A commitment to trust and promotion of equality were two reasons judges gave for awarding the Mid-sized Agency prize to Hotwire.
The firm operates a "thoughtful working" policy, allowing employees to work in the most efficient way for themselves and their teams, in terms of hours and location. Hotwire says staff have reported an improved sense of wellbeing.
This also made the switch to home-working amid the coronavirus crisis easier to manage; for example, employees have been using Zoom for four years, and the regular Thursday drinks took place via the platform even before the pandemic hit, so as not to disadvantage people who work from home. The 'virtual community' is entrenched at Hotwire, with virtual meditation and yoga among the activities and topics proving popular since the lockdown.
The approach has also helped with diversity, as not all employees need to be within commuting distance of the London office.
On the topic of diversity, 13 per cent of the agency's employees are non-white – ahead of the industry average – and the board has an equal gender split. Hotwire has actively sought to recruit people from more diverse backgrounds; for example, by presenting at the University of East London, which has a high proportion of non-white students, and working with organisations including The Taylor Bennett Foundation and The Prince's Trust.
About 80 per cent of the Hotwire workforce have taken up its "wellbeing allowance", which provides employees with £300 a year to spend on what makes them feel better – from spa breaks to gym equipment.
The agency also prides itself on listening to staff, which has led to changes both big and small. For example, its employee satisfaction survey found that many junior staff felt underpaid, so their salaries were adjusted. Less seriously, it also led Hotwire to add a sparkling water option to the office taps.
Hotwire's policy on tackling mental ill-health is to be proactive. It has developed a Mental Health Toolkit, available 24/7, offering helplines, useful tips, articles, podcasts and a free download of the Headspace app. There are specific resources for line managers too.
Highly Commended: Hope&Glory
Judges were impressed by Hope&Glory's personal culture and approach to encouraging a good work/life balance.
The agency was founded eight years ago with flexible working in mind; now 25 per cent of the team work flexible hours, five per cent work four days a week and, prior to the coronavirus crisis, 10 per cent worked from home at least one day a week.
This approach made the transition to home-working amid the current crisis easier than it may have been otherwise, with the agency enacting its usual policies "with bells on". This is especially true in relation to mental health support: the agency has an impressive 17 Mental Health First Aiders, who are taking a more proactive and personal approach amid the pandemic.
Other mental heath measures including subscription to the charity CALM and a helpline where staff can access mental or physical help.
Twenty-five per cent of profit is put aside for bonuses for all staff – typically 10 per cent of their salary at June, plus a "stocking filler" at Christmas.