Sarah Griffin, Head of the BBC Club, discusses how the BBC’s HR team have utilised new technology to engage their remote workforce. (Published by Symposium Events Ltd.)
“remote” • Located far away• Hidden away; secluded• Distant in time• Faint; slight: • Far removed in connection or relevance• Operating or controlled from a distance
With another National Work From Home Day under our belts, very few of us can be unaware of the increasing interest in flexible and smarter working practises. Once seen as being a staff demanded “benefit” many companies have embraced, even championed, the cause, being quick to see the associated financial benefits and more latterly, the environmental ones.
BT is noted for its well established commitment to home or remote working and can easily identify the benefits: BT has 63,000 staff working flexibly and a further 12,000 working from home: “Over £220 million has been saved in the last 10 years from real estate costs alone. Travel costs have been reduced by £9.7 million per annum and 1800 person years of travel time is saved each year. Another benefit has been the retention of key skills and the ability to attract talent, reducing employee turnover.”As you would expect, Microsoft UK uses smart technology to enable inclusive remote working.“We provide Wi-fi enabled tablet PC’s to enable people to carry their office with them and hold meetings wherever they want and “Live Meeting”, which combines audio conferencing with shared information on PC screens, to pull together virtual teams.
Again the benefits to the organisation are clear: “Flexible working has allowed an extra 400 people to fit into the existing campus in Reading and delayed the construction of another building for two years so far. Each year’s delay saves the company about £1million.”
“fragmented”• A small part broken off or detached.• An incomplete or isolated portion
Whilst remote working is not a new concept, it has historically been associated with specialist functions or professions; the artist, the researcher, the farmer. Fragmented working is often the result of history, geographical spread or specialist operating sites; the engineering plant, the local radio station, the warehouse.
As social animals most of us are attuned to our need for engagement and companionship. Some of us do our best work, produce the greatest ideas and build up helpful networks in the office, with our peers or in the canteen at lunchtime. Many organisations provide good facilities for staff at head office, city centre sites or large depots. The canteen, the on-site gym, Occupational Health and maybe even a sports and social club. Workers out on the road, tucked away in satellite sites or working mainly from home often miss out on these goodies and some complain of management centric benefits or of a “them and us” culture.
Virtual CommunitiesThe BBC employs around 22,000 staff across the UK across a wide range of functions and within a fair number of sites.
The BBC Club is a not-for-profit, members owned and run organisation providing leisure, social and recreational activities and services to the staff of the BBC and its service partners. It is funded by members trading activity and membership subscriptions. The Club has sports and social facilities within some of the larger BBC buildings across the UK. Whilst many members benefit from these on-site facilities, the Club recognises that staff working in smaller BBC sites, or away on Outside Broadcasts or working from home, don’t have easy access to these networking opportunities. Research carried out last year demonstrated that BBC staff had a desire for greater engagement with colleagues and with BBC output regardless of where they worked and unsurprisingly, remote workers wanted the same access to facilities and services that their office and city centre based staff enjoyed.
Whilst it is not practical to replicate the physical premises of larger sites for staff based at local radio stations for example, the Club has developed an online Virtual Club accessible by anyone working for the BBC. Currently, Club members can access the site from work or home to find out what’s happening in their area or sign up for lunchtime classes such as sign language or creative writing. They can read their colleagues reviews of local bars and restaurants, access a giant on line shopping portal offering discounts or get in touch with other BBC staff who share their interests. .Staff can also learn more about volunteering and other CSR opportunities and can sign up to take part in local community or charity projects.
Further developments in the pipeline include links to the Sport England Active Places website where you can simply pop in your postcode and find out where you can play badminton, join a beginners running group or learn how to juggle. Live web chats and staff reviews of BBC TV and Radio programmes and latest broadcast technology will also feature along with live ask-the-expert sessions
There is no doubt that this is an exciting time for using technology to bring together remote or fragmented workers and for enhancing work based communities. You only have to look at the popularity of Myspace and Facebook to recognise our intrinsic need for connection and community.
—————Sarah Griffin, BBC
Sarah would be very interested to learn from other organisations that have set up similar virtual community opportunities. She can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org