Episode 21 – Season 2

Published: June 22, 2022

Louise Deverell Smith, Founder of Daisy Chain | Flexible working and its impact on wellbeing

Ian is joined by Louise Deverell Smith, founder of Daisy Chain. Daisy Chain is an award-Winning recruitment platform that Connects Parents with Flexible Employers.

Louise describes it as a friendly way to search and connect with like-minded employers.

This week in the UK work from home restrictions have ended as we hopefully see a return to some sort of normality and the government is keen to see commuters to return to city centres, this is likely to cause some debate between employers and their staff about working patterns.

 So we think there couldn’t be a better time to have a discussion about all things to do with flexible work.

 Louise and Ian discuss:

  • What is flexible working
  • How many employers are using it
  • Ians approach to flex
  • Why famous restaurant chain, The Ivy is offering flexible working.

 What is inspiring Louise:

Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol

by Holly Whitaker


 How to Get in touch with Louise:



The Workplace Wellbeing Podcast is supported by The Worktech Group, which owns, SHopWorksFastPAYE and Solvedby.ai


Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.

The workplace wellbeing podcast is sponsored by fastP.A.Y.E a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastP.A.Y.E is part of the WorkTech Group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.

ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.

Ian Hogg 1:00
I’m Ian Hogg, Chairman of fastP.A.Y.E And today I’m very pleased to be joined by Louise Deborah Smith. She’s the Founder of Daisy Chain, which is an award-winning recruitment platform that connects parents with flexible employers. Louise describes it as a friendly way to search or connect with like-minded employers. This week in the UK, work from home restrictions have ended, as we hopefully see returned some sort of normality, and the government is keen to see commuters returned to city centres. This is likely to cause some debate between employers and their staff about working patterns. So I think there couldn’t be a better time to have a discussion about all things to do with flexible work. Hi, Louise.

Louise Deborah Smith 1:36
Hi. Thanks for having me.

Ian Hogg 1:38
Nice. Thanks for coming on. It’s I think it’s a big week for flexible work, you know, with a government trying to get people back into town centres. So yeah, looking forward to having this chat. Why don’t we start where we normally do? And I’ll ask you to just tell our listeners a bit about your background, experiment experience and tell us how you came to start Daisy Chain.

Louise Deborah Smith 1:59
Okay, well, yes, Daisy Chain I started just over four years ago. Before that, I had 10 years over 10 years in recruitment. And during those 10 years, I’ve had my three children as well, alongside so the work-life balance was really important to me. And as a recruiter, I was finding myself needing more flexibility First off, and also lots of candidates, job hunters looking for flexibility and really coming across, you know, the employers not being all that flexible when it came to looking for talented people. So after Daisy, my daughter was born, I thought, right, now’s the time, I’m going to set something up on my own, and really try and shake up this world of flexible recruiting. So this was four years ago. And obviously, things have dramatically changed since then, you know, the pandemic was obviously horrendous for lots of people. But for the world of flex, it really was a fantastic time for everyone to really trial, the true flexible working. So yeah, Daisy Chain is an online platform, everything’s done on the platform. People can join us, our people, our parents, and at the moment, our database is 98% women. So they can join us for free. They upload their CV, their bio, they can do videos, they tell us what, what sectors they come from, what type of role they’re looking for. And then our system matches them with the employers that are on the site that could offer them a job. And they connect and talk offline, as it were, and there’s no recruiter kind of guessing in the middle and trying to influence each side. We base the employers pay a subscription fee to be part of our network. And they can advertise as many jobs as they like, they can connect with as many people as they like, they can hire as many people as they like, and there are absolutely no extra fees for hiring people. So that makes us a bit different to the recruitment industry. We’re up to we’ve got over 10,000 people on the site all actively looking for jobs. We’ve got about 150 clients as well. I think we’ve made over 5000 matches over the last 12 months. So yeah, things are going well.

Ian Hogg 4:21
Excellent. So So yeah, interesting. Some somebody I’ve been hearing for years that somebody needs to disrupt the recruitment industry, and sounds like you’re having a good go and you want to drive effort. So so just to clarify, it’s not recruitment, a consultancy. It’s almost like a job board network platform. Yeah.

Louise Deborah Smith 4:40
We’re a bit more like a dating app. People Yes. And people matching connects, they see who they like they connect with them and then they talk directly. So it’s all done online. There’s no one calling and pounding them about trying to push each party into a role that they’re not interested in or even you know, for clients, I’m not calling them to chase them after CVS or chasing upon candidates. So it’s quite a, it’s a family-friendly platform. And that’s why I created it. And yeah, I think our, you know, a lot of our candidates do find recruiters quite daunting. Especially if they say they want some flexible work. They, lots of recruiters try and put them off. Because

Ian Hogg 5:24
let’s talk about flexibility then. So, you know, I’m an employer. Yeah. How do I create a flexible? Well, what, how do we define that? What is it?

Louise Deborah Smith 5:32
So the true definition of flexible working is a way of working that suits employees needs. So that’s quite broad as bows. And as a, as an employer, it’s quite hard to say, you know, well, basically, you want to say, whatever works for you, works. For me, it’s that kind of open conversation about flexibility. And there’s so many different I mean, flexible working such a broad range of different types of work. So it can include part-time work, it can include freelance project work, job shares, and also still full time, but with the flexibility of say, remote working or staggered start time or staggered finish time. So it’s just been open to talking about how work can work for individuals. So it’s quite a broad range. And then obviously, the new one, you know, the hot word recently is hybrid working. And four years ago, that wasn’t really a word that was used on job specs. That’s obviously the new way of working as well because we’ve all suddenly what we’ve been through in the last two years is allowed us to really work flexibly. Okay.

Ian Hogg 6:38
So what we’re saying is, you can’t design a flexible role, you just have to ask the person what flexible is for them?

Louise Deborah Smith 6:45
Yeah, I believe. And it’s simply as simple as saying, I mean, if it’s a part time role, then obviously you can put that on your job spec. It’s being it’s literally saying, open to working for a way that to work away that works for you. And that is going to make you attract more candidates as well to the role. I don’t know if you’re hiring at the moment, but at the moment, there’s a lot of jobs out there, there are over a million jobs being advertised. And there are not enough people looking for jobs. So you want to broaden your talent pool as much as possible. And especially for mums and dads that do want to be, you know, want to work flexibly, you’ve just got to get it across in a job spec, which is quite hard. But it’s as simple as saying as I said, we want to work in a way that works for you.

Ian Hogg 7:32
Yeah, we are hiring. Although he said no to recruiters, please don’t get in touch. But we are hiring. And yeah, all of the workshop groups and fast-paced customers, they’re all struggling to meet their staffing requirements. So, you know, I think I’m, I’m definitely picking up from customers of ours, that they’re much more open to finding ways to make it work. I did a little bit of research on the employment law, and in the UK, because we’re both in UK. But as it stands, all employees have a right to request flexible working, if they’ve worked at a company for basically six months. And as an employer, the employer has to have a meeting and respond to the request in a reasonable manner. So the bike, I mean, be fine, reasonable. I thought I was reasonable. But, I don’t actually have to offer it. So do you think she’s working?

Louise Deborah Smith 8:32
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a law changing quite soon that people can request that from day one. So that’s a big shift, I think, you know, you have to be open to talking about flexible working. And I think the people that are employed and want to put in a foot working, flexible working request, and they know their employer maybe, you know, isn’t openly talking about flexible working or say, Isn’t advertising flexible work on jobs or on their website, they have got to be really smart about how they put that application in, because you have only got one shot, and you want to make it as robust as possible. So I think from a candidate’s point of view of an employee’s point of view, they’ve got to get that request, kind of bullet poop proof and really get it in a good shape that gets lots of advice, talk to others, you know, maybe parents at the school gates, if anyone’s got any advice. And from an employee, employers point of view, I think they have to be very, very careful about how this is approached because we have no you know, technically we have just been through a massive flexible working trial. And they have to have a really genuine reason why they would, you know, say no to the work flexible working request. There aren’t many jobs that I think that can be done that can’t be done flexibly. So it’s quite a tricky area I think and you Don’t want to get in. And also, as I said before, there are so many people looking for jobs. And so there are so many jobs out there, that these companies should really want to hang on to those people that, you know, that want to keep them in the business.

Ian Hogg 10:13
When we spoke previously, you mentioned there was stats about can you remember it about how many? How many jobs actually have?

Louise Deborah Smith 10:22
Yeah, flexible working?

Ian Hogg 10:24
Yeah. Flexible Working in the advert? That was it?

Louise Deborah Smith 10:26
Yeah, it’s less than 10%. I think it’s 9.8%. Or closer advertised in the UK. But yet, over 50% of people do work flexibly. So those numbers don’t stack up, obviously. But it’s because the companies are really nervous still about saying we work flexibly because they don’t really know what it means. I think that’s what I think they don’t really understand what we offering we saying, Oh, God, yeah, you can just do it whenever you want, and just come in the office when you want and, you know, do the hours, it’s very, it’s quite a grey area. And lots of businesses do, you know, maybe don’t trust a lot of their employers to get on with the job. And so that’s a huge part of flexible working businesses have to trust their employees to get the work done. If they don’t trust them, then that’s a problem.

Ian Hogg 11:16
And what’s quite interesting UI has been a huge trial for two years really now, hasn’t it? And I suppose the point you just want to pick up on that point, you were pretty much suggesting the f5 allowed somebody to work fine for two years, and they request a flexible working conversation, it’s pretty hard for me to say, well, actually, you can’t do your job from home now. Because they think that the evidence is there, isn’t it? You know, so?

Louise Deborah Smith 11:40
Yeah, yeah. And if they’ve done the job to a standard that you want them to do the job, then why would you say no, anyway? Yeah. And I think actually, most people don’t want to be working at home all the time anymore. I think we’ve had a real shift. I mean, we people on the platform, our parents, and I think before the pandemic, the work from home jobs would have been their number one ideal job, they’d, you know, that’d be great. I work from home, I can be there, pick up and but actually, we did a survey just before Christmas. And it’s not the number one thing people are looking for. Now, they want to work in a hybrid way. So they want to be in the office two, three days a week. They want that. So that’s flexible working. So I think lots of people assume that you know, parents want to work from home, especially moms want to work from home. And that’s not the reality. People do want to go back into an office, but maybe just not five days a week.

Ian Hogg 12:29
Yeah, I think, you know, it’s interesting, you know, and the other point, you’re saying, If only 10% of people are putting on their jobs, but 50% of people are doing it, they’re actually missing out. It’s a free boost to your advert for talent. And people are just not bothering doing it. It sounds to me like you’re, you’re sort of advocating actually, she was just biting the bullet, go flexible. They’re doing it anyway. I mean, interestingly, fastPAYE, we’ve gone down that route, you know, if I think back to pre-pandemic, yeah, our work from home policy was, if you ask your manager, and you get permission, and you’ve been with us for more than two years, and we trust you, and you’ve got a laptop, you can do one day or one day a week, it was something along those lines, obviously, that policies no longer fit for purpose, because it’s, you know, nobody’s asking for permission to work phone because they all work from home. And actually, we’ve now moved to a policy, which is work from where you feel most productive, to adjust the staff to make that judgement. And what we find in practice is probably, there are some people that are just entirely happy working remotely, do we have a concept of core hours around? So, you know, we want everybody between 10 and four, so they can start earlier and finish it for like and start 10 and finish later. So that is because we do need an overlap for people to use.

Louise Deborah Smith 13:57
And that since the pandemic, is it so that’s Yeah, yeah. Brilliant.

Ian Hogg 14:01
So that’s where we’ve gone. Any jobs? No. Why No, that’s been given. I’ve just been given a tip though. So I think by the time his podcasts come out, we will be

Louise Deborah Smith 14:16
is that’s the thing is, if people are doing it, talk about it? You know, it’s, it’s a really positive thing is, you know, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t talk about it. And like you said, you’re just gonna attract so many more people to your business and they’ll understand the work culture better and it’s, it’s a big part of lots of people’s lives, isn’t it work in home life and trying to get that impossible balance? Sorted?

Ian Hogg 14:40
Yeah. What about you know, to where in a lucky position, you know, out here where we’ve got developers and Marketing people to come work from home, they all use a laptop, okay. And they can all they will have an element of their day where they’re just focusing on their own tasks. Normally facing a screen. What about you know, maybe Some of the employers listening to this they’ll have, you know, staff in retail or leisure hospitality a lot of fast by customers like that care homes. Do you find that those companies are offering flexible? Or do you find that the requirements to have people it does not just work from home flexibilities?

Louise Deborah Smith 15:18
And I’ve seen it shift. Yes, definitely. I mean, we’ve just started working with the IV, which is obviously hospitality. And you think all they can’t be that flexible, but they are actually very flexible. They, they wanted to, but they’re having a real problem with, with the candidates then got enough, they can’t find enough people to join them as a lack of people wanting to work in hospitality. So they’ve had to be more proactive. And they have to offer that flexibility. I mean, they have a lot of part-time roles, for example. So that’s, that’s in the flexible working bracket, but they offer job shares, they’re very, they can do compressed hours, which is another good way of flexible working. So yes, the hospitality industry has had to change, I think, because of the lack of candidates coming through for their roles.

Ian Hogg 16:05
Okay. Now, that’s good, because, I mean, it’s not that customers are in that space. And yet, they’re all saying the same story, a similar story to the IB. And they’re having to find ways to do it. But you’re, you’re just putting it on that. But

Louise Deborah Smith 16:20
yeah, if they had a candidate that came in, and the thing is with our candidates who, as I said, parents, we know our hours that we can work because we know what hours our children are in childcare. So in a way, we’re quite strict with what hours we can do. So if for example, a retail company puts an advert out, as a candidate come through is brilliant on paper, and they say, but could actually start it, can I start at 10 Instead of nine? I think a lot of them would accommodate that and say, Yeah, of course, we can stagger your start time, or we can fit around school hours. So I think most businesses are open to it. But it’s just trying to get that message out to the people looking for jobs. And

Ian Hogg 16:58
it’s a journey. This is a wellbeing podcast. So I always always have to bring it back to that on the podcast. So you know, is there any evidence that actually makes a difference to people’s well being allowing them to work flexibly

Louise Deborah Smith 17:11
So I mean, I did some digging as well, in the mental health, America found that 77% of respondents thought flexible working options would help them be healthier. So that’s a massive amount of people, isn’t it just that changing your flexible working policies could make your staff a lot happier. And also, there were some stats around people with commutes and what you know how people were feeling about their well being when not commuting, so 33% of those with longer commutes, which were over 60 minutes were more likely to suffer from depression. So if you can take that element out, you know, but even one day, a week, two days a week doesn’t have to be every day. But that’s the way you know, that’s being a truly flexible employer isn’t if you can be open to talking about it, and also talking to your staff about saying that we understand these stats, and we want to help, you know, we don’t want this to happen to you. So please come and talk to us about what’s what you want the best for you.

Ian Hogg 18:10
Yeah, and yeah, and that depression comes with sickness. And then yeah, you want one we want the well being but you know, there’s employer self-interest there as well isn’t there to reduce, you know, reduce sickness, reduce time off or reduce people having to take an afternoon to recover, you know. So, you know, I, you know, they’re good. They’re good stats, I think you’re definitely the commute. You know, we’ve got a London office, and you know, and we’ve also got one in Edinburgh, but our London office, the community is obviously much worse, traditionally has been much worse than other offices. So we’re finding that a lot fewer people want to spend more time in the office in London, you know, I think the mayor and the government are going to struggle to get people back into London with those long commutes. Okay, and one of the things that when we were sort of prepping for this, and we were having a, we’re having a good chat previously, you talked about you were telling me about, you know, almost like a certain secret, flexible working, which I found fascinating. So did this start from scratch took me to see what it was we were discussing and share that with listeners.

Louise Deborah Smith 19:15
Yeah, so this was, I mean, this was definitely pre-pandemic. So this was when I was going into offices and meeting people. So they would be, you know, HR people, recruitment people, and you talk about flexible working, and they say, Oh, well, we don’t really advertise it. But I mean, I work from home on a Friday. And yeah, I come in on 10 on a Monday, and I was like, well, so you’re working flexibly, but you won’t put we’re open to flexible working on your job ads. And these were people that were in the hiring department. So they’re the ones in charge of trying to attract talent, and it felt like and it happened a number of times and it used to just and I just think, well, these companies aren’t the type of companies that I want on daisy chain because I think that these companies are have got a culture of keeping things secret which is Never a nice culture to be working in isn’t, you know, you don’t trust, you know, there’s no trust within the organisation. And then I kind of felt also that these people in HR and recruitment should be pushing for things like this and saying, Look, I work remotely on a Friday. And it works for me because x, y, and Zed and kind of putting a case together to fight for the people that will want it going forward. And especially for me, it was kind of fighting for working mums and trying to help them overcome this barrier from employers, or people hiring, around flexible work. And so that is something, I think that’s probably changed slightly, because every meeting I’ve had now, since the pandemic, I’ve done over zoom, I’ve not been into any offices to meet any of the clients, everything’s been done remotely. So I hope those people that pre-pandemic that was keeping their secret are just not going to do that anymore. And know that it’s worked, and it’s worked for their staff, but there will be businesses still that want to go back to the old ways and won’t even consider flexible working and want to see everybody sitting at their desk nine to five, but I think those businesses are going to kind of, you know, they’re not going to do well going forward in this future way of working.

Ian Hogg 21:11
Yeah. No, I agree. I think I’ve been told by some headhunters that if you don’t put fully remote on for a developer, you don’t even bother putting the advert out, you know, so, yeah. But I one thing sort of building on that sort of secrecy point is, you know, your platform was set up to help largely working mums, but certainly parents. And, you know, I think that’s a scenario where my experience during the pandemic, people that particularly in their head to deal with homeschooling, you know, people had to if people were honest to me, it was great. I was fine. It’s like, yeah, good. It is, I wouldn’t want to be there either. If you can’t make the call, and we need to shift it, because we, you know, you need to sue by saying, fine, we can do it. Only the hour. Yeah. Put it at the end of the day. Yeah. And I think I think some people are pretty good. But that openness both on both sides, employee and employers, and others, I think, sort of cover it up. And you know, and yeah, switch off their Slack channel and pick the kids up or whatever. Yeah. Is that something that’s becoming an issue for when a lot of people are working from home or not?

Louise Deborah Smith 22:22
I mean, my the clients that I work with, I mean, they’re really open to it. So the ones that I felt like, you know, the ones that I’m trying to do really hard sell on the concept of flexible working, I kind of think they’re not the clients that I should be working with anyway, because they’re so far off, making flexible working work. You know, I then know that my if, if a candidate goes and gets a job at that organisation, they’re not going to enjoy it, and it’s not going to work, and they’re not truly flexible. So, because flexible working is a bit of a buzzword, isn’t it? It’s kind of like, oh, yeah, we can veer off, we can offer flexible working, it’s like, well, can you really when you can you? Or are you going to make people feel guilty about leaving at four o’clock to get back for pick up even though the child’s been in nursery all day, or being an after school? But you know, it’s trying to work out the companies that are trying to just tick a box and the ones that are actually doing it? So

Ian Hogg 23:14
it almost sounds like your invitation only?

Louise Deborah Smith 23:18
No, no, no, I mean, I’m definitely open to talking to business. You can set you do get a sense of, I suppose the culture of the business. And if I have to really, really sell the flexible working, even the idea of flexible working, you have to really sell it, you know, you think are you really going to do it, I suppose.

Ian Hogg 23:38
Yeah, no, I think that’s great. Yeah, it’s like, there’s actually if you don’t do that, and candidates, your word will get around. And candidates don’t actually, yeah, there was no real value on that as we just start going to no good attitude.

Louise Deborah Smith 23:53
These last two years is just proven, doesn’t it? I mean, you’re doing it now. And you wouldn’t probably have done it if it hadn’t have been for those two years.

Ian Hogg 24:00
No, the three founders are all old, you know, middle-aged, white guys who were probably a bit conservative in their, in their outlook. And so, you know, including me used to think people had to come in the office. And I’ve been proved wrong, you know, and probably would never have had the courage to take the experiment that you would never have gone right. Why don’t we try everybody from home in marriage, you know, is forced on us and then then it wasn’t as bad as we expect him. So it was much better. It was positive. There are lots of positives. So

Louise Deborah Smith 24:32
what about this? four-day week? Have you heard of this? This new? Yeah,

Ian Hogg 24:36
yeah. Yeah, I’m, I think there are two ways to look at it is it reduced hours or is it you know,

Louise Deborah Smith 24:43
reduced hours, but full pay? So paid for five days, but do four days?

Ian Hogg 24:49
Yeah, I listen, I’m open to discussing it, I think. But, you know, again, I’m old middle-aged, and you know, white. I’m fairly conservative. So I’m probably would want to see, see some data and some evidence come out of it and speak to somebody who’s done it and see how they got on. But I’m not if it improves productivity will be involved recruiting retention, then, yeah, I’m open to the debate. But

Louise Deborah Smith 25:17
businesses have done it. I’m not in the UK, but a handful has done it. And they say they have they’ve had fantastic results from it. So that’s just one way of flexible working. But yeah, that’d it’d be interesting to see what happens after this trial.

Ian Hogg 25:32
Yeah. And I think Scotland had done it with the government employees. So I think well, I mean, we’ve got an office up there. So we will, we’ll get to witness some of that firsthand. And so yeah, now, you know, the work gets done, and the company keeps crying. We’re normally quite happy, you know? Yeah, that’s, and that’s been a really, really good conversation to ease. And I think we could go on talking about it, it’s such a relevant subject at the moment. So one if listeners want to get in touch, I’m all like to put your LinkedIn and the website on the podcast. So look at the notes. And the question I asked everyone at the end end of the podcast is what local media is giving you mostly inspiration at the moment and why

Louise Deborah Smith 26:16
Yeah, so while I do listen to podcasts, I’d like made by mama, that’s a web one of the podcasts I like listening to while I’m just the weekends on doing basically doing washing for the kids, which is never-ending by memorable. So it’s run by two mums, Georgie and Zoe, and they get guests on who talking about lots of different things around being a mum. So it could be so the one recently listened to was from, like a career coach. And she came on and gave her advice on why mums should really promote themselves in the workplace, how they can kind of look at themselves as a brand and sell themselves into, you know, even their current employer to go for pay raises or promotions, or go for new jobs. So they are they talk about lots of different parenting things. So like listening to that. And then the book I’m raising, which I’ve literally just started is called quick like a woman. And it’s about drinking, because I’m doing dry January, and I’ve actually found it really easy. And I’ve there are lots of people that Well, I say really easy, but um, and then someone recommended this book, and it’s quite interesting to hear why, you know, alcohol is part of our culture. So important. And I and I’m quite aware of it. You know, I get asked out with the mums from school, it’s like, should we go out for drinks? Go out for a drink? And it’s not, you know when you’re not drinking? It’s quite hard. Yeah. So I’ve only just started it, but he’s kind of Yeah, the radical choice to not drink in a culture obsessed with alcohol.

Ian Hogg 27:50
Yeah. That’s a fairly accurate subtitle. And of course, that’s quite, quite good. Because you’ve got to the end of June, we’re recording this right at the end of January. So you’ve got so without the book, so well done.

Louise Deborah Smith 28:03
Thanks. But it said my carry on. That’s the thing. I think it’s next Tuesday is the first of Feb, but it’s, I don’t know, I just thought if I can, and I know this book goes into detail about you know, the effects alcoholism has on us of ageing you and when your health and things like that. So I’m just getting old and I have to think of these things. So yeah.

Ian Hogg 28:26
Excellent, listen, good, good recommendations. I’ll make sure the notes sharing links are in the podcast notes. Luis, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much for coming on.

Louise Deborah Smith 28:34
Well, thank you for having me. Thank you very much.

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