Being a homeworker provides flexibility and independence to a wide range of people.
However, when large numbers of staff and volunteers operate outside of a charity’s main organisational base, it can be difficult to avoid an atmosphere of dislocation, both from the centre of the organisation and from colleagues at all levels.
Homeworkers can easily start to feel disconnected, unsupported and even excluded from the life of your charity.
It's therefore important to take deliberate and regular steps to keep homeworkers in touch with key developments: to hear their news, ask for their views and help them feel valued.
Find out about your homeworkers’ needs.
- Do they have close colleagues living and working nearby or are they entirely alone in their work?
- What line management or group leadership structure are they currently part of?
- What systems are in place to facilitate regular meetings and communication within that structure?
- Do they have, or can your charity issue them with, a mobile phone, laptop and webcam?
- Are they living and working in an urban or rural area? Are they with or without signal coverage or constant electricity?
- How do they feel about the communications and support they already receive from the different areas of the organisation, ie the centre, regional networks and local groups?
- Do they want/need further support and communications?
- What kind of communications would they rather avoid? It's important not to make assumptions — not every homeworker wants to join your intranet chat group!
The key connections to concentrate on are between staff/volunteers, their managers and members of their team. Is there anything that can be done to further facilitate these connections? Most importantly, you will want to ensure homeworkers are taking part in regular meetings with both line managers and colleagues.
As with your staff in general, meetings between line managers and homeworkers should include briefings about organisational and departmental developments. If possible, some of these meetings should be held face-to-face, but a formal schedule of meetings may also need to include telephone calls or Skype meetings. Ideally there will be plenty of informal contact made with your homeworkers too.
Homeworkers selection box
Put together an engaging package of communications for your homeworkers. This can include elements they can either opt in or out of, as well as specifying the essential channels they will need for staying in touch:
- Build up homeworking networks, in the form of regular meet-ups, intranet pages, social media, email lists etc.
- Put in place a communications buddy system, ensuring homeworkers have their own go-to person to help keep them in the loop.
- Hold meetings/events/roadshows for homeworkers at the local, regional or national level – run in person by key staff and managers.
- Compile a homeworker locations database. This could be used to alert head office or regional managers to staff working close to locations they will be visiting. A local ‘meet and greet’ event or a quick catch-up could be arranged.
- When the opportunity arises, stories and pictures of homeworkers can be included in any newsletters, intranet posts etc.
- Set up intranet ‘team pages’ – either homeworking teams or teams that include homeworkers and on-site workers.
- Establish virtual common rooms: intranet/social media pages where workers can share more personal chat/photos etc.
- Introduce staff awards or recognition schemes with a specific category for homeworkers.
For more ideas on connecting with homeworkers, including charity case studies, download HQ and beyond, CharityComms’ free guide to effective internal communication for charities with branches, regions or local groups.