In this blog, we talk to Clare Budden CEO of ClwydAlyn about how they have used Covid-19 to accelerate their plans for an agile work-place, and how improved flexibility means they can get the best out of their teams while also achieving more for their customers.
ClwydAlyn’s mission is all around addressing poverty, through the work we do and our work with our partners. This means that we focus time and resources on supporting tenants that might be struggling with income poverty, fuel poverty or food poverty.
With the impact of Covid-19, this mission has become even more vital. This is why we wanted to learn from how our staff and customers have adjusted to a different way of living and working over the last nine months so that we can be in the best possible position to deliver our support at a time when its needed more than ever.
Listening to customers
We are talking to our residents about which of the recent changes we should keep and what service standards and ways of working they would like to see for the future.
This is really important to us because we understand that the more flexible, we are, the better services we can provide.
Feedback that we have received has shown us that residents welcome more flexibility in the way they access our services – for example, some might prefer to view a home and sign up to a new tenancy on a Saturday morning, others might want to discuss their support plan online rather than in a more formal setting or be able to speak to the contact centre at 8pm.
Those of us who were office based, know (now) that we can work from home and get our jobs done, but we are missing the social interaction and creative energy we generate when we meet and come together.
Work life balance
Staff are telling us that they want a better work life balance. They have valued having more time to make the tea and keep on top of household chores by being at home more. They have also told us that helping the environment by commuting less is important to them, and that they want more flexibility around when they do their work and the chance to fit this in more around family and caring responsibilities.
However, we are also hearing staff tell us that they miss their colleagues and the social side of being “at work”. They are missing the chance to throw ideas around and see what others think, the chance to share a problem as it arises and that some are experiencing challenges with work and home life merging into one, making it harder to switch off.
We also know that some staff cannot work at home long-term because their physical spaces or family situations make it very difficult.
The best of both worlds
We believe we can achieve the best of both at ClwydAlyn.
We have developed the concept of each team having an agreement which sets out the work pattern for their team, and we have given teams the freedom to decide how they draft them and make this work best for them.
The only guidance from the leadership team has been that no matter how teams choose to work over what working pattern and whichever hours they choose, we need to ensure we get everything done that we need to in order to meet and exceed customer expectations (both our customer colleagues and resident customers).
We believe that this level of flexibility means that we will get the most out of our teams and in doing so, achieve more for our customers.
Our vision for the ‘head office’, is that many teams will come together for some time each week, on whatever day and at whatever time suits them, and be at home or elsewhere for the rest of “their” working week. We want to be equipped for staff to be able to work anywhere.
Each team agreement has been shared with everyone in the company so that we all broadly understand each team’s work patterns and when/who is best to contact. The agreements have no standard template and set out how each team has decided it will work but also what co-operation they need from others to get their jobs done.
This way of working and being, requires more multiskilling and less roles with a single expert so that more people in a team can deal with an enquiry/help solve a problem.
Team agreements aren’t just for traditionally office-based staff – they can work for our trades team and homeless staff too. Giving the teams the freedom to decide for themselves we have found that we can have greater flexibilities in our homeless services, and we are already seeing the benefits with staff suggesting different shift patterns which would suit their team and residents better; and being more confident to ask for a shift change or swap when personal issues arise rather than phoning in sick. Some staff are working compressed hours which allows us to extend the working day for customers (and staff save on childcare); for some more weekend working is beneficial with more time off during the week; we believe there could be something in it for everyone.
In moving towards this flexible way of working, trust is key.
This means moving away from the traditional concept that time is an effective way to manage performance and moving towards measuring the value of work that is being done. We trust our teams to work in the way that suits them best and provide the freedom to enable this.
We have also adopted values-based recruitment, which is ensuring that we get the right fit between us and our people.
We believe that the “ClwydAlyn way” will make us a distinctive business – enabling us to recruit the right people, be more agile for our partners and commissioners and most importantly, to provide the best possible services for our customers to achieve our mission of beating poverty in North Wales.