When COVID-19 changed everything, training in the classroom was replaced by training over Zoom. For me, that transition was a little slow, and not without some hiccups. But after some 16 months of running online workshops, I think that virtual training is here to stay.
The advantages are clear. No need for anyone to travel, no need to hire a room, and as a result, fewer overheads. Also, while COVID-19 is still infecting many thousands every day, there is no risk of spreading the disease at an online event.
For trustees of many organisations helping staff to navigate their path back to work as we move through the pandemic will be a significant challenge. One key area to think about will be people’s desire to explore hybrid working so they can get the benefits of working both in the office and at home.
We will all be ‘building back better’ and living in ‘the new normal’. After 18 months where staff have discovered some of the joys (and the pitfalls) of working from home, and as organisations asses if they really need all that expensive office space we are going to see a rise in hybrid working where staff work partly at home and partly in the office. This blog will give trustees some questions to ponder as they decide a way forward.
1. Is it right for the organisation?
Home working or Hybrid working will not be suitable for all organisations. Where it isn’t you need to have a clear justification for why it is not possible in case you are asked by staff, you also have to ensure that all staff are treated fairly, but this does not mean there can not be different rules for different roles. But in the case of much desk bound work hybrid working should be considered. Simply because you as trustees or the senior manager don’t like it and are not familiar with it is not a reason to insist on everyone being in the office.
Ann Francke, the chief executive of the CMI, argues that the most successful models of working will be the most flexible ones. “Command and control isn’t the way we work now, the pandemic has knocked presenteeism on its head. Work should be output-focused – about what you do, not where you do it,”.
There is a good chance you will, or have, been asked about hybrid working, and if you haven’t you might well be. It makes much more sense to speak to staff and have a clear proactive answer for when the question comes. And at the same time there are many benefits to choosing a hybrid model. These could include
Increased efficiency – staff are judged on their results rather than on their behaviour – they no longer have to ‘look busy’ when the manager is around but set out to achieve their objectives in their own time. This instils trust in staff and gives them a sense of self-motivation; it will lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced absence and turnover rates
A reduction in costs – With fewer staff in the office at any given time, less office space is required, this will also reduce other on costs associated with being in the office. It’s not just the charity that will save money, either. Staff will see big savings on daily commuting, as well as potential savings on food expenses and those on-the-go coffees.
Improved well-being – Allowing staff to work from home helps them prioritise their wellbeing and family. It’s a chance to focus on staff morale and ensure they have everything they need to work at their best.
2. Is it right for the staff?
Commissioned by London-based startup YuLife, a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 British adults looked into workplace wellbeing. It found that four in five (79%) of those who could work remotely would like to do so at least two days per week.
According to the Charted Institute of Management (CMI) 48% of managers feared that team members would quit if they could no longer work remotely. People have got a taste of remote working and many like it. But not all do, many find it isolating and may not live somewhere conducive to working from home.
If you as an organisation have decided to move down the hybrid working route you must do this in partnership with the staff. It is highly likely that any change from an office based model to a hybrid model will involve a change in people’s contracts, as such you need to consult with them about the change.
Hybrid working will not suit everyone, you need to be flexible and understand different positions.
3. Do we mandate a number of days in the office and other procedural stuff?
The research from the CMI found that about half of managers expected staff to be in the office two to three days a week, but experts agree there is no one-size-fits-all model for hybrid working. While some companies are insisting on a set number of days a week in the office, or even full-time if you work for Goldman Sachs, others such as Tui are stipulating a minimum of one day a month.
At the same time it is essential that you work out travel and expenses policies
For travel, where can staff claim mileage? From their or the office to their destination, and what about travel to the office?
Are you going to pay a working from home allowance towards costs such as heating and internet etc?
Who will pay for kit that is needed at home? Will this also include special kit for those that may have a disability?
What about insurance for any of your equipment that is used at home, do staff have to include this in their insurance?
On top of this you will need to decide if certain staff or teams are in the office together. Are there enough desks and if not do you need a booking system and will there be a space for staff to store personal items. How will rules differ for part time staff, especially if you stipulating minimum days in the office, will these be pro rata?
Hybrid working is probably not the easiest option, but it will be the one that has the potential to reap the greatest rewards. There will be lots of issues that you need to work out including manning the phone, sorting the post and looking after the building if you have one. You will be unlikely to get all these things right straight away and the hybrid working arrangements should be reviewed on a regular basis.
4. How do we make sure people are working safely?
You will need to consider how and where people are working when they are at home. You retain a duty of care to staff but obviously you are more reliant on them completing their own assessment of their working environment. You should look to check each staff members home working environment, this can be done remotely or online. It is also important that you are clear with staff about safe home working, both with regard to their physical workspace but also with regard to not meeting clients or contacts at home etc.
When setting up home work spaces you need to think about reasonable adjustments and providing equipment, this could be proper seats, laptop stands, foot rests etc. there has to be a clear agreement with staff about how your equipment is used and that it remains the property of the organisation.
As well as physical safety it is important that you consider data and digital security. As staff work from home and move from one place to another there is an increased risk of data breaches. All staff must be aware of your data protection policy and taking all steps to reduce the risk of accidental data breaches, this includes not letting any family members use work IT equipment, and staff not using work equipment for personal use.
Finally make sure that any of your equipment is insured, either through your policy or through staff members home policy. Many insurers extended cover for IT to include home use at the start of the pandemic but for most this was a temporary change and has come to an end. Check with your provider.
5. Do people have the skills?
Hybrid working will involve new skills, this will include
learning new ways to communicate,
being more organised
increasing our flexibility and resourcefulness
learning to use new software
But perhaps the biggest learning curve will be for managers without a doubt a hybrid worker’s most important asset will be a good manager. As Ann Franke states the days of command and control are over, managers will need empathy and emotional intelligence. There will be a need for more collaboration, greater trust and space for staff to find their own best way to achieving shared outcomes.
As trustees it is essential that you promote, encourage and model good management practices. How you behave will filter down to all the staff and it may be that management training is need for trustees as well as staff.
Hybrid working will be a journey for all involved and it is essential that you give the space, the tools and the resources to ensure that the whole organisation is able to travel together to the ‘New Normal’.
Hybrid working should be better for staff giving them improved work/life balance and improving mental health.
It will be better for the planet if commuting is reduced (but for those of us who commute by bike it will be worse for our waistline).
It will take work but it will also help to increase productivity.
We need to ensure that we are taking people on a shared journey and that we build trust and collaboration.
We will need to invest in skills as well as in the equipment and software that enable hybrid working.
The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate website states that the commission
“was created by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority in 2020, on the recommendation of the Combined Authority Board. The task of the Commission is to provide authoritative recommendations to help the region mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, enabling us to meet the commitment to eradicating net carbon emissions across the area by 2050.”
This response from Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) addresses some issues about the process and the make up of the commission, and does not address the detailed recommendations that the report makes. We at CCVS are not qualified to speak about the ambition or impact of the recommendations, but we fully support the need to make a significant and radical difference to how we use energy in the short, medium and long term in order to reduce the impact of climate change. We believe that climate change poses a significant risk to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the wider planet, and that we all need to look at what we can do to reduce this.
Individual and community action will be key
Whist it is essential that government at all levels brings in the necessary legislation and funding to make change happen, and whilst it is essential that business of all sizes makes changes to their energy use, a significant part of addressing the need to reduce non sustainable energy use will fall on individuals.
“The engagement of residents is particularly important: the Climate Change Committee estimates that almost 60% of the changes we need to reach net zero will involve people changing their behaviour to some extent and making positive decisions to support emissions reduction.”
The report is clear that
“In the CPCA area we have over 350,000 existing homes that will need to be converted to low carbon heating”
It also has a target that there will be a
“Reduction in car miles driven by 15% to 2030 relative to baseline”
The desire and ability of individuals and communities to make major changes to their lives to address climate issues has to be there or we will not reach the targets that have been set. These changes to lives have to be done in a way that does not increase the already considerable inequalities that exist across the county. The report recognises this but must do all it can to ensure that any changes are
“delivered through a just transition, that does not leave marginalised communities behind.”
Recommendation – Any changes, proposals or ideas have to be measured against an equality index to ensure that no one is disadvantaged.
Where is the community engagement?
My first issue with the commission is that the voice of the community and the community sector is not represented at the highest levels of the commission. If the last 18 months have shown us anything it is the ability of communities and community organisations to deliver real support and services based on local need and local knowledge. It was individuals and small charities that reacted quickest to the outbreak of the pandemic, it was communities and community organisations that found solutions to help those in need, it was these groups that marshalled and motivated an army of volunteers to deliver. All this was done before government at any level was able to start to help out. What then emerged was one of the most equal partnerships between communities and small organisations and local government that has been seen. This delivered the support to those that needed it.
Recommendation – That the commission invites a new member from the local community or charity sector to become a full member.
Recommendation – that a local network of other organisations and groups that have an interest is formed and resourced to feed views to the representative.
The report recognises that
“there are ways in which individuals, families and communities can contribute positively to this change”
The commission has to find a way to get a voice from this level heard at the highest level.
We need new community solutions
Radical change is needed if we want to avoid the impact of climate change. To achieve this we have to work in true partnership across all levels of community and government. Legislation and top-down solutions will only change so much. It is only through co-production that significant changes in how we live and work can be developed and become the new normal.
There have to be resources put in place to allow communities to identify how they can address issues; new ways of working have to be embraced and power has to be moved to the local level. The commission have to address this if they are to take individuals and communities on a shared journey to a shared destination.
Recommendation – that the Commission look at how power, resources and wealth can be given to, and retained by, communities to allow them to find local solutions that work.
Many people will have ideas and views on this, and as the report highlights this is a topic close to the hearts of many in the area.
“Residents responding to both surveys wanted to see council leadership on climate change, nature prioritised, improved education and information to support behaviour change and a leading role for the area nationally. A strong engagement and listening programme will be needed to ensure residents are both keen and able to make the changes needed.”
We need to make sure that there is wide engagement and that this is about more than listening, but about devolving power and resources. CCVS are not the experts and it is not for us to comment on the practical way forward. We will do all we can to play our part as an organisation and as a membership body. What we can, and will, do is to push for all voices to be heard, not just through consultations but also at the highest levels of the commission.
The solutions that local, regional and national government come up with have to be co-produced with communities and individuals if we want to see real change to how we live. A top-down approach will fail, and will also increase inequality and leave marginalised communities more impacted by climate change etc.