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Ask ACO: Returning to the workplace and working with Trustees

We asked our members how they had dealt with considerations on whether to return to the office, and measures put in place to enable return, and how to work with Trustees to change their mindset on an issue of importance. Here are some responses from our member charities.

Considerations for returning to the workplace

Clare Scherer - Chief Executive at the Naval Children's Charity

My charity returned to the office in July. Our landlord, who is also the CEO of a large Naval Charity, carried out a full risk assessment (available to download below) and has put in place distancing measures and protocols in the building.  Staff were all issued with guidelines and protocols by the landlord as well.  I have bought PPE grade clear screens which now separate each desk.  I also got my team to complete a back to work questionnaire and then had several 1:2:1 with each of my staff so that they could fully discuss any concerns they had about returning.  Also available below is my bullet point planning notes for the return to work scenario I put together.  One member of staff decided to become a stay-at-home dad and not return to work.  This was something that had been discussed over the past year and COVID-19 merely clarified his thoughts. Staff now work out of the office the majority of the time but the option of remote working remains where staff prefer and it is practicable.  All staff work remotely on Fridays. 

Davina Goodchild - CEO at LionHeart

When lockdown happened in March we’d already had a couple of weeks where people had started to work from home more often, most of us were already working from home regularly, whether that be on an ad hoc basis or the same days every week. So when lockdown was announced it was relatively easy to quickly move to working from home – all staff have laptops and many already had screens and desks as home as it was a regular pattern of working. Prior to lockdown and in anticipation of it happening we had already started to issue guidance to staff and have updated this regularly throughout. In the first update issued we asked all members of the team to talk to their managers about the following: 

  • Whether there are any elements of your role you would not be able to perform at home and how you might mitigate against or make plans for that and what alternatives there might be including postponement or different delivery methods.
  • Whether you have the equipment you require to work from home for extended periods of time. If you don’t have all of the necessary equipment please ensure that you organise this as soon as possible. Please consider things like screens and screen platforms, keyboards and mice, headsets and other equipment such as scanners and printers that you rely on daily to do your job.
  • Whether your current internet provision is fast enough to facilitate video conferencing and if not whether this can be resolved for the period you are asked to work from home.

During May we carried out a staff survey to find out how everyone was doing and to find out what people’s main concerns were. Questions ranged from whether they had felt able to carry out their work at home and what elements if any they struggled with, how working from home was affecting their work life balance and physical and mental wellbeing, how they felt morale was within the team and what concerns they have about the extended period of working from home and any potential return to the office.  We also sent out another survey during June as we realised that people had been okay so far with the equipment and set up they had but that longer term they may need better chairs, another screen, a desk, a webcam etc. We have worked hard to ensure that everyone has a suitable workspace.

One thing that is clear from the survey and all discussions we’ve had with staff is that we are all looking forward to seeing each other again but that returning to the office to return to the previous working practise is highly unlikely.  We have learnt so much through this process about how it is possible to be incredibly flexible and agile and achieve great results that we don’t want to just return without thinking through how we would like things to be ideally. So we will be repeating a survey in September after the schools have returned and been back for a couple of weeks, allowing those with school age children to consider what feels different about working from home with those new patterns.  We will follow up with a consultation exercise where everyone will have the opportunity to express what they would like to see happen; as individuals and teams. We will return to the office but how we will use the space will not be decided until all members of the team have had a chance to contribute to the decision making.

Working with Trustees on change

Clare Scherer - Chief Executive at the Naval Children's Charity

When I took over as CEO I changed some of the grant protocols in-house – getting Trustees to agree to raising my individual limit on decisions on cases.  They were reassured that all cases are properly reported to them to be ratified and the justification for the increase was laid out in a proposal document for them.  I also wrote some other protocols around grants in various areas which not only inform my team but also give clarity to the Trustees on grants awarded.   The main advice is Communication / Communication/Communication.   You need to fully research your change, provide a clear outline on the reasons for any change giving Trustees enough notice to read the papers and come to a meeting fully informed. 

Jeremy Moodey - Chief Executive at Clergy Support Trust

Clergy Support Trust, the Anglican clergy support charity, has gone through a great deal of change in its 365-year history. But the pace of change over the last three years or so has been enormous, especially as the charity decided in 2019 to change its name from Sons & Friends of the Clergy and to overhaul completely how it approached its £3m annual grant-making programme.

Keeping trustees and staff on board when it comes to the speed and nature of change has been crucial. The Chief Executive Jeremy Moodey writes:  ‘The key to driving change, and ensuring all stakeholders are on board, is to keep focused on what is in the best interests of beneficiaries. The charity ultimately exists for their benefit, not for the benefit of trustees or staff.

'We had realised for some time that our old name, Sons & Friends, was in fact a stumbling block for many of our beneficiaries, especially for clergy who were women. So there was early buy-in from all concerned on the need to change our name; the challenge was to find a new one that was relevant and inclusive. Getting the best branding consultants on board was crucial, and they were able to help steer the board and staff in the right direction. We also realised that changing the name was not in itself enough; we also had to update the whole way we approached our beneficiaries. So long as we kept their needs first and foremost in our minds, trustees and staff were on the same page when it came to the radical changes needed.’

Jeremy Moodey adds: ‘One particular challenge was that grant decisions had historically been taken by trustees at monthly board meetings, even for relatively small amounts. Management and staff had very little delegated authority. This meant that the executive staff team felt disempowered while trustee meetings had little time for the really big governance issues like strategy, impact, risk and compliance. Again, bringing in good external governance consultants was key; they were able to show the board where they could improve their procedures and make them more compliant, both with the charity’s objects and with Charity Commission guidance.

It was quickly realised that with a clear and detailed grants policy set by trustees, most grant decisions could in fact be delegated to the staff team. The focus in board meetings could then be on reporting and impact. Some trustees initially missed the ‘hands-on’ approach to grants, and seeing individual applicant cases, but they realised that the board needed to be much more strategic in its focus. The cultural change has worked really well, and now trustees and staff are each clear about their respective roles and functions’.

Jeremy Moodey is happy to be contacted for more information on the recent changes at Clergy Support Trust (  




Icon Teaching Staff Trust return to workplace risk assessment

General Information

Teaching Staff Trust return to workplace risk assessment

Icon Return to Work plan - Naval Children's Charity

General Information

Return to Work plan - Naval Children's Charity

Icon Covid Compliance Statement - Naval Children's Charity

General Information

Covid Compliance Statement - Naval Children's Charity

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