Brett Sadler

Relaunching the Google+ Housing Community


I am the first to admit that this has been a tough ride. In 2014 I pushed the rise of Google+ as the next big thing to hit #ukhousing on several occasions and blogged about it quite a few times, including my post titled ‘Banging the Google+ Drum‘.

I had evidence to back it up as well. A few years ago, Google+ was well and truly on the rise. Google+ had one of the highest sign-up rates for any social media platform, as well as a very healthy active user %. Up-to-date statistics are hard to find, but Google claim to have 300 million monthly active Google+ users.

Within a matter of weeks of launching the new G+ Housing Community page, Google announced that the person who had helped create and drive Google+ was leaving to work on something else. Almost overnight Google+ lost that feeling that it was going forwards and developing. It had the effect of stopping Google+ in its tracks overnight.

It was a real shame. With launching the #ukhousing Google+ page, it had quickly risen to over 50 members of the group, with a core group of users who were regularly contributing. It really did feel like it was going to happen.



But after Google deciding to make Google+ a pre-requisute for using YouTube (the move had fans for and against this move), they subsequently decided to drop the link. Another nail in the Google+ coffin. Even me, with my glass half-full, optimistic viewpoint had to conceded that Google+ was in decline (it was quoted in the tech news constantly) and I stopped doing much on the Google+ Housing Community page.

So it was with some surprise that I read last month that Google were relaunching Google+ by making some new changes to the platform. This was big news. At first I was dubious – do I really believe that this is happening? Then, after reading various articles on this over a number of days I thought – hey, this really is happening!

So, the upshot is that I have decided to give Google+, and more importantly the Google+ Housing Community, another go. This blog is another step towards this relaunch. Of course, I realise that the power of the community is only as good as its members and its content, but I am hoping #ukhousing will get behind this.

So here is my plea:

  • If you are already a member of the G+Housing Community, then please do revisit it again and become an active member.
  • If you are not already a member, then please do sign up to G+ and become a community member.

I have blogged previously on the virtues of using Google+ and these still hold true today.


Hotdesking – good, bad or indifferent?


A selection of my ‘hotdesking’ tech

Hotdesking is not a new concept. It comes in many forms, from the occasional hotdesker to the hard-core, full time hotdesker and it wouldn’t surprise you to read that not everyone is a fan of hotdesking. Some people love it and some people really hate it. Here is just one article about hotdesking from the Management Today website: hotdesking: hot or not?.

My reason for blogging about hotdesking is that, for the past six months I have been sharing my office with one of the Directors (incidentally, I am not line managed by them). The option came up due to the reshuffling of some staff within the organisation. As part of the deal, I agreed to hotdesk from somewhere else in the building every Monday and then from an outlying office every Thursday. This helped me in two ways: 1) I would actually have a reason to hotdesk (it’s hard to justify when your office is sat empty) and 2) To live the hotdesking way of working I have often pushed onto other staff .

First off, the positives:

  • It has been great to get out and about more – I have interacted with other staff much more than I would normally have the opportunity to;
  • I have seen and heard some good and some not so good working practices – learning I can use when the time is right to improve these sorts of things within my teams;
  • I have worked (survived) hotdesking from various locations;
  • Using headphones can block out a lot of everyday office chatter.


There have been however a few negatives:

  • As I have a pretty busy role, I have not been able to keep to my ‘Mondays and Thursday’s hotdesking regime’, especially working from the outlying office – this has been much more ad-hoc than I would ideally like and often less than a day a week;
  • As with anyone who hotdesks, my laptop bag has inevitably become heavier and heavier with papers etc. that I need during my working day (this needs culling fairly regularly to keep it manageable);
  • Sometimes it really is hard to have quiet time to work/think when hotdesking in a larger office;
  • Sometimes finding a ‘private’ office can be difficult at short notice.

A few other things are worth pointing out:

  • I have been essentially paperless for several years now, but as the organisation I work in is not paperless, I am given my fair share of paper. This proves more of a challenge when not always office based;
  • I have all the necessary tech to make hotdesking a success: laptop, tablet, bluetooth keyboard (for use with the tablet) and smartphone.

So, what have I learn’t from this six months? That it is certainly possible to hotdesk on a more regular basis and that staff seem to appreciate seeing me around more. It is definitely something I want to continue doing. In fact, I am now going to work out how I can hotdesk from other locations more often than I do currently. I also realise I need to keep some flexibility of where I work, depending on work demands and meetings.

I realise this is only my experience of hotdesking in a small way, but I thought I would share my thoughts on this. I would love to hear what everyone else’s experience of hotdesking is, good, bad or indifferent?

One Big Housing Conference #chchousing15


I hadn’t been to a Community Housing Cymru (CHC) event for at least a few years, so when I saw the agenda for the One Big Housing Conference, I thought it looked worthwhile attending.

First a bit of background. CHC are the representative body for housing associations and community mutuals in Wales, which are all not-for profit organisations. The venue for the event is the famous Metropole Hotel (trust me – if you have been there, you’d understand why its famous). It’s a sprawling hotel in Llandrindod Wells, often jokingly described in Wales as ‘equally inconvenient for the North and South’. For me personally it was a 2½ hour drive from North Wales to get there – fact. It’s also the only hotel I know where there is no mobile signal within the hotel…..anywhere.

And so to the conference itself. If you have never been to a CHC event before, they are very professionally run. Everything electronic (rather than the usual half a ream of papers given at the start of a conference), screens with the latest tweets up on the wall and clearly signposted rooms for each session.

The first conference session was from Andy Crowe titled ‘I’m a Housing Exec, GET ME OUT OF HERE!’, talking about his experience of working on the island of St Helena and the uphill struggles this entailed, although as I tweeted below, its not all work:

St Helena

The thought of ‘what would you do if you had a blank piece of paper’ to create a housing service was certainly a novel one, and Andy really gave a great insight into the challenges of working on an island ‘where a £1 Iceland pizza is for sale for £2.70’ by the time it reaches them and the new St Helena runway has taken 2 years just to bring it up to level ground.

As usual with a conference, the next day saw many people looking a bit worse for ware, but I can honestly say that the 2Macs session (which was up first) was the perfect tonic. The 2Macs were billed as specialists in behavioral change with a session focusing on impact and influencing, utilising drama. I know that most people in the room (myself included) were a little concerned that ‘audience participation’ would be a prerequisite for role play, but my tweet below summed the room up:


The session itself was really quite brilliant. They were very engaging, talking about a fake housing association, housing manager and a tenant experience, with the audience having to ask questions and comment on how the situation could have been improved. I really can’t recommend them enough and I certainly will be looking to see if we can bring them to my current organisation as soon as I can.

The next session after this was from Nick Atkin, CEO of Halton Housing Trust and the ‘Mr Motivator’ of #ukhousing, talking about all things digital and beyond. This was a high octane session going through the reasons why all organisations should think digital, as well as why organisations should do away with the traditional desk for every member of staff approach (yes, there were some gasps at this statement):


I could see an awful lot of heads nodding to what Nick was saying. Nick also kindly mentioned my blog in his Prezi (so I had to include him in my review of the conference – it would rude not to). In true style, Nick left the conference in a flash (it was just missing the puff of smoke exit) to get his train back up North. Here’s a link to his Prezi which is well worth a look.

I realise I have only reviewed a few of the sessions at the conference (and there were many more), but these were the three that I enjoyed the most. All in all, a really excellent conference and I for one, am looking forward to next years instalment.

I’m a Housing optimist – what about you?

glass-half-fullIs there a place for optimism in Housing today?

I have been mulling this topic over for some months now. My initial thought was that there certainly is room for optimism and being the optimistic person that I am, I still think there is.

A Winston Churchill quote seems particularly pertinent for this:

“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

It is tough to be optimistic in Housing today. Universal Credit, lack of supply, ever increasing demand, rent reductions in England (I could go on) – there are lots of issues facing the world of Housing. But taking Churchill’s quote, we’re faced with many difficulties today in Housing, but isn’t each difficulty also an opportunity?

I think we need to stay as optimistic as possible, despite all of the difficulties the sector is facing. That’s certainly what I’m trying to do day-to-day, especially in providing leadership to my teams at work. It’s not the easy road to take, but working in Housing, do we really ever get to take the easy road? I’m yet to hear anyone working in Housing who chose Housing as being an ‘easy’ profession!

OptimismThe dictionary definition above of optimism fits well with this. For me its all about hope and confidence about the future of Housing. Despite the challenges, I’d argue that as a sector we will rise to the task and aim to excel.

The image at the top of the page is one that I use quite often in my powerpoint and prezi’s. It also forms a key part of my Twitter bio background. Quite apart from being exactly how I approach work on a daily basis, I really do think that the ‘glass is always full’ approach is an important one worth remembering and worth savouring. Mind you, I have on several occasions been called the ‘eternal optimist’ (which I obviously take as being a compliment) and one of my most popular catchphrases at work apparently is ‘it’ll be fine’!

But what do you think about this? Is Housing the place to be as an optimist? I’d be really interested to hear your views………………..

The War Against Email


I don’t know about you, but I really do hate Email.

Somehow, despite it being a tool designed to help, it has become a tool of oppression. It’s a continuous cycle of new Emails coming in, some needing a reply, some not. It often doesn’t matter if you are sending any out or not – there will always be a continuous trickle of new Emails coming in.

I have experimented in this area.

What would happen if I didn’t send an Email at all in a working day? When I tried this, I still received Emails. Granted, I have come to realise that a good portion of my Email inbox was originally generated by me – if I send an Email out with a question, it’s highly likely I will get an Email reply, but I still received a veritable ton of Emails, regardless of my actions.

I also tried checking my Emails at certain points of the day and in the Email reply automatically sent out, I explained the times I would be checking. But it didn’t work. I had a few dismissive ‘that would be nice to be able to do that’ comments from some people and ultimately, the deluge of Emails didn’t slow down at all.

I would also throw into the mix that an organisations culture or ‘Email dependency’ is a key factor. Some orgs/staff predominantly use Email as the preferred method of communication, which will in turn lead to an increase in Emails. Some time ago I conducted a wholly unscientific test of my Emails over a week long period and found over 2/3rds received and sent out were internal traffic. I may wish to change my ways, but I would argue the organisation as a whole need to sign up to this approach as well.


I have taken some steps to try and reduce the Email stress though. Namely:

  1. Not checking my Emails constantly;
  2. Only sending out an Email if I have to (rather than say talking to someone over the phone or face-to-face);
  3. Turning off the automatic Email notifications;
  4. Having an Email purge at least once a week where I delete any unnecessary Emails or file away any I need to keep;
  5. Trying to keep my Email inbox as ‘actionable’ Emails – things I need to do something with;
  6. Deleting or filing away any ‘old’ Emails – if I haven’t had to do anything with them after several months, it’s unlikely I will need to anytime soon either.

Some of these are just common sense, but you would be surprised how few people follow them.

It’s far from a cast iron answer to dealing with Emails, but I do find the above actions help.

My main aim though is to keep my Email inbox down to around 100 Emails. This is very tough to achieve. I had a few weeks off recently and found that this has crept up to over 250, but I am working on reducing this down. For me, keeping my Email inbox in check helps me to stay focused and in control of my work.

So, what about you? Have you any tips and tricks for reducing Emails at work?

The 35 hour week – myth or panacea?


First things first. The title of this post could have said 38 or 40 hours – whatever someone’s contracted hours are. The point of the post though, is whether the idea of working your ‘core’ or contracted hours only is something to be aspire achieving or not.

We’ve all heard of people working crazy hours. I recently saw a post on LinkedIn joking that ‘oh, so you work a 39 hour week? I also remember my first part time job’. This was (hopefully) meant as a joke, but the thought process behind it isn’t. Some organisations and managers expect a lot from their staff and this often translated to working a lot more hours than contracted to do.


Take the current organisation I work for. As a not-for-profit Housing Association, we have pretty good working arrangements. Full time staff are contracted to work 35 hours a week and over a four week period we can take a further 7 hours flexi time (equivalent to one extra day) off a month. We can also carry over an extra 7 hours per month to the following timesheet. This is a pretty generous arrangement. But, it could be argued that encouraging staff to work to build up sufficient time to build up their flexitime means we are encouraging staff to work over their contracted hours.

Then there is the long standing issue of how many extra hours is acceptable. I have always thought that the more senior the post you are in, the more you are expected to work longer hours (as you get paid to do this). I have also thought that for any staff who are really career focussed, then they want to show that they work really hard, which often translates to working longer hours. But I do find myself questioning this train of thought sometimes. The more we rationalise the number of hours extra we can work (i.e under 5 hours a week is acceptable, over 5 hours isn’t), the more we are not making it as flexible an arrangement as we are aiming for it to be.

So what’s the answer? I do think there is a conversation to be had in every organisation about what constitutes an acceptable number of hours worked. The organisational culture to some extent dictates this.

Many months ago I made the conscious decision not to send out any Emails in the evenings and weekends, if at all possible. The rationale is that if I send an Email to one of my team ‘out of hours’ I am effectively encouraging and enforcing this behaviour in them. I know this isn’t always possible, but I really do try to keep to this rule. The other reason this rule helps is to ensure that staff keep to their work life balance as far as possible. Working all hours might well work for some people (some people even thrive on it) but I’ve been managing staff long enough to know that this doesn’t work for everyone and it is very easy to get burned out due to work and never feel like you are stepping away from it.

So what about your organisation? Have you cracked this issue? Please share your thoughts below!

‘Innovation’ is key, or is it just a buzz word?


Who doesn’t like the word innovate? In #ukhousing and beyond it’s become a fairly common used word.

Meaning of Innovation (Cambridge dictionary):


:(the use of) a new idea or method

There seems to be a growing consensus that using the word innovation so liberally has effectively watered down its meaning and its effectiveness.

For me, innovation is still a useful word to describe something that I aim to do as often as possible in my working life. It’s about trying to improve things by doing things differently. It’s about coming up with new ideas and new ways of working. It’s about looking at everything and asking, is there a better way of doing this?

Whether that is ultimately ‘innovation’ in its truest sense, or whether other words could be used in place of innovation, is open to debate. You could even extend this argument to say that it really doesn’t matter what it’s called – it’s the act of doing something different!

The idea of innovation is nothing new, although I do think it’s fair to say that some people are definitely more inclined to ‘innovate’ on a regular basis (and to use this phrase during the process).

I well remember when starting a new job, telling my new managers that one of my key aims for the service was ‘innovation’. The look on their faces told me this was a completed new aim for them and not something they were used to! Of course, I then went on to describe what innovation meant for me and what this might look like for the service. The idea of this being a key ‘plank’ of the service was key as far as I was concerned; it was a means to an end. New ideas were needed and for me, ‘innovation’ fits the bill as a way of describing this aim. But taking this a step further, innovation can become a key driver for organisations as a whole, where this is embedded into every role within an organisation.

That said, I sometimes do have a problem with how often the word innovation is used, as I suspect that this often alienates the % of staff who do not want to innovate. Using a different phrase like ‘new ways of working’ can sometime help in these situations. My experience tells me that some staff just take an instant dislike (and suspicion!) of the word ‘innovate’.

So, do you think the word innovate/innovation is too often used in #ukhousing and beyond?

Please leave your thoughts below.

A new dawn for #ukhousing ?


It can’t have escaped the attention of any #ukhousing professional that last week’s budget announcements dealt a serious blow to the sector.

Not that it was totally unexpected.


Despite the frankly impressive reach of the #homesforbritain rally in March this year, the election pledges that followed seemed to take no real notice of Housing, despite promised to do otherwise. But I do have to agree with some others that the point of the #homesforbritain rally is to give longer term hope – did anyone really think we could influence party policy in the space of a month? Longer term though, we’ve proven that as a sector we can unite together and this gives me hope for the future.

Then there came the election result itself. No-one really expected a clear majority government to win and with the Conservatives getting that result, it instantly meant that one of their pre-election promises, to extend the Right to Buy, would now be a reality. Again, did anyone really expect this to be the only thing the conservatives would bring in to hit the Housing sector?

This all culminated in last weeks’ budget announcement which effectively means that Housing Associations in England were suddenly informed that their business plans needed urgent redrafting due to a 1% decrease in rent charged, year-on-year for the next four years. As Nick Atkin rightly says in his Inside Housing blog ‘we talk really well amongst ourselves, but outside our world what we do and the huge positive impact we have on the lives of our customers just isn’t listened to or understood’. But as a sector, we have rallied around lots of series issues before, we will do so again and I would argue we have started to find our collective voice. It’s now more important than ever that we continue using that collective voice.

As a sector we have talked lots in the past about our use of acronyms and even us Housing professionals struggle to define what ‘affordable housing’ really means to joe public. I would argue that we really do need to sort our own house out before we can tackle the wider world.

So, I for one will be looking to join in wherever possible with debates on the future of #ukhousing and I will continue to support the #homesforbritain campaign (and others like it). What about you?

Where next for #hseparty15 ?

hsepartyOn boarding the train from North Wales to Manchester at 7am on the Wednesday (the second day of the event) I had high expectations – I had been to the inaugural House Party event last year, had a blast and even blogged about it here.

For those who don’t know, this was the second year of House Party with the following summation of the event by the organisers:

The aim of HouseParty is to challenge, discuss and present the rising talent, organisations, ideas and innovation in UK housing and beyond. It’s a free space to debate, explore, network, connect and innovate.

Through Twitter I met up with Ade Capon (@adecapon) from Yorkshire Housing (of #housingday fame) at Piccadilly station in Manchester and we then walked over to the venue. Just how long does it take two fairly tech savy guys to find a venue using Googlemaps on a mobile? Quite a lot longer than it should have!

IMG_1575Upon arriving at the venue for #hseparty15, the Quaker House in Manchester, we were given our lanyard, grabbed a quick drink and went to our first session – the ‘H-Robots’ session run by Bromford Labs. In the session we were challenged to think about what a housing robot of the future could look like. The chatter in the room as the four groups decided what their robots would do and look like was mighty impressive first thing in the morning – our robot certainly wouldn’t have won any design prizes, but it made us think about what would be really important features – intuitive, human features (or not?), jargon free and basically being really useful all around. I know that Bromford Lab will be posting further thoughts and feedback from all of their #hseparty15 sessions, so watch this space.

IMG_1580 We then went into a session with Anne McCrossan from Visceral Business, talking about Connecting Housing. As always, Anne was challenging, citing actual survey results like 33% of recently surveyed Housing Associations on digital self-service said that they didn’t know how many of their tenants were online. To say that the scale of problem is big is an understatement.

We then decided to pop over to the main CIH Housing exhibition hall to have a look around. The difference between the two events and more importantly the feel could not have been starker. The more intimate #hseparty15 contrasted with the much more corporate, ‘official’ feeling of the exhibition hall.

We were both dressed casually for #hseparty15 and we had more than a few strange looks for the suited and booted exhibition attendees when were wandering about. We bumped into a few people when wandering around the exhibition – Asif Choudry from Resource Housing (of #commshero fame) and Peter Bond, last year’s winner of the CIH Rising Stars competition. We also then spent some time talking to Jon Land and Brian Church on the 24Housing stand which is when this photo was taken by Jon and put on Twitter.

hseparty15cih I guess we didn’t realise it at the time, but as #hseparty15 was about disrupting the norm in #ukhousing, I never thought that we were doing this in a real life, tangible way, in the main exhibition hall!

We then headed back over to #hseparty15 for a further Bromford Lab session titled #futurecomms asking us to distill down advice for future comms professionals into three do’s and three don’ts. It was great fun and really got the heart of why simple comms are so important.

The final session of the day was the Housing Question time (or #housingqt to use the hashtag). This was the chance to hear from and ask questions of (L-R):

– Paul Taylor (@paulbromford) from Bromford

– Caroline King (@caroline_torus) from Torus

– James Pargeter (@jamespargeter) from Deloitte Real Estate

– Chaired by Shirley Ayres (@shirleyayres)

– Anne McCrossan (@annemcx) from Visceral Business

– Nick Atkin (@nickatkin_hht) from Halton Housing Trust


It was a fantastic chance to hear from some heavy weight hitters from #ukhousing and thanks to John Popham (@johnpopham) you can see it recorded here.

We were then treated to a quick impromptu session from #hseparty15 organisers Matt Leach from HACT (@matt_leach) and Esther from The Social Change Agency (@SocialChangeAg) on a few ideas for next years event, like holding it on different dates, in a different venue and including more people in the event planning.

IMG_1584Hat’s off to Matt, Esther, the presenters and the helpers who made the event amazing, diverse and packed full of fun, with more than 85 sessions over the two days.

Whatever happens, I really hope that #hseparty16 is as good as #hseparty15, that it continues to be different to disrupt the normal conference offering and that it’s diverse and inclusive to everyone.

Housing Customer Self Service Survey Results

Originally posted on Yorkshire Housing Communications:

Back in March we set off to learn more about online customer self service in housing. After crunching the numbers we can now share the results and findings. We think this is just the start of opening up collaboration, conversation and action to move forward. Below is the executive summary, our interpretation of the findings. You may have other views and that’s fine too.

Online-Service-CartoonExecutive Summary

Before distilling some of the key headlines from this study, it is worth pointing out that this is only a snapshot based on the 119 organisations that have responded to the Self Service in housing survey.

But, we have had a good sample of responses, thanks to all of you who have filled in the survey. It appears this is just the beginning of our journey – here we will run through some of the key findings:

Housing is shy to shout about services…

View original 378 more words

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