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Pioneer Profile: Meet Alex Walsh

19th Feb 2024

It’s time that we recognise the people behind the evolving world of work. Our working lives have shifted to being more inclusive, more people-centric, more flexible, and just plain better for both employees and companies. 

These changes didn’t just happen: they were put into place and upheld by individuals and teams working to create a better working future for everyone. 

So we’re finally putting the spotlight on the people who make great companies great: the people-people.  

People-people are crucial to the success of every company. They find you the talent that drives you forwards, and they’ve taken on an increasingly strategic role in the past few years – often taking on responsibility for mental health, diversity and inclusion, culture, EVPs, Employer Branding and team happiness. 

Read more about the Pioneers List and go behind the scenes to understand how and why we’ve selected our Pioneers.

We’re delighted to introduce you to Alex Walsh, CEO at Flexified company Howells and one of our 2024 Pioneers. Read on to hear all about his career, his experiences with flexible working and building great company cultures, and his hopes for the future of work.

Tell us a little bit about your career history, and how you got to where you are now. What were the key milestones?

Following university at Leeds, I started out working in the City of London. I left this role to become a competitive CrossFitter, although good fun, it was fundamentally an unsustainable lifestyle for me (one needs to win regularly to make a living!). So, I considered how best to combine health with fitness, with a stable income and a drive to make a positive difference, and joined the British Army as an officer. After 7 years, I set about rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, where on the journey I made the decision to leave the Army, start a family and forge a commercial career. Eventually I found a fabulous little business in Harrogate where I helped with business development, which evolved into an Operational Director role, and where I am now the CEO.

When did you become interested in flexible working, EVPs, Employer Brand, and the future of work?

I first became interested in the power of hybrid & flexible working in the Army. Contrary to popular thought, life in the Army is more flexible than most people imagine – don’t get me wrong, when it is necessary to be strict it absolutely is, but it was in the spaces between tasks or of lower intensity where we often found the most was achieved. The holistic support the forces offers, combined with an open-minded approach to the method in which work was done, and with a clear desired outcome, lead to overwhelmingly more positive results across the board. 

In troubleshooting our SME based in North Yorkshire, who’s competitors are all London based behemoths, it was clear one of our key risks was our people. With what I had learned in the Army in mind, being small and nimble allowed us to lean into a progressive work-culture and ride on the wave of the widespread COVID transformations. Today, we are able to provide a truly permissive working environment, with wrap-around support for each of our staff, and the hybrid flexibility for them to work as best fits their role and the agreed aims. 50% of the company come in 2-3 days a week because that is what works best for them, which is what works best for the company.

What is the most impactful change that you’ve implemented?

The decision to evolve into a remote-first workplace underpins the wider movement.

It has super charged our progress towards Net Zero, through slashing commuter emissions and allowing us to shrink our office space by ¾. It has guided our hand in adopting technology to better serve our staff with new benefits around medical care, mental health, electric vehicles, and a dog-friendly workplace! It inspired our re-brand, cut absences by 50%, increased happiness, wellbeing, and productivity, and has attracted new talent to our team.


What’s the biggest impact flexible working has had on your own life?

Being around to raise my young family (2 daughters under three & a Vizsla!).

What’s the biggest challenge of being in your role/industry right now?

As an industry, it is the pace of the tech evolution vs the pace of governance & legal reform. Artificial Intelligence is on the brink of blowing our industry wide open, just as the trailblazers were wrapping their heads around the potential of blockchain technology. It is a fascinating time to be in data, technology, and governance.

What do you think the next big trend is in working culture?

The normalisation of flexible & remote work in “white collar” jobs. It is easy to forget that we are at the tip of the spear.

The wider business environment is still coming to terms with a worsening cost of living situation, squeezing commuters and commercial tenants; wages lagging (anticipated) lifestyles; a trend towards portfolio careers, etc. Each of these fuels a competitive employment market where the “nice-to-haves” will stop being differentiators and will be needed and expected to support the modern workforce to do what needs to be done. Capital decisions will follow the path of most return; as time and tech are proving, flexible & remote work are both financially and ethically profitable. 

We’re still at the start of the “next big trend”, the broader mainstream adoption of hybrid working, and a dispersion of power and wealth across the country, and beyond. And living in North Yorkshire, I can’t wait!

Take a look at the other Pioneers who made the list, and subscribe to our newsletter to get updates on new Pioneers, guides to help you navigate your strategic role, and exclusive invites to webinars and events