We look at some creative, innovative, and flexible options for when charities return to the office
The return to the office isn’t expected to be the same as pre-COVID-19 times.
Surveys across the UK reveal how the workforce feels about returning to the office. Theta Global Advisors, a consulting firm, finds that 57% of employees don’t want to go back to the ‘normal’ way of working.
Human resources consultant Kate Marchant agrees. She says: “Employees have clearly got used to a different and more flexible way of working, offering more work-life balance and, in some cases, they’re better off financially.”
But for now, charities have a chance to rethink and imagine what the office of the future might look like. At Charity Digital, we’ve been taking a look at what’s likely and what’s possible.
For charities with excess space, there’s a multitude of options to choose from.
Organisations with occasional empty space offer some great choices for charities. Triodos Bank offers The Foundation event venue for reduced hire to non-profit organisations. Already designed with business specifications in mind, the bank supports events with social, cultural, and environmental aims. Organisations can book the space online.
The NCVO also offers a similar service with meeting space available. Lifting the rental model, charities can easily put up event or meeting space for hire. This option is particularly attractive for charities located in city centres.
Some charities are ahead of the curve. Centric Community Projects (CCP) provides space for charities and civic organisations. They help by arranging locations for retail, storage, training, studios – pretty much anything charities do.
Going fully digital, CCP has an online selection of sites for occasional use. For those thinking about making better use out of space, getting in contact with CCP could help.
With the expectation that remote working is here to stay, the demand for fixed office space will change. That could also lead to a greater emphasis on collaboration.
Hub office spaces encourage team work, communication, and creativity. Oktra, the office designer, offers tips to enable different types of working. Working with The Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Oktra created a flexible working space, changing desk space into an open-floor plan.
Break-out spaces for small groups help to encourage idea generation. Such spaces could replace unused office space since workers are expected to come into the office fewer days per week.
Shifting away from permanent desk space, hot-desking could also transform charity office space. Hot-desking is when multiple users share the same desk space by using it at different times.
CAN Mezzanine operates a hot-desking system for charities. With four locations in London, charities can hire and share desk space with others. Using an online booking system, charity workers book spaces as and when needed.
Co-working space is another idea charities can try. Inviting other organisations into your office is a great way to exchange ideas. Child.org recently launched a co-working space in central London for non-profits. Utopy, an online social impact programme coordinator and Charity Futures, a think tank, are both members of the space.
Charities do need to be cautious about sharing offices, however. Charities are taking different approaches to risk management. The Third Sector reports that the NCVO is dropping its desk-sharing policy, whereas Crisis will start to limit the number of people in the office. The other consideration for charity leaders is how safety will be ensured.
Smaller charities can think about doing away with office space all together. This solution could be cost-effective in terms of saving rent and it makes use of tried and tested remote working infrastructure.
After the first lockdown, Action on Hearing Loss decided to forgo office space. Mark Atkinson, the charity’s Chief Executive, says: “We don’t see the point of rushing a decision when the world is changing around us. Offices might be very different after the coronavirus crisis, and ways of working as we know them may be different.”
It’s also a chance for new ideas. Atkinson adds: “This is our opportunity to be on the front foot of any changes presented by coronavirus, and make innovative decisions driven by the needs of our people and our charity.
“In essence, we want to reinvest the money that would have been paid in rent, business rates, utilities etc into delivering our purpose and rewarding our staff.”