Uncertainty is the most commonly used word to describe the current situation of work in the UK. During the many months that have been coronavirus and beyond we have learnt about the bold decisions many charities made regarding how they had worked until that time. However, the situation is changing rapidly, and with a looming new covid-19 peak, many charities have held off the roll-out of any substantial changes in their ways of working.
Charities are still making decisions about how to adapt to the changing situation and the role of internal communication has never been more needed
Here are some ideas to rethink your internal communication as you navigate the everchanging world of work:
Communicate a clear way forward (when possible)
This may seem counterintuitive after reading the introduction of this article. However, as RandallFox’s Selina Fox recapped in our Beyond the Organogram blog series, transparency and honesty are crucial when you’re communicating changes in your team. That’s the current situation, and even though there are few certainties, our organisations do have some (e.g. “We are not planning for the team to get back to the office until spring”).
The challenge is to consistently communicate how definitions about where and when staff will work are related to their wellbeing and the charity’s mission.
Create conversations not just broadcast
Internal communications are not just about how to make announcements correctly. On the contrary, it is more about keeping open channels for a constant interchange of ideas, feelings, and perceptions between staff members. This can be a good source of insight for leaders when making decisions about the future of work in their organisations. It can take the form of staff surveys, focus groups, digital boards to share ideas or other tools.
Last September, the RSPCA announced its plans to its offices and move towards a more flexible way of working. The decision was made after a staff survey, where 83% of workers asserted that they wanted to spend more time working from home.
“We followed this with a number of workshops before launching our ‘Hello Hybrid’ programme – a 6-month trial of hybrid working for our office-based staff. Feedback from these workshops contributed to the formation of a manager briefing pack. We took our people managers through the briefing pack in focus groups so that they were equipped to answer their teams’ questions before the formal launch of Hello”, explains Kate Bromley, head of internal communications at RSPCA.
Keep internal comms personal
“Some organisations are stuck trying to have one policy fits all roles which isn’t helpful”, tells Alice Wood, senior consultant at Charity People. Reasons to prefer working from home or returning to the office can be as many as the number of people working for your charity. For instance, those who must commute more than two hours are more likely to prefer working from home, while their colleagues who live alone would rather get back to the office. Research also shows 57% of people in the UK fear that hybrid or home workers could be treated differently from office-based workers. However, the majority would prefer to keep silent regarding their preferences.
“You need to be so careful about issues about equality and diversity. For example, people in your team may be shielding informally, or they have family members who are vulnerable, and there needs to be some sort of understanding rather than a dictate coming from above. An understanding that people could be in very different circumstances that they might not need to or have to declare”, remarks Alice.
Regular one-to-one talks between managers and team members are vital to detect particular needs, adapt the organisational policy and give peace of mind. As the CharityComms Wellbeing Guide recommends, conversations like these can also be spaces to share our feelings and find emotional support.
So what now?
Above all, it’s undeniable that covid-19 has changed the job market permanently. A recent study found that 90% of workers in the UK think flexible working is here to stay, and 43% will never apply for a job 100% office-based. But what is the situation of comms professionals in the charity sector specifically? Working in partnership with Charity People, CharityComms is taking the sector’s temperature through the 2021-22 Salary and Organisational Culture Survey. Please help us in gathering new evidence to inform charities’ decisions.
Take part in the 2021-22 Salary and Organisational Culture Survey here.
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