Word Monster: Work, life and leave at one of the UK's best workplaces

Word monster award

Before they were a team of over twenty friendly monsters and ranked one of the best places to work in the UK, Word Monster was a single-man medical writing agency. We chatted with Dr Carl Owen, founder and director of Word Monster, about the policies that have earned them their recent honour.

Also known by his monster alias "Toothy", Carl saw an opportunity to provide high-quality communications services to the medical industry; it didn't take long before his team expanded in size and to new countries. With the medical industry not typically synonymous with playfulness, fun and flexibility, Carl broke the mould, creating an agency with an engaging brand and culture that even by reading one of their LinkedIn posts makes you feel like part of the team.

Word Monster Team Award
The Word Monster team were recognised as one of the Great Place to Work's top 15 best UK workplaces for 2023.

Discovering the need for leave management

As Carl added more people to his growing business, he needed to expand resources to help him manage his HR, leave management playing a pivotal role. Having begun with a humble spreadsheet to manage his team's time off, the manual system became more trouble than it was worth once he had a team of three people.

"The process of tracking leave can become overwhelming quite early for the business and individuals keeping their own track. You need to plan your holidays, or else you may not end up taking it."

The challenge went beyond scheduling annual leave for Carl and his fully-remote team; they needed to see who was absent and get the essential details at a glance to avoid having multiple key people off simultaneously. Most of all, cost and ease of use were significant factors when choosing the best absence management software for their small business. Carl was looking for a system that was easy for anybody to use, affordable and scalable to suit their monster-sized expansion plans well into the future.

"Cost is a huge part of the decision; a lot of HR platforms are big and take a lot of learning, time commitment and cost. The one-size-fits-all solution never seems to cut the mustard.
Using Leave Management Software

Leave policies that go above and beyond

Carl describes discovering Leave Dates as a "breath of fresh air" and a no-brainer when he trialled the system with his team in 2019. Being relatively new to managing HR, finding a system so intuitive that he and his staff required little to no training was a huge relief. Onboarding the team was so easy and intuitive that it prompted them to consider new policy ideas. In fact, unlike most businesses that have existing leave policies, using Leave Dates helped the Word Monster team to develop policies from scratch. They now enjoy the extra time off that goes beyond statutory requirements, such as birthdays off and accrued long-service leave after only two years with the company. Carl has successfully implemented the long-service leave benefit to reward his team for loyalty and a job well done, adding an extra day of leave for every year worked, up to five years.

Growing into a global team with a virtual office

As the agency grew, more staff joined Word Monster, and they expanded to the USA and Australia. Carl and his team needed to consider how all areas of HR work together and decided to purchase a large integrated solution to consolidate HR. Their new system performed beautifully in most areas. Still, one feature wasn't entirely up to the mark, you guessed it, leave management. Within days of testing the leave management feature of their new software, the decision was clear for Carl; Leave Dates is still the best software for managing their team's time off.

"The team were already so happy using (Leave Dates), and the low cost meant it was completely justifiable to keep it."

Leave Dates is one of many tools the Word Monster team uses to keep communication flowing, helping bridge the gaps that can often occur with a multi-national remote staff, but their efforts go even further. In early 2023, the Word Monster team levelled up their remote workplace game, building a 2D virtual office to allow everyone to feel more connected from afar. Suitably named 'Monsterverse', the space gives a sense of nostalgia for 90s video games; think of Commander Keen as an office space. In the virtual office, you can walk (or Go-Kart) around in the character you create, start video and audio chat with your coworkers, and set up meeting rooms with presentation spaces.

Word Monster Retreat
The fully remote UK team get together for periodical retreats, training and bonding activities.

In July, they will host their first major speaking event, MonsterComm, from the Monsterverse. A first of its kind in the medical communications industry, their expert speakers will present new ideas on medical communications, flexible working, digital tools and technologies and more. Word Monster is a shining example of remote working done well, thanks to their commitment to culture, strategic thinking and exceptional use of technology. As Leave Dates is one piece of tech their team has used every day for the past three years, we had to ask Carl the big question - Who would you recommend Leave Dates to?

"Anybody, it's a no-brainer for businesses with small teams using spreadsheets, small to medium-sized business... Leave Dates only does leave, but it does it so well."

As a founding customer of Leave Dates, Word Monster's experience is a perfect example of how the system grows with businesses. From a team of three friendly monsters in the UK, to over twenty across the globe, as their broader HR needs changed, Carl still feels that their leave management has remained cost-effective and in the most capable hands with Leave Dates.

Leave Dates is a proud sponsor of MonsterComm on 12th July 2023, we will be in the Monsterverse for the event with exclusive offers. Seats are limited and going fast - Book your tickets here.



Ché manages our marketing, communications and partnerships. She helps people find Leave Dates and make sure it is right for them. Her favourite weekly task is sending thank you messages to customers who review us.