Reimagining Lost Productivity with Social Friday

March 14, 2024 | | 0 Comments



Social Friday

In a world where time is a precious commodity, could we be overlooking an opportunity hidden in unproductive hours? Fikret Zendeli, the founder of Social Friday, launched this global CSR initiative with a mission to transform unproductive Friday afternoons into meaningful community service activities. This concept aims to not only enhance corporate social responsibility but also foster internal and external connections that drive real change.

The Inspiration Behind Social Friday

The journey of Social Friday began with an article Fikret read about how British Airways determined Friday afternoons are the least productive. Rather than dismissing this time as a lost cause, Fikret saw an opportunity to redefine it, to turn these unproductive hours into a vessel for positive change, both within companies and their surrounding communities.

Recognizing the universal nature of this unproductive time, he envisioned an initiative in his company that could harness it for the greater good. The concept of Social Friday was born from the idea that companies could use these hours to engage their employees in community service projects, thereby turning lost time into a collective benefit.

The Mission of Social Friday

At its core, Social Friday is more than just a CSR initiative; it is a movement aimed at reinventing the way businesses and their employees interact with their communities. Its mission is twofold: to utilize the unproductive time on Fridays for community service and team-building activities. By encouraging employees to step out of the office and into their communities, individuals contribute to societal well-being while strengthening bonds with their colleagues. This approach emphasizes the value of time and collaboration over monetary donations, highlighting the impact that hands-on involvement can have on both the community and corporate culture.

When employees in a company volunteer in their community, they build a bridge between the corporate world and local communities, fostering a sense of togetherness and mutual support. When employees are given the opportunity to engage with local causes and meet new people, it not only enriches the communities served but also cultivates a culture of empathy, understanding, and corporate citizenship within the company. By aligning the interests of businesses with those of their communities, a Social Friday creates a symbiotic relationship that benefits all parties involved, exemplifying a holistic approach to social responsibility and community engagement.

Community Engagement Leads to Innovation

The benefits of Social Friday extend far beyond the immediate impact of the volunteer projects. Communities receive the much-needed support and resources, from environmental clean-ups to mentoring programs for at-risk youth.

But even more important, as people build bridges across their communities, new understanding forms on what sort of change is needed to lift up the community.

The beauty of Social Friday lies in its adaptability to different corporate environments and social causes. Whether your company is large or small, in a city or a rural area, there are countless ways to engage with your community. From environmental projects to educational support, the key is to find activities that resonate with your team and align with your organizational values.

As we look towards a future where businesses are increasingly expected to play a pivotal role in addressing societal challenges, Social Friday stands as a testament to the transformative power of corporate social responsibility. Whether you’re a startup or a multinational corporation, the journey towards a more engaged, responsible, and cohesive society begins with a simple step – dedicating time to make a difference.

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Read Full Transcript

[00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business. I'm your host, Adam Morris, and today I'm excited to have on Fikret Zendeli founder of Social Friday. They launched a global CSR initiative to take unproductive Friday afternoons and turn them into new ways to serve the community and inspire fellow employees.

[00:00:32] Adam: Now, Social Friday is slightly different than the usual social enterprises that I speak with on the podcast. Its mission is geared towards helping businesses in the realm of corporate social responsibility to do more good. But I've been reflecting a lot on why I love this social impact space so much, and I think it has to do with how we build bridges throughout our community.

[00:00:51] Adam: Because when we come together from different backgrounds, share and lift each other up, that's where real change starts to happen. And it's not just externally, but also internally. So I'm excited to dive into this and joining us from Zurich, Switzerland. Fikret, welcome on the podcast.

[00:01:06] Fikret: 156 million unproductive hours. Each and every Friday in the US only. So, Adam, hello and I'm really super excited to talk with you about this initiative called Social Friday and how we can use that unproductive time in a more meaningful way to connect our communities and to increase the togetherness in our societies.

[00:01:28] Adam: I love that. Can we start off, can you just give us an overview of the mission for Social Friday?

[00:01:33] Fikret: Well, the mission is actually very clear, at least to me, to use that unproductive time to reinvent Fridays for the better. So to, to activate people to use that time to get out in their communities and to connect with each other and to support each other. That's the mission behind, behind Social Friday.

[00:01:54] Adam: How did this come about?

[00:01:55] Fikret: Well, I stumbled across an article a few years ago actually of a British Airways survey that confirmed what actually most of us already know, and that's Friday and particular friday afternoon is actually the least productive time, so we switch off. And while I was reading that article, I thought to myself, and I was laughing because I'm an entrepreneur myself, so I thought like, well, if that's the case at British Airways, it will hardly be any different in my company.

[00:02:29] Fikret: So let's use that fact in a more meaningful way for my company, for my team, but also the society around which is very much connected to the company and to the environment where we are doing business. And that's why we need to take care about that environment, every one of us together.

[00:02:46] Fikret: To make use of something unproductive, to turn that into, into a benefit.

[00:02:52] Fikret: What I strongly believe is a benefit for everyone involved, for the economy, but also for the society. It's a very simple idea, but very effective. So we can talk later on a little bit more about what, what it can create, actually. Even it starts very simple.

[00:03:09] Adam: I like that. So, tell me a little bit about your company and how this got started inside your company.

[00:03:15] Fikret: We are a civil engineering, uh, company, so we're providing services for the civil engineering industry. We are located in North Macedonia, Skopje and also in Switzerland where I'm currently. And, yeah, we tried out different, uh, team event activities before that for a few years. Some of them worked out better, some of that less good, let's say.

[00:03:38] Fikret: So team gatherings after the work, et cetera. So suddenly after I was reading that article about British Airways, what I mentioned before, uh, while reading the idea already came up actually, so in which way we could use that and right after that, I think I was presenting the idea to my team, like, "Hey, I have this idea, so let's use Fridays in a different way and let's see what will happen."

[00:04:02] Fikret: So I was quite, quite open and curious about to, to see how this whole thing will develop within our team. I didn't have any bigger ambition to further expound with this whole idea , that came later.

[00:04:16] Fikret: I mean, the first few events, so the first event was in front of the government building in Skopje, North Macedonia. So we were planting some trees, green stuff. Nobody took any notice from that. And that was in spring summer 2017. One year later, a little girl called Greta, was sitting in front of the Parliament in Stockholm, and she got a little bit more attention for what she was doing compared to us.

[00:04:45] Fikret: Nevertheless, it was a first experience, so it wasn't something like, "Wow, this is a complete game changer for us as a company or for the team", part of the team members that were skeptical. Like, "What is this? You know, like, what's, what's the point?" And it took several events, until we got that moment of "A-ha!". That's it. That's the whole point.

[00:05:09] Fikret: And that came during an event, I think, in December, 2017, while we were visiting the SOS Children Village in Skopje. An organization that we were supporting before with donations, et cetera, but we actually never saw the people behind the organization. So we were, we would just donate some money or some other stuff and that's it. So like we did our job with that. But, um, it was a completely different story actually. Getting in touch with the people, see the people, see the faces behind what they're doing, what kind of effort there are putting actually into the whole story to create a better future for the kids there.

[00:05:49] Fikret: And I remember actually that day really quite well, if I'm not completely mistaken. I think it was the first December 2017, on a Friday morning. And that day I was standing at the traffic light that morning while going to the office and I was running through my to-do list for the day and for the next couple of weeks. So usually before the end of the year, our agenda is really full. So we a lot of deadlines and to give out a lot of things and project to finish stuff. And while going through that to-do list. I was like speaking to myself, like saying like, "Oh, what did you do to yourself? You have so many obligations already and now today, afternoon, you should also go and visit the SOS children. You could do something better instead of and be productive and yeah, complete some of the tasks that you have in front of you. "

[00:06:41] Fikret: Later, the moment came, so we arrive at the SOS Children Village, and as I step in, that was, I really see still the pictures in front of me, like how the kids were staring at me, probably at my face, you know, because it was, it looked maybe even more gray than the weather outside that day. It was really a, like a cold shower, To me really, you realize it right away, like, oh, everyone is staring at you and how are in, what kind of a condition do you, do you enter this room, and finally you realize quite quickly, like, "Okay. I need to leave my to-do list out of this room and to dedicate my full attention to the kids in front of me."

[00:07:26] Fikret: So we got introduced to each other and really around 30 minutes after, so noise ongoing left or ongoing, everyone was doing something and so the atmosphere got really very, very pleasant. And I started to ask myself like, how can I be preoccupied in the presence of these kids? How can I be anything than profoundly grateful for everything I'm blessed with? Full fridge, all the opportunities, health, et cetera, opportunities to travel, friends, family, so actually blessed with everything what I have around, and especially seeing these kids in front of me, which probably will never get the chances that I had in my life.

So that's one thing, around 30 minutes right after what happened, and while the event was ongoing, maybe one or two hours later, while we got closer to the event, I started to ask myself the question if this is enough social engagement? Let's be honest. Of course not. I mean, it's just a little social engagement to play for a few hours with unprivileged kids, et cetera.

But I truly believe that these are exactly the things that create a lot of value behind this whole social initiative actually, because imagine now these questions at regular intervals. On a bigger scale, on a global scale.

[00:08:52] Fikret: So more people in my position as an entrepreneur, as an owner of a company, would ask themselves these questions at the regular intervals. And they are super, super crucial, I believe, because it's a starting point because I see questions as a foundation for any possible answer that might follow. So, and I see awareness as a spark plug for any kind of change. So if we do not have these opportunities again, so we were doing before donations, we never saw the people behind and I never even thought about these kind of questions while I wasn't in contact with the people behind the organization. But once you meet, you get a completely different perspective on the things, and you are also much more willing and ready also for the future to help the people.

[00:09:42] Fikret: And that's the thing, what I see also for nonprofit organizations, I truly believe that it's an amazing chance for them as well to open the doors while the social pride activities. Because that way they can increase their visibility for their costs, et cetera. There can increase also the chances for more donations and support from the community and from the businesses around them.

[00:10:08] Fikret: I like to compare it actually with Black Friday for the retail industry. The nonprofit sector can see this day, Social Friday as their day to promote themself and their cause, actually, and for the companies, it is a fantastic team building event. Yes, I fully agree and I'm fully aware that it's also a great marketing tool, so I'm aware of that, that many companies will do it for the purpose of marketing in first place. Fully aware of that. I don't have any wrong, wrong expectations regarding that, but better marketing this way, not being engaged at all in a social cause and not giving and creating these opportunities for the team. Because behind every company there are also some team members. There are people.

[00:10:55] Fikret: Now, while you attend these events, let's say 20 people will attend a Social Friday event for 19 of them, it won't create anything. It won't trigger anything. But if we manage to get only one with the questions that I mentioned before, then I consider the whole story as one plus and not 19 minus. And that's something where we can start from, I believe so now I explained I think quite a lot.

[00:11:24] Adam: Yeah.

[00:11:24] Fikret: So.

[00:11:26] Adam: Well, I, I love this and I'd just love to kind of expand on this in a couple different directions, but first, looking at it from the standpoint of, okay, now you've grown Social Fridays as an initiative. What does it look like for a new company to say, "Hey, this is something I wanna do." Like what makes them decide, "Actually, yeah, this makes sense for us."

[00:11:45] Fikret: I think the most important thing is willingness to do good. What I truly believe is that fact. Also something, accepting the fact that Friday is the least productive time. So it's not something I'm saying, it's just something I can confirm from own experience, but science, research is confirming that. So if I know about that, if I'm, let's say now a company owner, and if I know about that fact. Isn't it one of my duties as a company owner or CEO, or manager, HR manager, et cetera to always question the status quo if I'm interested in progress. Also, the status quo of how we are using our times since it's one of the most prestigious things we have actually in our life, it's time.

[00:12:34] Fikret: As a company, but also as a society, we know about this huge, crazy amount of unproductive hours, so why are we not questioning this? And asking ourselves also on a bigger scale, how can we use that time in a more meaningful way? Especially these days where we have so many, so much tensions, so many challenges within our societies. I truly believe that it's absolutely, it makes sense to consider using this time to increase the togetherness and social engagement in our society. I think it's the best way how we can make use of that fact of the Friday as the least productive time.

[00:13:17] Fikret: Yes. They are also talking about four-day work week, et cetera. Maybe it's another podcast we could do one day. What I think about that part, but I really think we should question this status quo of the least productive time and how we can use that to increase the togetherness in times of where countries like Great Britain already do have ministries for loneliness, which is also something that we will face even more in the future, I believe.

[00:13:46] Adam: Something that you touched on briefly is just how, over the years, you know, even with the pandemic just a couple years ago, how much more disconnected we are internally in a company.

[00:13:57] Fikret: Yes.

[00:13:57] Adam: How has this changed your company culture as you've been doing this?

[00:14:01] Fikret: What we see these days in also when I speak with other company owners or HR people, et cetera. So, team gathering is getting more and more challenging, so it's becoming really more difficult to bring everyone, let's say in the office at the same time. So these, these moments where you would be on a coffee break and have this exchange of thoughts, of ideas, of social connections, et cetera, which actually creates a lot of value within the working place. Not everywhere, but in a lot of places that is missing more and more.

[00:14:36] Fikret: So how do you create team spirit these days? So it's becoming more and more challenging, I think for everyone involved in that field. So I truly believe that team building events will become even more important in the future than they were already before.

[00:14:52] Fikret: At the same time. I mean, we have so many social issues within our societies, regardless if you are in Switzerland or if you are in North Macedonia, and probably also in the US as well, and in some other countries. So why are we not trying to combine these two elements, team building and social event together? It doesn't really cost much, much more.

[00:15:18] Fikret: I will bring you another example. So we were doing a Social Friday event with a group of children, unprivileged children and we were inviting them for a bowling, to play bowling, to have some food, to have a good time with them. At least that was the, let's say, the first idea.

[00:15:35] Fikret: And while we were doing these activities, I really felt, now let's put it a bit, a little bit more diplomatic. I didn't feel that good while the activity was ongoing. I felt like I'm someone that has a little bit, maybe more money, and that is offering now a nice time to the kids. And what will happen after? I mean, how, how will that impact their life? The activity itself didn't cost us really additionally much more just because we invited these kids. If we would have done the same activity just with our team members, I dunno, we would have paid maybe 10, 20% less. I'm not sure about that, but for sure another huge amount more than inviting also the kids. While activity was over the same day, so I'm on the way home and few thoughts are running through my head, and I think like, "okay, how can I help to these kids, you know in a longer term, a little bit better?".

[00:16:29] Fikret: So, there the idea of education came up. The idea was born to donate a teacher to the kids for English language, since English is the language that, it's coming more and more. So we needed more and more in our daily life, no matter where you live. I said like, "Okay, this can be really something useful for their lives. So let's, as a company, "Let's donate a teacher, English teacher to them". So, we got in contact them with the organization. We're asking them like, okay, how many times per week? Is it good for the kids? So they did all the other part because I don't want to interfere in something that I don't have a clue about. So I don't know what's good, let's say, for the kids how many English lessons they should have for one week, et cetera. So that's not my business. But we made the connection.

[00:17:20] Fikret: We opened the job position for English teacher, et cetera, and we were donating an English teacher to that organization. So that the kids can get, hopefully, some education for a longer time. And it's interesting because if you realize or analyze where the idea was born, it was born while playing bowling, actually. So that activity itself didn't cost us much more, as I said before, just because we invited also the kids. But the idea that came after. The output of that whole event. I think maybe for some of the kids it can be life changing for sure. It can be helpful and useful for them and their families, hopefully one day.

[00:18:04] Fikret: And now again, imagine this on a bigger scale, if many more companies would do activities like that and hopefully also more outputs like this would come out. So the potential is giant.

[00:18:15] Adam: I love it, and I wanna highlight this story as an example of how when you engage with the community and have those conversations, you naturally share and learn, "Hey, here's something, which is the right way to create change". So, you know, quite often an organization just might be like, "Well, I'll donate a few dollars for clothes or something like that."

[00:18:38] Adam: But if you're spending time with the kids and you see, "Hey, actually, you know, if we get them an English teacher, that could radically change their life". Right? So that.

[00:18:47] Fikret: It really starts super, super simple. So what I said before was willingness to do good. Willingness and being brave a little bit, especially in the beginning to get out, you know, and to be open to meet your community actually, and I see this whole thing Social Friday as something that shouldn't become a complicated science.

[00:19:09] Fikret: I know many people are involved in this, let's say topic CSR and sometimes there are, in my opinion, trying to use, I've been reading a lot about this whole topic the last few years,, they are trying to use words and explanations and to make a whole science out of that. And at the end of the day, it's all about helping others, which should be the easiest, most common thing between people actually. So I'm against it. To make a complicated science of helping each other, and as you said.

[00:19:44] Fikret: Yeah, I think what it all takes is really to get out these moments, a lot of new ideas, fresh ideas, and I believe also stronger willingness to collaborate on a longer term will happen if we decide to make that brave step.

[00:20:01] Fikret: I call it brave step because yeah, I think in the beginning you really need to be brave and to get out of your comfort zone. That's actually the moment how we develop. These are the moments when we step out of that comfort zone. The moments where change starts to happen.

[00:20:15] Fikret: And At the end of the day, I see the way that it depends on what for we decide to spend our energy. As I said previously, every one of us has a certain level of energy within us, and I see a lot of people complaining, blaming others and instead of trying to use that energy actually to do change, to be the role model and to bring people together. And at the end of the day, while you sit down together, no matter the background the others might have, you realize that actually we have much, much more in common than anything else. And that's what we should try to create more awareness about. So that at the end of the day, we are all humankind. Especially these days where we face a lot of, a lot of challenges as society, we should try to support each other even more, and not fight each other.

[00:21:05] Adam: In my head, it's like makes so much sense that "Hey, if you take an unproductive time, you fill it with an activity that's going to enrich your employees, it builds more connections internally". There's a lot of value for that. But then the social good that you can create through that time is just staggering.

[00:21:26] Fikret: I mean, that's one thing. Let's see it from economical point of view. So, I'm a company owner. Let's see it that way. So if I'm a company owner or manager, again, responsible person, and I have to pay my people for that time on Friday anyway. If they're productive or not. And I know that there aren't that productive maybe that during these hours and completely understand it for most of the case, and especially as older, I get as more I understand it actually. It's simple math. So if I have to pay my people anyway, then let's offer them something where they can expand their horizon which in return can be also beneficial for the company itself on longer term.

[00:22:12] Fikret: But the amazing thing here behind is that it can be also very beneficial for the society as a whole. I have that unproductive time anyway. I'm paying anyway. So why not making better use of that? I see it as my duty as a company owner, again, as what I said before, to always challenge the status quo. Doesn't mean that I will every day change something, but it's part of my job to always think about ways how we can improve. And it's the same with the time, with the least productive time. So how well can we use that time in a more meaningful way for us as a company but also crucial for the society as a whole?

[00:22:55] Fikret: Because we are providing services for this society, for this planet. So we are not providing services for Mars or Saturn or any other planet. And if this society is not doing good on long term, then who will buy our services? I think it's, I don't know, to me this seems so super logical. I think it's not a complicated science to understand this logic.

[00:23:21] Fikret: So it's a chain, everything is connected with each other, and we cannot just grab from this planet. We cannot just grab from the society. We have also to reinvest. We need to try at least to make sure that the people around us are also doing good, because then we can create a social peace. Then we can think about innovation on long term.

[00:23:44] Fikret: Because if the neighborhood is not doing well, you won't be able to focus on innovation or anything like that. Then you will just watch out and see how you can protect actually yourself and not think about what might come up in 10, 20, 30 years. And that's why we need to try to give back also to the society as well as good as we can.

[00:24:04] Fikret: We need to start somewhere. Again, we cannot solve all the issues. Social Friday for sure will not solve all the issues on this planet. It's not possible. There are no such solutions like The Solution. But we have to start somewhere. And it's up on us, what we do with our energy and with our time, actually. For me, the answer is very clear. What I want to do and what I will keep doing also for the future.

[00:24:29] Adam: Okay.

[00:24:29] Adam: How do people find out about Social Friday and how do they implement this in their own organization?

[00:24:35] Fikret: Mostly through social media. Private networks that we have. There are also other people now engaged in the Social Friday activities. So let's say behind the scene. I had also a Ted Talk, I think in November 2021 here in Zurich. And that's also how it got more bigger outreach, the whole idea. And so people are contacting us through mails, through social media channels, et cetera.

[00:25:02] Fikret: And again, we are trying to support anyone who wants to implement or who wants at least to give a try with this whole idea. We are trying to support them as good as we can for organizing these events, for helping them how to organize these events. We do have some experience now in the background.

[00:25:19] Fikret: We are trying also to provide some marketing material for them. But what I said before, doing good should never become a complicated science. Doing good should become part of a lifestyle. That's what I imagine. That's what I see for the future.

[00:25:37] Fikret: I think also involving gamification tools to increase the social engagement. I see it also as a very, very important step in the future developing of Social Friday itself. Because there I see a huge potential to increase the social engagement. I mean, part of the economy is already using these tools to sell even more product.

[00:26:00] Fikret: I believe we can use these tools also to increase the social engagement and togetherness within our society. So I think it's worth to consider this idea and to work towards this idea how to implement gamification tools for increasing the social engagement. So just be brave enough, be willing to do good, the rest will follow. It's not a complicated science. That's what I can tell to everyone who might be listening at the moment.

[00:26:28] Adam: All right. Where do people find you on the web and on social media?

[00:26:33] Fikret: We have a website, socialfriday.org. On Instagram, we have our channels, Facebook as well, LinkedIn as well. So I think there are certain ways to get in contact with us.

[00:26:42] Adam: Got it. And that's social Friday on social media as well?

[00:26:46] Fikret: Yes. Social Friday activity actually on social medias. There you can find us, but probably it's the best through our website to get in contact. You can find their mails, et cetera. So we are very much willing and eager to support anyone who wants to give, try to implement this activity within their organization, actually.

[00:27:07] Adam: That's wonderful. That's neat. I feel like we've covered quite a lot of ground on this. Just starting with one, your journey into how this came about and what this look like in your company, but then how you build an organization that can help other businesses do good while actually getting a lot of value from that during a time that's not productive.

[00:27:29] Fikret: I truly see it that way so that they can really, in return, get a lot of value back in different ways, not just from marketing perspective really, but also increasing the awareness.

[00:27:41] Fikret: See it an opportunity that you create for your team members to expand their horizon and to get better connected in the societies where they are in. I mean, we have a lot of companies also that do have expats, for example. So you come from a foreign country, you come into a big town and you might not have any kind of connections outside the working hours. And there are a lot of cases like this. So, I mean, just last autumn came out a survey that was done in 140 countries where over 25% of the population feels like lonely, which is really a serious issue, and it will get even bigger, the whole issue.

[00:28:22] Fikret: And see the Social Friday events as an opportunity for your people actually to create connections for them, even outside the working hours with the local community and which will pay off to you as a company very soon actually. Because if they are feel more connected, if they feel more comfortable within the community where your people are, of course, they might also stay longer in that place, in that town. So I really see it as a win-win situation for everyone involved. But it takes some effort, takes the will, and also being a bit brave to step out of the comfort zone and to do something that maybe not everyone is doing currently.

[00:29:05] Adam: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. It's been fantastic.

[00:29:12] Fikret: Adam, thanks a lot for this opportunity and yeah, we'll continue on this journey to turn these 156 million on productive hours every Friday in the US only, into more hours of social engagement and togetherness. And I think it's really needed all around the globe more than ever probably. And it's worth to go for. For every one of us, I think 'cause we, every one of us, we depend on each other and we depend on a good and healthy society.

[00:29:44] Adam: If you're listening to this, please go check out socialfriday.org and share this. Like, if you're working in a business and you think, "Hey, this is something that could uplift our work environment", please share that around and see if this is something that you can start. I think business has the capability of creating just a massive amount of social change if we all step up and get involved. And it seems like a very logical way to do it in a way that is fun and will lead to a lot of growth. Really, really awesome stuff. So thanks for listening. And Fikret, thanks so much.

[00:30:20] Fikret: Thanks everyone.

Social Friday
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