According to the 2021 Charity Digital Skills Report, the majority of charities are now committed to digital service delivery, with 73% planning to continue delivering in this way and 71% embedding digital as part of a hybrid model.
- What are the challenges with hybrid digital/face-to-face service provision and how are you tackling them?
While over two thirds (67%) continue to deliver all work remotely, just under a third (31%) say their staff are burned out from the demands of intense remote working.
- What is your organisation doing to support staff in a hybrid working environment, particularly to maintain wellbeing and balance?
This lunchtime peer sharing event, hosted by TechSoup Connect London (formerly NetSquared London) in partnership with other UK Tech for Good communities, was a chance to share and learn from other charity digital folks as we all work out how to deliver successful hybrid services, internal ways of working and events in future.
Our first event on the TechSoup Connect platform launched with fervent problem solving! And we can tell you that the correct balance of in person versus remote working is……....we’re still working on it!! We set out to tackle the question of hybrid working - from the new challenges in our day to day working to delivering services and running events.
By breaking out into smaller groups, we were able to draw on the wisdom of the crowd to tease out many of the issues, and offer up ideas and solutions. In our day to day working, we have experienced new pressures on work-life balance and inter-team collaboration, amongst others. Contributors suggested introducing 'rituals' such as daily standups and being cognizant of culture such as accommodating different ways of learning.
Service delivery and events using hybrid or remote means are littered with challenges– from the inclusivity of participants to training staff. This is currently a field of learning and experimentation, where everyone should be encouraged to try out new ideas & capture feedback from everyone involved, whilst remaining considerate and respectful.
What is clear is that we’re all trying to achieve a balance in which we use the best approach whilst also considering learning & communicating styles and upholding staff wellbeing. We’re not sure if we are getting it right, but attendees were keen to hear and share ideas with each other. Here’s a summary of the conversations and key ideas for hybrid day to day work; service delivery and events.
1. There is no best practice
Hybrid is being delivered in a variety of ways– some people have been mandated to go back to the office for a proportion of their time; others have been allowed to continue to work from home. Many discussed the need to be intentional in creating/preserving a work culture and staff connectedness such as through daily ‘stand ups’– short team meetings and by using art for staff to communicate feelings or activities they have done. What works for one organisation, team, person may not work for others. An observation of the discussions was that hybrid working was discussed as being the new norm, with no discussion of returning back to a less flexible way of working.
2.Collaborative development is the way forward
For certain tasks, some people prefer online whilst for others the opposite is true. In choosing online/ in person/ blend, co-development of the approach to use is important to create the conditions which best work for everyone involved. Ask people what their preferences are; make meetings accessible and inclusive. Find out if people (including staff) have the facilities (technology & internet data, physical space etc) and skills to participate.
3. It’s a learning process
We’re all experimenting on the different types of approaches, and with any good experiment, we need to observe what is taking place and to learn what worked well/ could be improved. Being open about testing and learning the best ways for hybrid working is likely to draw understanding from all involved as we are cognisant of the uncertainties of working through the pandemic.
4. Take time
Not all great ideas can be developed in a one hour online call. For some people, there was a need for space to be created at the end of meetings for any issues raised earlier in the meetings to be discussed or following the meeting an opportunity for feedback or further thoughts to be provided. Others discussed the importance of having regular ‘retros’/ time to reflect as a team on what has/hasn’t worked. Overall, giving people space to reflect and feedback is key
5. Be Kind
The Covid 19 pandemic has been tough. Loved ones have been lost, others are experiencing long lasting ill health. Mental health and wellbeing has also been tested and placed under strain by economic, social, racial, sexism plus other important inequalities drawn to prominence over this year. Nor can we forget the climate crisis. 2021 is a difficult year and however we work– especially those in the charity sector working in an environment of ever increasing demand for help– we must not forget to show kindness and patience towards each other. As we experiment, we should recognise that some things will not work. We need to learn from them; move on without recrimination nor blame; and offer support where individuals may be struggling.
To read the discussions of our hybrid working event, and a crowdsourced resource list for hybrid working do see the session notes.
The Legal Education Foundation
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Senior Policy Adviser