An Office Called INVOLVE (by Jane Sladen)

7 March 2014 / by Ashley Freeman

Week 1 (w/c 10th Feb)

When I started working at INVOLVE my friends thought I was caught up in a cult.  “Your company isn’t normal” was the usual throwaway comment. But they were absolutely right, INVOLVE is unique and every day I come to work I thank my lucky stars that it is.

Today was no different, except there was one empty chair in the corner of the room.  The usual occupant of the chair, Mr James Prior – a 48year old Scot with a penchant for salt and vinegar crisps – has taken 6 weeks leave from INVOLVE to row the Atlantic (from the Canaries to Barbados) in a world record breaking 31 days and INVOLVE are rowing it with him – virtually.

Hence the rowing machine in the kitchen; and the inflatable sharks; and the palm trees.  Oh, and the coconuts. Actually, it’s no longer a kitchen but a Caribbean beach bar and all INVOLVE employees are now potential winners of a unique competition; the chance for 2 of us to fly to Barbados to welcome James safely back to shore.

So how does one win this amazing prize? Quite simply by living and breathing INVOLVE’s 5 values:

– Working as a team and respecting individuality

– Passionate about effectiveness

– Radiating positive energy

– Pioneering

– Making work fun

Each INVOLVER pulled from a coconut one of the values.  Our mission: to live that value to the full in a way that if an inter-galactic space explorer landed in our office, they would  feel our culture immediately.

After 2 weeks, we will do our first round of values champions voting. We will re-draw and everyone will then live a different value for another 2 weeks.  There will be at least 2 rounds of voting.  The winners will be the people who have accumulated the most votes.  If there is a draw, it goes to a ‘row off’ and that is where the rowing machine comes in…….

The grand plan was for the office to match James stroke for stroke all the way to Barbados – 3000 miles – however that just isn’t practical for a busy office like INVOLVE (as well as playing hard, we work hard too) so we decided that all forms of exercise will count towards ticking off those miles, so whether you run, cycle, swim or skate everyone can accumulate “miles”, all resulting in a motivated, energised and passionate team.

So in true INVOLVE spirit, everyone is “sticking their oar in”!  We have  pedometers to clock up the km’s, the rowing machine is whirling away and people are working up a sweat but if you would like to help us to push up the miles, then email me at and I’ll send you a pedometer!  We would love to have you on board.


Week 2

To recap, our colleague James Prior is rowing the Atlantic.

By day 8 he had rowed 722 miles with another 2274 miles to go.  Back at INVOLVE HQ, we are hot on his pruney heels and have clocked up 698 miles as a collective by rowing, cycling, swimming and walking.

It would be a lie to say everyone is involved in racking up mileage – for some people it’s just not their thing – but that’s ok because we work as a team but respect the individual. 😉

Those people that have taken up the challenge are taking it very seriously.  There are queues at 8am to use the rowing machine, cycle helmets racked and stacked in the server room, running pants, sweaty pants and holey pants in the airing cupboard and no one bats an eyelid any more when a half-naked man pads through the office.

But everyone has got involved with the Values Competition. There is a lot of love, appreciation and good natured banter flying around the office. More importantly, everyone is endeavouring to “raise the bar” where they can and excel in areas where they feel out of their comfort zone.  For example, I drew “Pioneering” from the coconut. As PA to the directors I’m not sure that I have much of an opportunity to be a pioneer but having drawn the value I am committed to bringing that value to life……somehow….

values wall

Our Values Wall is now strewn with witty, heartfelt, comments from one colleague to another praising, joshing, thanking each other for their contribution to the business.  It sounds cheesy but “Pump up the Values” appears to be working.  People are more engaged than ever and not because there is a chance to win a trip to Barbados, but because people are feeling recognised, valued and part of something that is bigger than the company itself.

Right, I’m off to be a pioneer.


Week 3

To recap, our colleague James Prior is rowing the Atlantic and we, his workmates are trying to keep up…

… but not trying quite as hard as we did in week 1 and we haven’t got the excuse of a chaffed bottom…

When you envisage these things, you imagine that everyone will be consistently engaged and fired up.  The reality is quite different.  People are busy with their own projects.  The novelty of rowing in the kitchen has worn off and people would rather play QuizUp than go for a lunch time run. But that doesn’t mean people are less zealous than they were last week.  In fact, the values competition is evolving and is no longer about racking up the miles or being a champion of one value. It’s become a way of (working) life.  Naturally, people are trying to make INVOLVE a great place to be and ensuring that their projects, no matter how big or small, are making a difference.

So we need to galvanise the team as we hit the half way mark.  The two things that INVOLVE love are competitions and food and if you put them together and do it on Shrove Tuesday you have the ultimate Fun Day in the office. A perfect opportunity to laugh, challenge and inspire one another. It is also time to vote.  The first official chance to find out who in the office has made an impact on their colleagues.

INVOLVE are conscious though not to lose sight of why we are running this 6 week initiative.  James is rowing the Atlantic for a cause that he believes passionately in.  He lives our values when he is in the office and we know that he is out there now – in the middle of the Atlantic – living those values to the max.  INVOLVE’s values competition reminds us daily of his trials and tribulations and we are impassioned to spread the word about his amazing adventure and hopefully this will go a small way to raising the much needed funds to aid research into Crohns and Colitis.