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Do you believe in happy work places?

At O2, we are proud to have established a culture where people want to come to work, rather than feel they have to. We believe that if our people are happy and motivated then the service they provide to our customers will be first class.

That’s why we were delighted when Northumbria Water Group asked us to get involved with their NWG Innovation Festival earlier this year. It’s a unique event that considers a range of societal and environmental issues, and identifying innovative, creative solutions for them, using a Design Sprint.  Our brief was to lead six teams focused on innovative ways to create a “happier, healthier and safer workforce”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a design sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Invented by using Google Ventures in 2010, the idea is to shortcut the seemingly endless rounds of debate and design and compress months of testing time into a single week. It’s fast and intense, with specific goals for each of the five days:

Day 1: Understanding and defining the problem to solve, and choosing a target to reach.

Day 2: Generating a large number of ideas for solving the problem

Day 3: Deciding which ideas stand the best chance of achieving your target – Deciding what to prototype

Day 4: Creating prototypes of your chosen ideas.

Day 5: Testing prototypes and key features with users and potential customers, and analysing the test findings

During NWG’s 5-day Innovation Festival, more than 70 people from the water industry, NWG customers and employees, along with representatives from start-up organisations and local businesses all attended our sprint. Progress was rapid, and within hours on the second day we had generated a wide range of potential ideas on whiteboards, many of which focused on the mental health issues related to workplace happiness. This was unsurprising, because according to Mind,:

  • 1 in 6 people experience a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week,
  • Absence due to mental health issues cost the UK economy £8bn per year.

Over the course of the sprint contributors worked collaboratively, gaining deep empathy for the problem and devising, creating and testing assumptions through prototyped solutions. At the end of the event a number of them said that they had never brought suppliers, partners, teams and people together in this way before, and that it was a brilliant way to approach a business challenge.

We were astounded by the quality and range of the creative and innovative ideas that contributors came up with. And if any one of the apps created could help employees to feel more valued, less stressed and reduce the occurrence of mental illness then together we will have created a happier, healthier, safer and more productive workforce.

O2 helps businesses of all sizes, and in many sectors, to innovate. If you would like to know more about how we can help your business to innovate and do things differently then drop me an email at


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