Fikret Zendeli, founder of Social Friday, is the CEO of Breon, a company he founded in 2010 in Macedonia, when he moved to the country with only one car, two computers, and a bag full of hope and self-confidence.
His adventure had its ups and downs, but he managed to set up and run a successful engineering studio that doesn’t only offer incredible working conditions and benefits to its employees, but was also the first company in Macedonia to implement regular corporate social responsibility activities for the entire team.
SOCIAL FRIDAY was born in the offices of Breon in 2017. It was an initiative which made their Friday afternoons more productive. Fikret and his employees would dedicate those ineffective pre-weekend hours to a volunteer activity helping a local social cause.
Below are Fikret’s thoughts on the importance of the initiative, how it impacted his own colleagues and why he believes other companies, school and organizations should adopt it.
How did you get the idea for SOCIAL FRIDAY? Would you say that there was something specific that “triggered” you into starting the initiative?
When I was about 11 years old, my father told me – “It’s not fun if only you have something. If you have something, you then have to make sure that your neighbor has it too. Otherwise, he is obliged to cause you problems since he too has children to feed.”
In the summer of 2004 my parents sent me to spend a month in Macedonia without any money in my pocket. That’s when I realized how much less attention people pay to you when you have no money. I was shocked – shouldn’t people be judged by their behaviour and actions and not their financial value? That summer, I promised myself that the moment I have a bit of financial capacity I would behave differently and do something to give those in need the attention they deserve.
It was only a matter of time until an idea like “Social Friday” popped into my head. I was constantly helping and supporting those less fortunate ever since the first day I founded Breon in 2010.
“Social Friday” was officially started in the summer of 2017, after I read research that confirmed what most of us already know (but maybe don’t want to accept) – Friday afternoons are the least productive part of the workweek. Most of us “mentally clock off” after about 2:30pm in the afternoon. That’s when I realized that maybe there is a way to turn this into a opportunity for both companies and the broader community.
How many Social Fridays has Breon done so far?
By now we’ve organized seven Social Fridays within the company, most of them with different local organizations. We still find ourselves at a stage where we’re exploring and trying out different types of social activities in an attempt to find one that best fits our skills and capabilities, before dedicating to one particular cause in the long-term.
Tell us about the last “Social Friday” activity you organized.
Last time we organized a barbecue picnic with the children from the SOS village in Skopje. It’s an organization that we’ve been supporting from before SOCIAL FRIDAY was born, through donations, but we never had the chance to actively participate in their activities and meet the children from the village. This made a big difference.
Donating money is, of course, good, but it will never have the impact that activities like SOCIAL FRIDAY. You invest the time that is most probably spent unproductively on a beneficial activity that brings joy to both your community and yourself.
Are there any lessons, tips or tricks, that you’ve learned through SOCIAL FRIDAY so far?
I realized that people tend to overcomplicate the process of coming up with a SOCIAL FRIDAY activity when all it takes is having the will to do good and contacting a local social organization with the idea of joining them on a Friday.
Another thing we’ve learned is that it’s good to set the dates for all your SOCIAL FRIDAYS, at once, at the beginning of the year. This way you will have more time to prepare and communicate them with employees and clients.
Also, when organizing the event, make sure you come up with an activity that will get everyone involved. All participants should be busy and contributing. When dividing people into groups, make sure they’re made of a mix of company employees, social organization representatives and even community guests that you’ve invited. From our experience, handcrafting activities are a great way to keep people busy, plus, depending on the products you create, you might even be able to sell them and donate the funds to the organization.
Anyone that’s able to organize an apéro-event or a ski-day for the company can organize a SOCIAL FRIDAY activity, given that the long-term effects on the company and the community are not comparable to your typical afterwork drinks.
Can you see any impact that SOCIAL FRIDAY had on your team so far?
Absolutely! The impact is, in a way, priceless. You can sense the enormous pride and satisfaction among the employees. I remember one colleague of mine telling me how delighted and supportive her family is of the social contribution she’s making. I strongly believe that feedback such as this has an incredible impact on people’s happiness.
If you could challenge 3 companies, any companies from around the world, to implement SOCIAL FRIDAYS, who would you choose?
Facebook, Google, and Netcetera.
Facebook and Google because they do have the capability and the power to bring SOCIAL FRIDAY to a global level where it should be and where it’s needed – to become a fixed part of the global economic system.
Netcetera is a smaller company, but one with a great set of values. It’s a company that I’ve always been looking up to. I believe that adding SOCIAL FRIDAYS to their already long list of employment benefits and opportunities will further boost the idea and motivate other companies to join.
Do you know of any other companies that have joined the cause so far?
There’s one company in Latvia that just implemented their first SOCIAL FRIDAY. We also know of two other companies in Switzerland who have shown serious interest, one from Portugal, and an institution from Kosovo.
We’re very happy and proud of the interest companies are showing at this stage of the initiative, when our main promotion hasn’t even started yet. We didn’t expect this kind of attention so early, given that a lot of our elements (like our website) are still “under construction”.
How can other companies join the movement?
It’s really easy. All you have to do is to fill our Join Us form, find a local social cause you want to support, go out, have a meaningful time, create awareness and share your impressions using #SocialFridayActivity.
If you have any question connected with organizing SOCIAL FRIDAYS feel free to contact us.