In this mini-series we discuss what hybrid working looks like in charitable organisations. Hybrid working is when people split their time between working from home and working in the office and has become a very popular approach for organisations.
When lockdown was enforced, many group activities came to a halt or started up online. With that came the joys of bad internet connection and the “You’re on mute!” catchphrase.
Thankfully, many of us are now able to return to the normality of some office work and face-to-face meetings. So we thought it would be good to share some of the ways a few National Lottery funded groups have adopted a hybrid way of working.
Home Start West Lothian – Flexibility at the heart
National Lottery funded charity, Home Start West Lothian, offer support and practical help to parents with young children. Having always been based in the office or doing home visits, they have now adapted how they work to meet the needs of their customers as well as volunteers.
Stuart Barrie, manager of the West Lothian branch, tells us about the things they learned when working from home:
“We had to make sure we had good communication between our team. It’s important to still do things as a team to feel connected. We had team quizzes, a team lunch over Zoom once a week and made sure to still celebrate the things you normally would. Home Start have celebrated every birthday on Zoom.”
Having to adapt, the team decided to not rush into bringing everyone back to the office when restrictions eased. After a consultation with the team, they found that they were happy with the changes, so they continue to be flexible to suit everyone’s needs.
When they knew lockdown was here to stay, Home Start organised webinars for their team to teach the volunteers and staff the benefits of homeworking as well as set up training to ensure good GDPR practice remained in place.
“GDPR doesn’t change whilst we’re at home. It’s essential not to mix personal and work computers and a thing to consider [when adopting a hybrid working method] would be to write guidelines and train staff.”
Stuart believes the pandemic has made them more innovative, forcing them to rethink how they conduct their services. They have started a walking group with some of their families and although it is not officially support work, they found that they were having some of the best conversations with their families because they felt relaxed.
Values Into Action: The Life I Want – Improving accessibility for its members
Values Into Action received £145,357 of National Lottery funding for their project The Life I Want. The project aims to give people with learning disabilities the opportunity to give feedback to services they need and influence the development of new activities to help improve services. They now run a blended approach of online and in-person sessions.
Donna-Marie Speir, Lead Consultant from The Life I Want, told us how delivering sessions online opened their eyes to the importance of accessibility. She says “Online events reduced social isolation and people developed an online support network to help them through their difficulties.”
However it wasn’t an easy road for them as many of their members needed lots of initial support accessing Zoom and not everyone had access to technology or the internet.
“We found that Zoom is the preferred platform in terms of accessibility for people with learning disabilities and significant hearing or sight loss. It’s important to also keep the chat bar to a minimum if someone with sight loss who uses Java [text to speech software] is participating, as the text translation will be in direct competition with the speaker.”
Donna-Marie also recommended that for groups considering running online sessions should offer training and trial run sessions allowing members to practice getting onto Zoom and to let people know why sessions will be online as opposed to in person.
Things to consider
- Communicate clearly with your volunteers, staff or members to keep them up to date and to let them know why things will be online or in person.
- Not everyone will be “techy”. Try to set up training sessions and provide guidance to make sure everyone can get involved.
- Take time to talk with your team and members to find out what worked and what didn’t during the pandemic. Don’t rush back into a pre-pandemic way of working if some of your online or outdoor sessions were a success.
Next time, we’ll hear how one group were able to help reduce social isolation amongst their members by focusing on growing their online community during the pandemic.
If you would like to share your groups hybrid working techniques, send us an email: Scotlandcomms@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk