Enabling staff and volunteers to work remotely has been a challenge that all organisations have faced throughout the Covid pandemic, nowhere more so than in the heritage sector. Despite this, while maintaining contact with staff and managing teams remotely can feel a daunting task, there are also many opportunities to shift our traditional ways of working to incorporate remote or hybrid patterns.
For many smaller heritage organisations and especially those in the charity sector, keeping costs to a minimum is a key aspect of organisational sustainability. If office space is a challenge for your team, increased remote working can also help you spend in other priority areas. In addition, it can also help your teams’ productivity. An extensive survey conducted by PWC in 2021 on current workforce challenges and the future of work highlighted the value of remote and hybrid working:
Our survey confirms what has been widely reported elsewhere: remote or hybrid work boosted particularly in most workplaces. In our survey, 57% of respondents said their organisation performed better against workforce performance and productivity targets over the past 12 months.
PWC 2021 Survey involving 4,000 business from 26 countries and regions and 28 industry sectors
Remote and hybrid work supports a more flexible way of managing staff time and location. Being able to build in greater flexibility can also aid recruitment and enable you to draw upon a wider pool of talent.
The Harvard Business Review outlines some key tips for managers when supporting remote worker:
Whether one-to-one check-ins or whole team, it is valuable to schedule in quick catchups with those working remotely. This may be a brief telephone chat, email or a small team meeting using video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. These should not feel too onerous and just offer the opportunity to connect and share daily issues and concerns.
Support different communication technologies
Email is a key way to connect and share information with your team. However this can feel overwhelming if it is the only means by which you communicate with remote colleagues. Using different communication channels can help effectiveness. Video conferencing for short group meetings is a much more effective use of time although it does require everyone to be available at certain times or days of the week. Perhaps using the ‘chat’ function within Microsoft Teams or another instant messaging platform can offer greater flexibility than email conversations. These chats allow colleagues to contribute as and when they can, but also offer the informality and team dynamic of conferencing. Video calls may be valuable for more sensitive discussions but be mindful of your colleagues’ remote location, especially if they are logging in from a public place.
Remote social activities
In order to help remote workers feel connected as a team, it can be valuable to organise virtual social events. These could be online afterwork drinks via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, a virtual pizza party or pub quiz. If your organisation incorporates a large number of volunteers, this can be a valuable way of rewarding their efforts. You could send out treats or gifts to everyone prior to the online social gathering to be opened on the video call. These more social uses of technology can really help maintain motivation and reduce the feeling of isolation for those working in remotely.
Offer encouragement and emotional support
Working in a hybrid and remote manner can be valuable for colleagues with mobility challenges or caring responsibilities. Doing so will really help you recruit staff and volunteers from a much wider pool – both demographically and geographically. If you are developing more online content and digital services, being able to support remote working may become more feasible than it has been traditionally for your organisation. However, remote working can still feel isolating and challenging for many. Ensure that your staff has someone they can talk to and that there are opportunities for them to feel listened to.
Microsoft Teams is one of the most used tools for online collaboration. The chat functionality allows you to communicate one-to-one, or with multiple people in a group. (Think of the chat function in a similar way to setting up a Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp group.) You can also share files and video or audio call someone in a Team.
You can use the call function in Teams to make a video or audio call to staff and students, either one-to-one or as part of a group meeting. Calls function in a similar manner to Skype, FaceTime or Zoom. You can make a call anytime, or you can schedule a call as part of a meeting. In a call you can share your screen and record the session.
Setting up a ‘Team’ within Microsoft Teams creates a shared space where you and other team members can work together on a project. You can also host meetings and invite external collaborators to join in your team. Within a team you can organise your conversations and files into different topic areas called channels. In a channel you can post messages and save files within Teams.
Other valuable remote working tools for charities and small organisations on a budget:
- Task and project management and collaboration – Trello, Asana
- Video conferencing – Skype, Zoom
- Document sharing – Google Drive, Dropbox
- Messaging and collaboration – Slack
- Organisation, notetaking and scheduling – Evernote
Whilst supporting remote working has many potential benefits for your organisation, there are some important security and data management concerns to be aware of:
- Increased risk of computer viruses and vulnerabilities – since colleagues and volunteers will potentially access information and communicate using their own devices it is important to stress the need to keep their anti-virus software up to date and not to share passwords. If staff are working in public places or whilst travelling on the train for example, entering passwords or accessing sensitive and personal data should be avoided.
- Storing and sharing files – whenever an attachment is sent and accessed, a copy of this is likely to be kept on the individual’s computer, often in the ‘downloads’ folder. It is important to ensure that personal information, especially identification checks from staff and volunteers, are not stored on local devices. Documents such as these should be stored and maintained in a secure central location such as OneDrive or your organisational shared space, rather than being sent between individuals.
- Phishing and spam – spam or junk email is not just a nuisance; it may also encourage the recipient to click on links or reveal personal information. This represents a form of deception called ‘phishing’. Phishing emails aim to trick the recipient into believing fake and deceptive information in order to obtain bank or credit card details or passwords. Ensure your remote workers are aware of these kinds of approaches and are clear on how to deal with them. They should be aware that their actions may compromise the security and safety of your organisation’s details as well as their own.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund also provides a robust guide to online privacy and security that summarises the security you should consider to ensure that staff can work remotely safely. Download the guide to online privacy and security (PDF file 428kb)
Please attribute as: "How to effectively support remote or hybrid work patterns (2022) by Dr Stephen Dobson supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0