As we move towards a new normal there is a great opportunity for charities. We are however in the hardest time I have known for charity leaders.

This blog by Third Sector Coach, Rob Legge, has a few ideas touching on office bases, staffing, management style, the future of volunteering and organisational collaboration that charity senior managers need to consider as they plan for the post pandemic landscape.

What is the purpose of the office in the future?

Much has been written about how nearly everyone is getting used to home working and the impact this will have on how we organise our work. Increasingly people will expect a greater flexibility around how and where they work, rather than being based at an office.

Charity leaders need to rethink our office requirements. This might mean that less space is required, or it could suggest that we need to change our office layout so that colleagues can use the space for things other than desk work. The office might have to be re-engineered to provide for informal networking, information sharing, gossip and the social interaction that keeps organisational culture strong. More meetings will have remote participants so do we need meeting rooms and, if so, what needs to be in them?

I have discussed with clients that a more radical approach might be to have no office and that organisations hire café spaces by the day for informal get-togethers, coaching sessions etc.

How will we attract the best staff?

To attract the best in our industry organisations will have to consider an even more flexible approach to where and when we do our work. Before lockdown many of my clients said that if they needed to have a productive day they would work away from the office. Up to the pandemic this had appeared impossible for some roles. Now that we have had our limiting beliefs challenged and our creativity expanded new ways of delivering old roles should be the norm.

For charity leaders this means we need to think flexibly about job descriptions and ensure we are not falling into unconscious discrimination by tying some roles to an office. We have an opportunity to consider recruitment and any geographical restrictions of positions based on location. Thinking particularly of senior charity or specialist jobs it should be feasible for a Birmingham based charity to recruit someone in, for example, Edinburgh and make it work.

How will leadership styles evolve?

Management are used to seeing their staff on a regular basis. Bosses in some cases equated people turning up to the office with being productivity. Leaders could often see when things were not going right and appropriately intervene. With remote working becoming more mainstream we need to reassess how best to lead staff without being able to see them in the office. This requires a subtle blend of hands-off management focused on results and hands-on wellbeing support to ensure resilience and motivation remain high.

What are the opportunities for a new generation of volunteers?

It has been heart-warming to see how furloughed staff and others have volunteered to help in the fight against COVID 19. It is also interesting to see the creative methods people have used to volunteer remotely.

Leaders need to plan how they can harness this new phenomenon. As charities come out of the pandemic, we can bring in the skills of everyone whose tasks are no longer restricted to be on site for specific times. Social media volunteers immediately come to mind. And with creativity, the volunteering standard should be that, unless the role has to be based in a particular place at a particular time, let’s offer it on-line.

The future is collaboration

We have seen some wonderful examples of private, public and third sector organisations coming together during COVID 19. What Brian Carr, CEO of BVSC calls “coalitions of kindness”.

Charity leaders can use this to strengthen their organisations. One of my clients has been able to meet with a partner in a large finance corporation after struggling unsuccessfully for two years. Other clients have been looking at ways to twin organisations to provide staff development through peer to peer discussions. Others are looking at ways in which they can work closer, share assets or even merge.

Final thoughts

There are great opportunities within the challenges of this pandemic for charities to reinvent themselves. Senior charity staff must be on top of the operational challenges here and now. And yet they must also find space to look at the strategic opportunities they need to address for their organisation to thrive.

The author is Rob Legge, BVSC leadership trainer and independent coach and consultant to the charity sector.