• Thinking of cutting pay for remote staff? – Be ready for a legal battle!

    Employers could face serious legal battles if they decide to cut pay for remote or hybrid staff, experts have warned.

    The CIPD released figures this week which showed that as many as one in ten respondents plan to reduce pay and/or benefits for staff who work from home, while four percent said their firm had already done so.

    But experts have warned any firms considering reducing compensation & benefits for remote and hybrid staff would raise serious ethical and legal questions, if the move is made purely on a cost-saving basis.

    The survey of over 1000 senior decision makers by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, found that the majority of employers who can offer hybrid working – a mix of workplace and home working – are embracing it.

    More than three-quarters of respondents’ organisations (78%) allow hybrid working, through either formal or informal arrangements. Just 8% don’t, and 13% said it wasn’t generally applicable for their job or sector. Over half of respondents (54%) expect hybrid workers to be in the office for a minimum number of days either each week (43%) or each month (12%).

    Two fifths (44%) said there were no minimum expectations to come in.

    However, the research also indicated some resistance to home working from some areas, and while most employers (68%) don’t plan to make any changes to pay and/or benefits for hybrid workers, four percent of respondents said their organisation had reduced pay and/or benefits, and as many as one in ten (13%) said they plan to do so.

    The legal risks

    Donald MacKinnon, Group Legal Director at employment law and HR support firm WorkNest previously told HR Grapevine that this approach to home and flexible working could cause a number of issues for a business, some of which could also be classed as discrimination which can have severe consequences.

    MacKinnon said: “If homeworking is being used by a woman because they have caring responsibilities or by a disabled person then arguably paying them a lower wage for working from home may be indirectly discriminatory.

    “The employer would need to justify that lower pay is a legitimate and proportionate measure which might depend on whether the employer could show that an employee saves 20% of their wage by working from home.

    “It could also raise equal pay issues if the same work is being carried out by a female home worker compared to a male office worker. It opens up questions around whether the two roles are comparable.”

    MacKinnon concluded: “Ultimately a move such as this could leave an employer vulnerable to potential claims as well as it possibly having an overall negative impact on employee engagement.”


    Mens Mental Health Week – Time to get your #MANMOT

    Between the 13th-19th June, the world acknowledges Men’s Health Week 2022. This annual event is organised by the Men’s Health Forum and aims to raise awareness of preventable health problems that disproportionately affect men and encourage them to gain the courage to tackle their issues.

    Over the last two years, Men’s Health Week has been focused on COVID-19 and the impact the virus has had on physical and mental wellbeing. The theme this year is ‘Time For Your MOT’ – which emphasises taking notice of what’s going on in your mind and body. As such, the campaign focuses on taking notice of all the health problems that have been brushed aside due to the pandemic.

    Men and mental health

    According to the Mental Health Foundation, approximately 1-in-8 men have a common mental health problem such as anxiety, stress, or depression. When left unattended, these problems can worsen and be detrimental to those affected. This is highlighted in current statistics: for example, in the UK, 3 out of 4 suicides are men. Furthermore, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. These statistics underline the importance of removing the stigma surrounding men’s mental health, helping men reach out, talk about their problems and seek treatment.

    It is no secret that a stigma exists regarding men’s mental health, and sadly some men still feel uncomfortable discussing their problems openly. According to recent statistics, 40% of men won’t talk about their mental health with their friends or family. Therefore, many individuals suffer in silence. While the topic is becoming more prevalent with more awareness campaigns, there is still a need to help men feel comfortable enough to speak out about their mental health.

    Identifying the symptoms 

    There may not always be clear signs you’re dealing with a serious issue, not just a bad day. If your life satisfaction seems to have taken a knock or feeling like you want to be alone a lot, there could be more going on. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms associated with mental illness: 

    • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
    • Noticeable changes in mood 
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Avoiding friends and social activities 
    • Constant low energy 
    • Drug or alcohol abuse 
    • Ignoring personal hygiene 

    Men often feel embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about their mental health. But the bravest thing you can do is tackle the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. You are not alone. Many other people are going through the same emotions and struggling to find the best way to cope.

     Get your Mens MOT here https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/mhw


    6 astute tips to avoid loneliness at work

    Feeling lonely at work? Key tips how you can prevent loneliness at work.

    In line with the theme for this year’s Mental Health Week, we wanted to explore some key tips to show how businesses, employers and HR professionals can help to avoid loneliness in the office.

    Loneliness can be crushing and can severely dent people’s sense of wellbeing and mental health. Nowhere can this be more evident than at work. Whether in an office or on the factory floor, so many core emotions can be stirred by loneliness from low-self-esteem to anxiety.

    Feeling alone at work can also hugely impact businesses, employers and organisations in terms of lower levels of performance, lack of productivity, reduced staff engagement, and even increases in staff absences.

    This year’s theme of loneliness is therefore very welcome and flags the importance for employers to try and ensure their employees can enjoy processes to hopefully help any negative feels and avoid feeling ‘alone’.

    6 astute tips to avoid loneliness at work: –

    1/ Training and open Management Styles

    Companies and employers are helpless to try and alleviate loneliness in their workforce if they don’t have open channels of communication and don’t have the ear of their line managers, team leaders and staff. Companies should try wherever possible to designate a representative to be responsible for mental health and wellbeing who can be in regular contact with all line managers so that any issues can be flagged from the off, and the necessary support provided.

    2/ Allow your company culture to permit staff to reach for help.

    For so many years the mantra of businesses and employers has been to gloss over worker hardships and just tell their staff to ‘man up’. No longer is this acceptable for the majority of work places or their staff. Infact, the employers that encourage honesty and openness around their teams for individuals to say they need help without ridicule or derision, are the very same employers who will benefit from a loyal and higher performing employees!

    To encourage open communication, implement employee satisfaction surveys with questions directly addressing how they are feeling in themselves. By offering their employees an ‘ear’ and by genuinely caring about their teams individual wellbeing, this can inform management strategies to help create better activities to address loneliness and other feelings or issues of anxiety or mental health problems. Alternatively you could use regular 1:1’s as a way of directly asking your staff about any worries they have and to encourage honesty and openness to express their thoughts.

    3/ Lets talk! Have great communication channels in your team!

    Increased staff engagement and open communication with your employees will improve all your team’s ability to feel connected to their colleagues, their jobs and their employer. Better lines of openness can go a long way in alleviating loneliness.

    Companies who make sure that their processes are clearly communicated, will allow workers to feel much more confident about asking for support and help when they need it. It is really important to ensure that EVERYONE in the business is onside too. A toxic situation can be created when at grass roots everyone is feeling connected and able to reach out but the ‘boss’ or ‘senior manager/ director’ is unapproachable and always unavailable!

    An example for our team at Astute is the way our owners Sarah and Mary, are always available to have a quick informal chat in private if there is an issue of concern or a personal problem that has arisen.

    4/ Reward collaboration!

    Having a culture that naturally rewards collaboration, across the business for everything from training to everyday work practices and initiatives, means that the likelihood of loneliness being experienced will be vastly reduced. By feeling more involved, listened to and supported, employees will individually have a much stronger sense of ‘belonging’ to their company which creates the opposite environment for loneliness to thrive. Stronger peer groups and inter-company / inter-department relations will also help to create a much more positive culture and again help banish loneliness.

    As an example – for our team we have an employee of the month award. This can be given to anyone in our team and can be awarded to someone who has collaborated and helped their colleagues as well as for special achievements, not just for pure financial/ business performance. This enables the whole team to feel part of the challenge rather than just reserved for our top performers.

    We also have our ‘Reward Board’ where everyone from our office manager to anyone else can win a range of prizes including half-day extra annual leave just by achieving non-sales activities that still benefit the business. This engages everyone, makes everyone feel valued and actually creates a fair bit of laughter, fun and banter.

    5/ Avoid creating too much pressure!

    This is a biggie. Many employees can feel disenfranchised, anxious and lonely if they are placed under undue stress. This is not the same as the pressure that they can individually place upon themselves either! Instead, bosses can often send the wrong signals that only x,y,z will  do in terms of sales and production targets – which may actually be more geared / achievable by only the most experienced employees, rather than everyone being able to hit the same targets.

    In more niche businesses, individuals can put too much pressure on themselves to perform – much more pressure in fact than their bosses can create! This can cause huge problems unless regular 1:1’s happen. A 1:1 is a great opportunity for employer and employee to directly address any pressures they are feeling that week. For the employer to ask this on a regular basis within a neutral, regular meeting will allow any concerns on this to rise up and be addressed, without the employee suffering in silence and more than likely feeling very lonely too.

    At Astute, all of our team have regular 1:1’s to allow them to individually air any issues they may have as well as sharing great ideas and better ways of working that can benefit the whole team! Everyone is important to us.

    6/ Use outside professional experts!

    Most SMEs have under 15 staff, so it can be hard to have an in-house expert to cover all of this on top of their day-to-day job! So, it’s a great idea for any internal representative to be able to have access to an external professional who they can reach out to for trained guidance and involvement if necessary. MHPP is one such organisation that is free and specifically created to provide this free external support to all businesses.

    We hope the above has been useful.

    If you would like to read more about Mental Awareness Week, with useful links and more information head to our article HERE .


    Lets help eradicate loneliness this May for Mental Health Awareness Week!


    Mental Health Awareness Week is a yearly event, this year running from the 9th to 15th May focussing on improving positive mental health for everyone. It is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation.

    For 2022, the theme is all around exploring the impacts of loneliness and how we can tackle this.

    The Mental Health Foundation conducted recent research which discovered many people have increasingly been suffering from feelings of isolation and loneliness which has led to harmful outcomes.

    The research they uncovered, showed an increasing need from people everywhere to see loneliness being addressed as a serious topic requiring urgent action.

    Given the theme of loneliness, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in partnership with the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will continue to encourage people to ‘Lift someone out of loneliness’ as part of the Better Health – Every Mind Matters campaign.

    The campaign will continue to point people towards the Every Mind Matters Loneliness webpage, where there is advice for ways to help yourself or others who may be feeling lonely and suggested support routes Loneliness – Every Mind Matters – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

    As a call to action, this week the Mental Health Foundation are asking everyone – companies, organisations and individuals – to support their campaign and to help spread this important message across their social channels and beyond.

    Campaign assets can be downloaded from the Campaign Resource Centre 

    You can watch a powerful short film on the following link:


    Any one of us can feel lonely. Occasional thoughts and feelings of lonliness are normal.

    But when these feelings progress into deeper, long-standing thoughts of isolation and being truly alone – thats when loneliness can make a huge impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.

    Above all, it is important to know that these feelings can pass, and that there are lots of ways we can help each other too.

    Just 3 little words can make a HUGE difference!

    Fancy a cuppa? Fancy a walk? Sometimes reaching out to each other with as little as three words can make a huge difference.

    As part of the Better Health: Every Mind Matters campaign, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are encouraging people to ‘Lift Someone Out of Loneliness’ by taking a simple action to help someone who may be feeling lonely. If we do this regularly, we can all help to lift each other up.

    Find out how you can help to lift someone out of loneliness

    So, this week, if you see someone struggling, someone who doesn’t seem to be their usual self, give them a warm smile, ask how they are doing. Offer to make a drink.

    Whether in the office, at home, at school or college, a random act of kindness this week could make all the difference to someone struggling with feelings of loneliness.

    Here at Astute, we are working in partnership with Kate Woods of MHPP, working in partnership with the University of Derby, providing all of our team with the tools to look after each other’s mental health and to spot the signs of loneliness and other feelings which can impact our wellbeing.

    Kate’s service is available free to all organisations and SME businesses.

    You can reach out to Kate on LinkedIn and by email to k.wood3@derby.ac.uk

    You can also check out our article on the 6 top tips to avoid loneliness in work HERE.

    #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #Ivebeenthere



    Congratulations to Sarah Stevenson winning Transformational Leader of the Year!

    Sarah Stevenson, (far right) Astute Recruitment’s MD with all the other winners at the Leadership Awards

    All of us were thrilled to watch Sarah go up on stage with all the other winners at TheBusinessDesk.com’s East Midland’s Leadership awards!

    Sarah has tirelessly led her team from start up through the most difficult of times. Through every crisis, she has managed to lead from the front through grit, determination and inspiration.

    Sarah has also managed to enable her team to adapt to every problem, rise to every challenge with support, help and passion.

    Its fair to say that all of us, from the bottom of our hearts, could not be happier for her or think of a more deserving winner for this category.

    You can watch Sarah’s speech after collecting her award on the link below.


    A huge thumbs up also goes to Sam Metcalfe and everyone at The Business Desk.com for putting together a brilliant evening.

    Thanks to the sponsors too for their support.

    The biggest thanks goes

    to all the winners and

    finalists at the evening.

    Everyone of them showed that

    hard work,

    inspiration and successful leadership

    can achieve wonderful business success

    for their staff, families,

    and teams!

    Everyone getting settled for a great evening at the BusinessDesk.com’s East Midlands Leadership Awards


    One of our MD’s is a finalist for The Business Desk.com’s Leadership Awards!

    Here at Astute, we love to celebrate success, so tonight we are keeping our fingers crossed for one of our founders, and MD, Sarah Stevenson who is one of the finalists at The Business Desk.com’s prestigious East Midlands Leadership Awards.

    After a couple of difficult years, it is brilliant for us to have most of our team together and celebrate an evening toasting the most talented leaders in our East Midlands business community!

    Our table is booked at Nottingham’s Crowne Plaza.

    TheBusinessDesk.com wanted to create the East Midlands Leadership Awards to celebrate the leaders in business who are role models within their organisations. The bar is set high this year with a great selection of business owners and leaders who have done so much for their organisations and teams.

    The winners will show the qualities of extraordinary leadership and be able to demonstrate the positive impact this has had.

    The Leadership awards offer a great opportunity to recognise and showcase the achievements and success of businesses in the region.

    There are ten categories at this year’s awards evening, which will see the winners acknowledged in front of the cream of the East Midlands business community.

    The judging panel for this year’s awards was: Amanda Fletcher of the Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club; Reshma Sheikh of Octavian Security UK; Richard Blackmore of the CBI and Jude Weston of NG Chartered Surveyors.

    TheBusinessDesk.com’s Midlands editor Sam Metcalf, who chaired the panel, said:

    “The standard of this year’s entrants was higher than ever, displaying the depth and breadth of the leadership talent in the East Midlands.

    “I’d like to thank our judging panel for their time and expertise and wish all the shortlisted individuals all the best for our awards evening in March.”

    We’re all keeping our fingers crossed for Sarah, but we wish the best of luck to all the finalists this year. You have all done brilliantly to be shortlisted and all deserve to celebrate!

    The Categories and Shortlists for this year’s business awards are: –

    Young Leader of the Year

    Adam Horton, Hortons Estate Agents
    Louisa Hackford-Gentle, Autistic Nottingham
    Roheel Ahmed, Forsyth Barnes
    Samantha Wilde, Retail Assist
    Stephen Mair, Andrew Granger & Co

    Transformational Leader

    Adrian Buttress, PermaGroup
    Alan Forsyth, Hockley Developments
    Bev Wakefield, Vibrant Accountancy
    Roland Kendall, Retail Assist
    Sarah Stevenson, Astute Recruitment

    Public and Third

    Sector Leader

    Amo Raju, Disability Direct
    Ann Bhatti, Connect Derby
    Ian Cooper, Speakers for Schools
    Marysia Zipser, Art Culture Tourism
    Naomi Watkins-Ligudzinska, NW Counselling Hub CIC

    Mentor of the Year

    Adam Rhodes, Rhodes Wealth Management
    Justin Donne, Art Culture Tourism
    Kirin Abbas, Paragon Law
    Laura-Jane Turner, Jigsaw24
    Richard Fairey, Rushton Hickman

    Emerging Entrepreneur Leader

    Amad Tababa, Autify Digital
    Daniel Connor, DC Personnel
    Luke Draper, IDT
    Rob Spence, Paragon Sales Solutions

    Diversity & Inclusion Leader

    Amo Raju, Disability Direct
    Barjis Chohan, Art Culture Tourism
    Kul Mahay, Ignite Your Inner Potential
    Mark Esho, Easy Internet Services
    Thalej Vasishta, Paragon Law

    Professional Services Leader

    Amit Sonpal, Barclays Corporate Banking
    Andrew Robinson, Andrew Granger & Co
    Carl Hilton, BSP Consulting
    David Ryley, Ryley Wealth Management
    Tony Sherwin, Retail Assist

    Green Leader

    Becky Valentine, Spenbeck
    Gary Styles, Zellar
    Lance Hill, Eight Days a Week Print Solutions
    Roger Whittle, Jigsaw24

    Non-Executive Leader

    Jade Martin, Rushton Hickman
    Justin Donne, Autistic Nottingham
    Rita Carta Manias, Art Culture Tourism

    Company Leader

    (up to 100 employees)

    Adrian Buttress, PermaGroup
    Alan Forsyth, Hockley Developments
    Arran Bailey, ALB Group
    Edward Acres, Acres Group
    Lance Hill, Eight Days a Week Print Solutions

    Company Leader (100+ employees)

    Ian Williamson, ITP Aero UK
    Rob Darby, 200 Degrees Coffee
    Stewart Vandermark, Nelsons

    Leader of the Year?

    To be announced on the night !

    We wish everyone the best of luck!


    5 top tips to achieve resilience personally and professionally.

    “I can be changed by what happens

    to me. But I refuse to

    be reduced by it.”

    –Maya Angelou

    What a great definition of resilience! Whatever stage of life and career, there’s no denying that strength of mind and spirit are powerful keys to succeed and overcome life’s hurdles.

    From job interviews, applying for promotions, working to get recognition to achieve that promotion, all require tenacity and resilience.

    Not everyone passes exams or aces their job interview first time. Most of us have to learn through making mistakes.

    Along as we can recognise where we have gone wrong, and have the will to make sure that the same mistake is not made time and time again, that’s progress!

    The spirit to keep trying to achieve your goals despite setbacks, that’s true resilience.

    All extraordinary achievements come from an ordinary person giving that little bit of  extra


    The extra in extraordinary comes from  that seed of self-will to try one more time.

    To make that final push.

    To revise for that extra hour.

    To re-read that cv one more time before an interview.

    Reading from autobiographical books by champions from the worlds of sport and business, or all have one overriding strength in common.


    At some point, all of them have had problems.

    Often huge setbacks.

    From injuries, failed attempts to ‘win’ to bankruptcy, but they have bounced back.

    They have refused to accept defeat on their paths towards their goals.

    They have had an inner steel core that has said, ‘You are enough. You will get through this. You will succeed’.

    What are the keys to building your own personal bank account of resilience?

    We’ve broken them down into 5 bitesize ‘keys’.

    Each one will need consistent, hard work to maintain and develop, but together they are a set of keys that will unlock your true potential, and help you achieve strong levels of resilience personally AND professionally!

    Let’s turn each ‘key’ and see what it could unlock for you..

    What are the five keys 

    to unlock resilience?

    Think of people you feel are resilient. Chances are, they will have some core strengths in common.

    1. Inner self-belief/ drive
    2. Strong personal sense of emotional well-being
    3. Forward/ future focused mindset
    4. Solid friend/ relationship/ social network
    5. Strong personal sense of their own ‘Physical well-being/ physical health’

    For employers and businesses, a crucial strategy to develop in their staff and teams are strong levels of personal resilience. 

    For example, in a sales / recruitment environment- high levels of individual resilience allows individual consultants to overcome a declined job offer, or failed recruitment campaign, chalk it to experience and crucially move on.

    Equally,  in a pressurised accounts team, it allows the team to bounce back when a deadline is missed, or accounting error is made.

    High levels of resilience will create a positive ‘can do’ mentality in teams to overcome the problem and create the shared impulse/ desire to make sure the same error/ difficulty isn’t repeated.

    Individual resilience in a team setting, will encourage an underperforming, overworked, or even an under-challenged employee within a successful team, to gain a fresh and objective perspective on the situation at hand.

    Sometimes thats all that’s required to make lasting positive, changes. A simple gear-shift towards a more positive mindset.

    So, here are our 5 ‘keys’ to unlock resilience.

    Emotional wellbeing

    The first and most fundamental key to unlock resilience is emotional wellbeing. This is all about how someone – an employee/ manager – understands and is able to manage their emotions.

    This is all about being able to see things from multiple perspectives, able to resolve internal arguments, whilst smoothing conflicts between others, and healthily being able to express emotions.

    Resilience is critical in times of stress AND conflict, and it’s crucial to achieve a rational, calm responses to ‘difficult situations’.

    When something upsetting or frustrating happens, we recommend trying these four easy steps;

    • Stop. Take a second (or 20 🤣), to think about the emotions you’re experiencing. Breathe in, breathe out,  take the time to pause. Allow yourself to ‘be in the moment’ and truly ‘be present’. Be properly focused on the issue at hand. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. 

    • Remind yourself that emotions are short-lived/ temporary, but your actions/responses won’t be!

    • Attempt to identify what exactly upset/frustrated you.

    • Explore ways to handle the situation in order to reach the most positive outcome

    Looking to the Future

    A resilient person is a person focused on their future – ready to embrace change and new challenges.

    Until someone invents a time-travelling Tardis or Delorean, nobody can predict the future.

    But, it is possible to be prepared to successfully handle unforeseen obstacles. The ability to ‘Look to the future’, is the ability to plan ahead, and to ultimately be ahead.

    To achieve this, a person must set themselves a realistic goal – or a ‘SMART‘ objective.


    Write down your SMART goal(s), or if you have a few, keep the number achievable.

    Write down any achievements that you’re proud of. Anything important that this taught you.

    By doing this, if you find yourself feeling unmotivated at any point, you have something real to refer you back to of how adaptable and successful you can be when you put their mind to it.


    Inner drive

    Inner drive is all about a person’s ability to focus on themselves on a daily basis. Although a person shouldn’t put too much pressure on themselves, they can do the following things on a daily basis:

    • Be ‘in the moment’ – in other words, use their own self-awareness as a guide

    • Practice managing thoughts, emotions, and actions

    • See constructive criticism and setbacks as opportunities for development.  Learn not to take criticism personally,  but see it as an opportunity to grow. To improve. Actually encourage constructive feedback if you face a work criticism from your boss.

    • Write a to-do list that keeps you on top of your tasks and holds you accountable

    • Focus on your core values

    A person’s core values can form a major part of their personal identity, and include the things that are most important to them. If they make choices that deviate from their values, they are likely to lose motivation. As a result, their mental health could suffer.

    Knowing what they believe in can allow their core values to help them make decisions that drive them to succeed.

    Adopt good physical health habits

    As we’ve mainly focused on ‘fluffy’ things like thoughts and emotions, it might be a surprise that physical health is a definite key to resilience! It is vitally important!

    To truly take care of their physical health, a person needs to eat properly, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and actively listen to their body. By maintaining good physical health habits, it will give a person the energy and drive to maintain all of the other keys to resilience.

    When a person takes care of their body on a daily basis, it sets a reminder of something many people often forget – that small, consistent improvements stand the test of time in comparison to sudden, grand gestures.


    A person’s relationships can drastically improve their resilience, and their life overall. By having a healthy social network, it becomes far easier to develop and maintain resilience, even if the social circle of friendship is small. Quality not quantity counts in relationships.

    This means having trustworthy people to lean on when a person needs support, advice, or someone to listen.

    Those looking to develop their resilience should ask themselves:

    • When was the last time they were stressed at work?

    • Did someone help them?

    • If so, who was it?

    A person must recognise those who are loyal and helpful, to be able to recognise and identify their meaningful relationships. If they found that the answer to their question was that no-one helped them, think – did they reach out for help? Or did they keep it to themselves and find that things escalated – to a bad day or even a bad week?

    But a person also needs to make time and emotional space for others – this is all part of being resilient. Being genuinely interested in what others have to say and showing them that they can lean on you in hard times too. This will create genuine, lasting relationships built on trust and empathy – and it’s an enormous source of strength. Good social connections give a sense of belonging and it will increase happiness, enjoyment – and in turn – it will reduce susceptibility to stress and increase a person’s ability to handle adversity.

    So there you go.

    If you follow the above consistently – you should notice that your average mood will be more positive. Your relationships will be happier.

    Your work colleagues and job may become easier to manage.

    Who knows? You may be ready to go for that promotion, new job or take that exam!


    Today on International Women’s Day 2022, we celebrate the women in our lives

    International Women’s Day is a global, annual opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements and rally together for women’s equality.

    Marked annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) is one of the most important days of the year to:

    Celebrate women’s achievements

    Raise awareness about women’s equality

    Lobby for accelerated gender parity

    Fundraise for female-focused charities

    This #IWD2022, our thoughts turn towards the women in Ukraine.

    Mothers, daughters, women of all ages fighting for survival against aggression by Russian forces.

    Women reporting from Ukraine war zones to ensure the world knows the truth.

    Women forced to flee their homes with their children.

    Women forced to give birth in bunkers.

    We send our support to all the women of Ukraine.

    Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women issued the following statement ahead of International Women’s Day: –

    On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the power and potential of women and girls. We recognise their courage, resilience and leadership. We mark the ways in which we are making progress towards a more gender-equal world.

     Sima goes onto say;                                                                                             

    “At the same time, we see how that progress is being undermined by multiple, interlocking and compounding generational crises.

    Currently, we are witnessing the horrifying situation in Ukraine where the impacts on women and girls, including the hundreds of thousands displaced, remind us: all conflicts, from Ukraine to Myanmar to Afghanistan, from the Sahel to Yemen, exact their highest price from women and girls. The Secretary- General has been clear, War Must Stop.”

    Watch a video of Sima Bahous: https://youtu.be/HvBUwrIp9k0

    This year’s campaign is represented by the #BreakTheBias hashtag and calls on people to work towards a world that is equitable, inclusive, and free from bias and discrimination so the playing field is levelled for women moving forward.

    Back to Sima:-

    “The impacts of COVID-19 have increased inequalities, driving poverty and violence against women and girls; and rolling back their progress in employment, health and education. The accelerating crises of climate change and environmental degradation are disproportionately undermining the rights and wellbeing of women and girls. They are multiplying insecurity at all levels, from individual and household to national. Rising temperatures, extended droughts, violent storms and floods are resulting in loss of livelihoods, they are depleting resources and fuelling migration and displacement. The latest major IPCC report on climate change, and our Secretary-General, have warned us that ‘nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now, ’and that ‘many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now’.

    Climate change is a threat multiplier. But women, and especially young women, are solution multipliers.

    We have today the opportunity to put women and girls at the centre of our planning and action and to integrate gender perspectives into global and national laws and policies. We have the opportunity to re-think, re-frame and re-allocate resources. We have the opportunity to benefit from the leadership of women and girls environmental defenders and climate activists to guide our planet’s conservation. We need Indigenous women’s inter-generational knowledge, practices and skills.

    It will take unprecedented levels of global cooperation and solidarity to succeed, but there is no alternative to success. We must protect our hard-won gains on human rights and women’s rights and lead decisively to leave no woman or girl behind. 

    We have a blueprint to follow. It involves women’s full and equal participation and leadership in decision-making; their access to green jobs and the blue economy; and their equal access to finance and resources.

    We need to ensure universal social protection and a care economy that protects us all. We have to scale up financing for gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk initiatives; including for COVID-19 recovery and to increase resilience to future shocks. The solution is there. We resolve to pursue it.

    Let us make this International Women’s Day a moment to recall that we have the answers not just for SDG 5 but, through the advancement of gender equality, for all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. I look forward to working with every one of you to that end.”

    Wise words which all of us here at Astute thoroughly support.

    And our thoughts and prayers go to all in the Ukraine.


    Keep calm and eat pancakes! How to make the perfect pancake every time!

    We’ve done a fun straw poll in the office to see how people like their pancakes.

    Sarah Stevenson – ‘Lemon and sugar all the way!’

    Mary Maguire – ‘Thin with a generous drizzle of honey’

    Sarah-Louise – ‘Lemon and sugar for me!’

    Tom Norton – ‘Smothered in maple syrup and bacon’ Prize for weirdest preference surely?)

    Andy Lilliman – ‘Not the biggest fan – sorry!’

    Richard Bowe – ‘Maple syrup and ice cream on the top!’

    Josh Dunn – ‘Lemon and sugar all the way!’

    Jess Starns – ‘Lemon, sugar and bananas (sometimes with a bit of cream!)’

    Liz Champion – ‘In the bin’ – really made us laugh this one. Clearly not a fan!

    Matt Morgan – ‘Maple syrup, then fold the pancake, then lemon juice, fold again then sugar!’

    Harry Langridge – ‘Bacon works for me!’

    Tiarna Boler – ‘Bananas and whipped cream!’

    The most important bit is the recipe for the pancakes themselves!

    Below is our classic recipe you can use! And a top tip at the end too, for the perfect pancake every time!

    Alternatively, just pick up a pack of pre-made pancakes, pop in the microwave and voila!


    100g plain flour

    2 large eggs

    300ml milk (Semi-skimmed works best!)

    Optional – you can add 1tbsp of sunflower or vegetable oil, but this is down to you.

    Ditto a pinch of salt – totally optional – they work just as well without!

    And of course – make sure you have your fillings ready and waiting! Whether thats fresh lemons, oranges, honey, maple syrup or Nutella!

    These measures make around 6 – 8 pancakes depending how much batter you use each time. If you want to make more – just double the measures above. If you don’t have large eggs – just use one more ‘medium egg’ than the recipe above instead and that works just as well!


    1/ First – put the flour, eggs, milk (and add pinch of salt and dab of oil if you wish at this point) into a large mixing bowl

    2/ Whisk to a smooth batter – (you don’t want any lumps in your pancakes!)

    3/ Small frying pan (optional – you can have as big as you prefer, but tossing them may be harder!)

    4/ This is the key bit! Drizzle some oil onto the pan and heat gently. Use a fair bit. When heated, use several sheets of thick kitchen roll folded up, to wipe up the excess oil but DONT throw this away. Just pop this with the oil soaked bit to one side. You’ll need this later!

    5/ pop the pan back onto the heat for a few moments to heat it – then pour one ladle of your batter into the pan. Leave the pancake for a few seconds, then using your spatula – go around the edges and gently push any excess pancake mix so it forms a neat circle.

    6/ Now for the fun bit! After waiting 30 seconds to a minute (depending how hot you have the heat set), gently use the spatula to lift the pancake at the edges, then gently shake the pan. As soon as the pancake can glide over the pan – you’re ready to toss!

    7/ After tossing once, just repeat every few minutes and cook to your taste. Then slide onto your plate and its ready to eat!

    8/ Every two or three pancakes, glide the oil side of the kitchen tissue you used earlier over the pan. This will stop the pancakes from sticking to the pan but also avoid you using too much oil as there will only be the lightest of sheens on the pan. It also stops your pancakes sticking when you are trying to toss them!

    9/ Eco/ stop food waste tip: Cooked too much? Simples. Just leave the excess pancakes to cool, and when cold, layer them in-between grease proof paper, wrap altogether in clingfilm and pop in them in the freezer for up to two months!

    Now you are all ready.



    How great leadership can inspire amazing results!

    “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”.

    Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president has shown that someone with limited experience as a leader, can rise to horrendous challenges with immense dignity, bravery, intelligence, and honesty.

    Infact, the horrific invasion of Ukraine has flagged a tale of two massively contrasting leadership styles, a David versus Goliath – not just in terms of Ukraine versus Russia, but Zelensky versus Putin.

    In Zelensky there is a leader who has led his people, harnessed their passion and won the hearts and minds of his own people, and many millions, far, far away.

    Then we have Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. The truly brave Russian souls who demonstrated publicly in Moscow itself, risking their very lives in doing what is simply a democratic right to all of us in the West, show that Putin has not got the total will of his people behind him. Despite what he may say.

    May I just say at this point, say that I know Russians who are equally appalled at Putin’s actions.

    This incursion, this wretched invasion of a proud sovereign, independent nation, is not applauded by all Russians. Its important not to criticise all Russians and believe that they all support Putin, because they don’t. The bravery of the many hundreds of Russians to protest publicly and risk their livelihoods, jobs and very lives are a testament to that.

    Putin’s recorded warped, inconsistent rants on history, wild personal accusations of Zelensky, and in one breath asking Ukranians to ‘go home, be with your families’ and in the next, ‘take up your arms, overthrow the corrupt Zelensky and his Government’ are a total 180° polar opposite to the Ukrainian’s quiet, calm, consistent appeals and speeches to camera for his people.

    From being in a suit, to wearing military fatigues and telling his nation, ‘no, I’m here and staying here’, Zelensky has calmly, and consistently appealed that there is a better way.

    In a situation that is rapidly evolving, the way that Zlensky’s passion as his nation’s leader, has been able to ignite such powerful and never before used sanctions from other leaders around the world is in turn inspiring and powerful to watch.

    With nothing more than his passion and a phone, he has drummed up enthusiasm and action from the rest of Europe and beyond.

    A great leader is not defined by their ability to wield great force.

    Great leaders inspire great actions above and beyond those expected, from a team, a business, and vitally for the Ukraine, an entire nation.

    Brilliant leaders are able to blow to life embers, then cradle and harness the flames of passion in their teams, to go above and beyond what is expected of them.

    To reach deeper, harder, further than they thought they could ever aspire or possibly achieve.

    And this is the key bit.

    To try hard, and keep trying harder still, because they believe in their boss/ leader/ President.

    Not because they are paid to.

    Not because they are forced to.

    Because they want to.

    And that’s the rub, right there.

    ‘Great leaders are made great,

    not through fear or oppression,

    but through love.

    Many famous leaders

    have achieved

    great power,

    but they were not truly great leaders.

    Not truly loved.

    And in the war for hearts and minds, that’s where brave Zelensky has already won, and won hands down.

    Now the trivia bit, and some light relief!

    ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’. I thought this was from a Shakespeare play or other such writer, when I thought that quote summed up my thoughts on this blog.


    Turns out that no one person can truly be attributed as the owner of this great phrase. It sounded like a quote though, so I investigated. 

    Turns out that the phrase is credited to an England tail-end batsman, Cliff Gladwin in the 1948 England vs South Africa test series.

    In the first test at Kingsmead, Durban, in South Africa, England needed eight runs off the last eight-ball over, with nos.9 and 10 at the crease.

    With light fading, and an increasingly dry wicket that gave the bowlers lots of help, England got home after a ‘leg-bye’ was scored off the last ball of the game, when the ball struck the no.10, Cliff Gladwin, on the thigh and a single was scrambled.

    The Derbyshire bowler is remembered mostly for this batting feat and his immortal words: –

    “Coometh the hour, coometh the man.”

    I’ll take that as a former Londoner who now counts Derbyshire as her home. 🤣