem to have some good reviews with many people talking about a good “work / life balance” – so perhaps that is important. On to the next company.

4. Accenture 4.0/5 – 9.3k reviews

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see a product on Amazon that has only 4 out of 5 stars I start to get a tiny bit sceptical and start reading the reviews. Funnily enough people working there appear to complain of a poor “work / life balance” a lot.

5. Jaguar Landrover 4.0/5 – 75 reviews

From what I can tell most people liked the pay and opportunities at this company. I imagine the chance of having a company car is a pretty big bonus too (no doubt they do that kind of thing).

6. J.P. Morgan 4.0/5 – 4.3k reviews

People said in their reviews that training and education was important, opportunities, people and culture. So it sounds like a range of things giving J.P. Morgan a top 10 listing.

7. Three 3.9/5 – 107 reviews

Woah woah woah. Hang on there. 3.9 out of 5? The 7th best place to work in the UK has 3.9 out of 5 on a star rating. I wouldn’t touch a product with a barge pole if it had 3.9 out of 5 on Amazon. You wouldn’t catch me sleeping in a hotel or B&B rated 3.9 out of 5 on TripAdvisor. Ok, well that’s still number 7. Let’s skip to 25 shall we to see how bad things are?

25. Expedia 3.2/5 – 912 reviews

Well there you go folks. Three point two out of five. You may aswell go top yourself now, things are that bad! The 25th best place to work in the UK has 3.2 out of 5. Shocking. So that’s pretty much the best you can expect, but why? Surely this is something that needs to be addressed.

There is a lot wrong with working life nowadays, something does have to give. The various governments talk about our unhealthy lifestyles, but if you have an hours commute, a 40 hour week and kids – when are you supposed to find the time to: relax? Do an hours exercise? Cook proper food? And then to top it off the rest of your time is spent sleeping or working at 3.2 out of 5 or worse.

Unfortunately I don’t have any answers, I guess we should all be looking to Google and John Lewis and taking a leaf out of their book.

My Experience Of Claiming Child Tax Credits

In early September my wife gave birth to my second child, Jack. Shortly after I decided to check if we were eligible for child tax credits, and it turned out we are. So I started to look for the child tax credit form – but it turns out, it isn’t available to download on the web, you have to phone a number.

That’s a bit odd, I thought.

So I phoned them up on my lunch break, after 6 minutes being on hold I decided to give up and phone back when I wasn’t in a rush.

So I started typing this blog post 20 minutes into being on hold to request a form to be sent out. I couldn’t help but think that 20 minutes on the phone is a long time, and if you’re not on some kind of plan it could perhaps cost a fair amount of money. I also thought how stupid it was that they wouldn’t let people just download it online. It just feels like it’s punishing a lot of people who are hard up enough as it is.

After 24 minutes (a little into this blog post) I had my call answered, they requested a few details such as my National Insurance number, date of birth and address and that was it, very quick. A form would be sent out. I asked why they didn’t put the form online – I was told that they had done that, but it was open to abuse.

Open to abuse?, Why make me wait 24 minutes? Surely they could automate the taking of national insurance numbers etc. They automate the receptionist for god’s sake (I’ve had trouble with that before, but that’s a blog post for another day). Or alternatively, why not make people enter those details on a website and then do the verification process (which is done on a computer anyway when you call up) and then let someone download it for free, without having to spend 24 minutes. You could also hard code their details on to the form so it 100% isn’t open to abuse.

I would hazard a guess that it takes 24 minutes because a large percentage of people will either: run out of time, run out of battery power, or become frustrated – thus reducing the tax credits bill for the government.

Yorkshire Warrior 2014

The Run from Hell

You should have all known a blog post about this would be coming.

Last Saturday 12th April, my good friend Dr. Cumbor and I took part in Yorkshire Warrior 2014, a 10 mile obstacle run from hell. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, except there was a LOT of mud!

Registration

We started off at registration, where we had to pin our numbers on our chests and write them on our foreheads – I also opted to add some face camo, which didn’t really have the desired effect, I ended up looking like I was taking part in some festival rather than a warrior…

Once that was done we waited for our wave time, and at about 10 minutes before our start time the warmup began…

The Run

The run started off with some gentle fields, a quick crawl under a cargo net and over a few hay bales, at this point I was kind of thinking “this is pretty easy”. Then came a few hundred metre wade along a river, a bog, a very steep hill and then some fire to jump over – so it quickly got harder. Running when you are soaked through and your covered in mud is a bit harder as it weighs you down.

Some of the later obstacles included an electric fence, a crawl under barbed wire and a 1km run through a pitch black tunnel – I can’t remember much else (I must have blocked it out because it was so horrible!)

Dr C’s GoPro

Dave actually was wearing a chest mounted GoPro camera, and he uploaded this 2 hour footage (sped up):

All For A Good Cause

I managed to raise just over £220 for Epilepsy Action, which was nice. At the time of writing you can still sponsor me, so head on over if you still want to!

Finish

Dr C and myself got a time of 3 hours 9 minutes, to be fair though we did spend a long time queuing, which was a shame.

Dr. C and I after finishing the Yorkshire Warrior 2014

If you haven’t done anything like this before, I’d highly recommend it.

National Well Being

A while back I switched over to Engineered Marketing for my marketing/business related posts, which leaves me this blog for other things.

One thing I’ve been becoming more interested in is politics, since becoming a home owner and a father I’ve started to become more concerned with how our politicians run our country. I’m kind of between parties at the moment after previously voting Conservative I’ve begun to go off them, this is largely because they have made a lot of decisions that I believe to be immoral.

Happiness Is More Important Than GDP

With that said, I watched David Cameron’s TED talk before he came in power, and what he said was very interesting, and I hope he starts to actually do it, although I imagine “politics” will prevent him doing so. For those of you that haven’t seen it, it’s below, in summary he says that we should concentrate on people’s happiness and well being as metrics and not GDP. Totally right.

The Main Issues (as I see it)

So in the last 2 years they have been measuring national well being, you can see the May 2013 national well being release here. There are a couple of things on there that I want to point out and discuss, and these are:

  • Only 60.9% are somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their amount of leisure time.
  • 36% of adults participate in 30 mins of moderate intensity sport, once per week (just once, whereas it should be at least 3 times per week).
  • 78.5% of people are Somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their job (leaving 21.15% not happy in their job, more than 1 in 5).
  • 65.6% of people are somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their health (increasing the strain on the NHS).
  • 18.4% show some evidence indicating probable psychological disturbance or mental ill health (nearly 1 in 5!).
  • Only 60.1% rated their anxiety “yesterday” as medium/low (so 2 in 5 appear to be experiencing high anxiety levels).

Now to me, I believe, that these are all linked in some way.

So here are a few of the things I think could be considered:

Make It Easier For People Of All Ages To Switch Careers

Many people are unsatisfied with their jobs (around 2 in 5), why don’t we make it easier for people to change careers, not just those that are 25 years old or younger. Apprenticeships should be available to older people as well.

If we make it easier for people to switch careers then we are likely to find more people satisfied in their job.

Reduce Working Hours

Why can’t we reduce working hours? Apparently, according to an EU study, after 37 hours per week any increase in working hours by 1% leads to a decrease in productivity of 0.9%, practically cancelling out any increase in productivity. Interestingly, it has also been found that a decrease in working hours does lead to an increase in productivity. France decreased their working hours to a maximum of 35 hours per week, the rest being overtime. They appear to be doing about as well as we are currently in nearly all the economic metrics that I looked at, but I believe the French are probably happier (from personal experience). This publication recommends a 21 hour week, imagine what else you could do with your time!!! With the time saved people will most likely:

  • Be more satisfied in their job (although not a massive increase I think this would increase)
  • Experience less anxiety and stress
  • Will have more leisure time
  • Will have the opportunity to do more exercise if they wish (I currently exercise 5 times a week, but it’s still a real battle with all the other responsibilities I have).
  • Will have more time to recover from the physical stresses of work, such as sitting down all day, doing repetitive work or manual tasks.

Tax Relief For Fitness Classes, Gyms And Personal Trainers

For any money you spend on going to the gym, fitness classes and personal training, provide tax relief. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your health, by providing tax relief on these types of things it’ll help grow the fitness industry and it will also reduce the strain on the NHS (which is reactive, not proactive). Exercise is also proven to reduce stress and depression, so it would help improve some of the other national well being metrics.

Labour Need To Embrace This, Not Ridicule It

Labour, according to the BBC, ridiculed the national well being survey as “statement of the bleeding obvious”, which I think is a backwards step, I think it would be great for politicians to make decisions based on this survey rather than their “gut feeling”, which usually leads to all kinds of mistakes. I think if Labour changed their approach and started looking at this survey more closely they will find the policies they need to win the next election. Hell it beats asking stupid questions such as “Why I’m Labour” (my God, if you don’t know who you are, how can I state that I agree with your beliefs!!!)

Base CRM Contact Form

This came about when I started doing a few lead generation campaigns for my website, I noticed that contact form provided by Base didn’t do two important things:
1. Allow me to record a goal completion in Google Analytics
2. Provide any details over where the lead came from, other than via my website, when adding the deal into Base CRM.
3. Allow me to encourage email signups

This meant, essentially, that I couldn’t attribute any leads or customer value to any particular marketing campaign/source/medium. On top of this I couldn’t encourage email subscription. so I decided to commission a WordPress plugin.

I found Woody (a developer) on Peopleperhour.com, I knew how specific my requirements were so I was very particular about who I hired after having bad experiences with freelancers on Odesk in the past.

Woody did a great job, he runs a company called Stormgate and as you can see he specialises in rapid web development (he finished my plugin in less than 24 hours)!

So I told Woody what I wanted and he got down to work creating my brand new contact form.

Essentially this contact form directly posts the lead into Base, including all the necessary details, as well as the Google Analytics source and medium.

The Google Analytics bit ensures that you can choose a page to redirect to, which can then be tracked as a goal, so that you can keep an eye on things in Google Analytics separately from Base.

Finally it has a tick box that allows the person contacting you to signup to your email newsletter hosted by MailChimp.

I don’t think there are many things out there that do all this, and if you are using Base CRM I highly recommend you try out this plugin.

If you would like to download my plugin you can do so here.

Want to Buy Survey Responses? Check Out Instant.ly

I can’t remember what website I was browsing when I came across instant.ly, but I’m glad I did. After creating a survey and finding it difficult to recruit respondents, I decided I needed to find a survey provider that offered surveys for the UK. Sadly I couldn’t find any, this left me with the following options:

Google Consumer Surveys – released quite recently, it would have been quite good but the questions didn’t allow me to gain qualitative information, only quantative. I almost paid $300, but decided that the data I would get wouldn’t be that useful.

Next I decided to check out Survey Gizmo, which is where I created my original survey, but they didn’t appear to offer paid survey responses as an option (this is a shame as I quite like Survey Gizmo). So I checked out Survey Monkey as well, unfortunately I had to fill out some kind of form (despite the fact I was already registered) in order to get going, this was the weekend so it looked as though I’d have to wait until Monday before even getting access, unsatisfied I started browsing and eventually came across instant.ly.

I was initally attracted by their offer – $100 credit, no questions asked, no catches – it seemed too good to be true, but it turned out it wasn’t. Within 20 minutes I had created a brilliant, quick survey for respondents to fill in, I spent my $100 credit and got 50 people (who I had specified based on certain demographical data) to fill in my survey.

The insight from this was incredible – I had some great comments on what business owners’ main concerns are when it comes to their marketing, I got pricing information on a product by product basis along with turnover and marketing spend information. All for free.

So if you want to improve your business, check it out. It’s US respondents, but depending on your product/service, you should still be able to get some good insight.

Time to Comply With EU Cookie Laws

Disclaimer: This does not constitute legal advice, consult a solicitor or contact the ico if in doubt.

In case you didn’t know already, the EU cookie laws came in May 2011, but the ico have only decided to enforce this from May 2012.

Most of the big companies are complying.  In a nutshell, you’re meant to get permission to put cookies on a visitors computer, unless it is used for the operation of the website, such as a shopping basket cookie.

You can get away with implied consent, according to the ico, but I’d read the guide carefully, as I doubt you can get away with implied consent for behavioural advertising.

If you aren’t yet compliant, I recommend you get it sorted asap.

This post was written on my mobile phone, so please excuse any spelling mistakes!

A New, More Improved Domain Name

Hi all

Just a quick update, I’ve changed domain names after catching davidwhitehouse.co.uk via snapnames.com, it was a bit of a surprise as I didn’t even expect it! Anyways, if you are currently linking to me, you’ll have to make a quick change from www.david-whitehouse.org to www.davidwhitehouse.co.uk.

Or if you have my email address stored in your address book you’ll need to update from [email protected] to [email protected]

I’m still hoping to get whitehouse.co.uk, sadly they didn’t take my offer of £1,000! I’m not sure it’s even worth that, but maybe I’ll get it in time…

If your wondering about how changing domains affects your Google rankings – it doesn’t as long as you follow their simple guidelines.

Joining The IDM

Last month I took the step to further my career by joining the IDM as a member. The entry requirements are quite high, but I was fortunate enough to pass the diploma which allowed me to become a member without having 6 years experience!

I’m a strong advocate of the IDM, the first time I heard about them was after looking up copywriters on Wikipedia, I figured if I needed to improve I should try and learn from the best. There I heard about Drayton Bird, who has written a number of books and is also a Fellow at the IDM. Then I heard about the IDM through a contact, and decided that although I had a fairly strong background in Internet marketing, without knowing much about offline marketing and understanding how to combine the two I’d be at a disadvantage.

From now on I’ll be using the “M IDM” honorific after my name in my work related communications. I’ve often thought these are a little pretentious in the past, particularly with people adding BA (Hons) after their name. But the reason I’ll be using this is two fold – one it helps grow awareness of the IDM, and secondly it helps establish that I’m not just making things up as I go along – it builds trust. So if you see my email signature with “David Whitehouse M IDM” on it, it’s not because I’m trying to show off!

Rank Checking Your Google Ranking

Introducing Authority Labs

Rank checking can be one of the most time consuming, tedious tasks there is – if of course you don’t know how to do it quickly that is. The first time I did a rank check I counted everything manually, it took literally hours – very boring!

Then I learned how to use Advanced Web Ranking, which was a great solution, but sadly it has become increasingly problematic. So last month I set out to find a solution to my problem, and I’m happy to say I’ve found it!

I discovered Authority Labs through a client at work, who had found that they supplied Raven Tools with their rank checking service. So I checked out their plans and prices and I’ve found that they have plans for as little as $24 per month (around £15), but if you don’t need as much as that you can simply sign up for the 30 day trial and then if you don’t pay to use the service they simply let you use a free plan which is limited to 1 website and 10 keywords – perfect for my needs.

Here are the rankings I’m tracking at the moment:

Checking my rankings on Google

It is however a great solution if you’re an SEO and you want to track keywords for multiple clients, or alternatively if you are an in house SEO or a business owner and you have perhaps a lot of website or keywords you wish to track.

The thing that I think makes Authority Labs so unique is that they allow you to tag keywords – so say you sell bedroom furniture and you have two sets of keywords, one for beds (say the keywords are: bed, divan bed, double bed) and one for wardrobes (say the keywords are: pine wardrobe, oak wardrobe, shabby chic wardrobe) you can then tag these keywords with beds and wardrobes respectively and see a visibility chart for them. In my example I’ve tagged my brand (for my name), marketing (for keywords containing “marketing”) and seo (for keywords containing “seo”):

Tag your keywords

So for $24 (£15) per month to track 100 keywords over 10 domains, you can’t really go wrong. So head on over to Authority Labs and signup!

(Disclaimer: I DO get commission if you signup through these affiliate links, however I think its a product worth using otherwise I wouldn’t have recommended it).