Ending loneliness, one cuppa at a time - b:Friend are a charity on a mission.
Over 9 million people in the UK say they are often - or always - lonely. And with around 3 million people in the country claiming their main source of companionship comes from the TV or radio, that’s a lot of lonesome people. b:Friend aim to tackle the loneliness epidemic in older people with a unique approach to socialising.
b:Friend like to challenge traditional ideas, and bring people together with some wonderfully creative group activities - their mantra being ‘Bingo is Bull****’, they instead run rock 'n' roll dance sessions, spoken-word recitals, water-based graffiti art, and loads more.
They also actively visit older folks in their homes, which is great for the less mobile or socially-inclined. Volunteer 'befrienders' pledge to visit a socially isolated older neighbour near them for one hour per week for a cuppa and a chat.
The b:Friend organisation is a registered charity, supported by donations and other fundraising efforts. They operate around Doncaster and South Yorkshire, and unusually, wish they didn’t have to exist:
"It's a strange scenario to wish that your organisation didn't exist, but that is the case. If there was support and provision through the state for older people, we'd not need to be doing what we do. As things stand, the need is huge and it's going to take a huge shift for things to change. It's increasingly difficult for charities to secure longer-term funding so our future planning is always only looking just around the corner." - Mike Niles, Founder of b:Friend
The organisation’s impact can’t be understated - as you’ll see from visiting their Impact Page. So far, they’ve contributed 175,000 minutes of conversation, 11,400 hours of one-to-one befriending, 480 social club sessions, and made over 9,000 cups of tea!
b:Friend work from a funky coworking space in Doncaster called The Helm, full of entrepreneurial folk playing ping-pong and doing business. It’s a supportive community with mentors and networking opportunities all around.
As fun as it sounds to work there, at some point, the b:Friend team need to take a break. To track who was on holiday at what time, they introduced Timetastic into the organisation in October 2018, not too long after they started, and currently have six users on the system.
Before Timetastic, the guys were tracking leave on a spreadsheet - which we all know is a bit of a pain. After only a few weeks, they discovered Timetastic and didn’t look back. Mike Niles, Founder of b:Friend, tells us:
"As a manager it's all so clear and straightforward - especially with the integrations into other platforms - so my time is spent less on managing time off and more on what we're trying to achieve as a charity.”
During the school holidays, the team had a few members of staff taking time off, but they needed to ensure their services weren’t lacking. Mike continues,
"Timetastic allowed us all to see who was on leave and when so we could effectively manage our timetables. You can't underestimate how much admin time can be saved by getting a good solution in place. And in our line of work, that time can make such a difference to someone's life.”
Noting that staff now find it easier to request time off and assess their own remaining leave allowances compared to other team members, Mike reckons signing up was a good decision.
Start paperless, stay paperless
One of Timetastic’s core values is promoting paperless work. Having written previously about the joy of a paperless office, we were overjoyed to hear that b:Friend feel the same way, when we asked how much paper they’re now saving:
"We're a paperless organisation anyway so Timetastic fits perfectly into our ethos. Everything is digital at b:Friend to be more efficient and ensure privacy so adding this platform to our suite of HR has been brilliant.”
We then asked Mike the million-dollar question: what would you say to someone considering using Timetastic? His answer:
"If you're currently tracking annual leave in a spreadsheet or on paper, this will save you a bucket load of time. The calculations are done for you, the team can clearly see an overview of the year and the interface is simple to use. I'd absolutely recommend."
High praise indeed.
We think b:Friend are brilliant - providing vital services to tackle a massive societal problem. Many of us know older people who don't always have a full calendar after they retire, and know how easy it is for them to suffer while alone. While we love preaching the value of taking time off from work at Timetastic, it's easy to forget how hard it can be for those who don't have the luxury of busy-ness!
The provision of healthcare means many seniors in our society live longer, but ensuring quality of life isn't easy. Groups like b:Friend make a huge difference to those in need. Is there someone you can b:Friend today?
To learn more about b:Friend's mission, or inquire about signing up to help as a befriender, visit the b:Friend website. They also have an active Facebook page, sharing adventures with those they’ve befriended.