One of the country’s leading social housing providers has announced that colleagues will not be reverting back to a ‘traditional desk model’ as the pandemic accelerates its plans to shakeup working patterns.
Stonewater will be continuing its shift to more digital ways of working, following a survey of its 700 colleagues. The survey revealed that 89 per cent of its colleagues wanted to continue working from home, with future workspaces shaped around providing opportunities for collaborative, creative and lone working.
Moving forward, colleagues will be encouraged to work from social and community spaces, with Stonewater developing a directory that colleagues can update and ‘rate the space’. A key benefit of this is increased connectivity between colleagues as they develop networks based on locality rather than function.
Whilst the organisation will remain predominantly home-based, Stonewater is converting three of its offices in Coventry, Reading and Bournemouth into hubs – providing colleagues with the option to access flexible workspace.
Jenny Sawyer, Director of People, Culture and Change at Stonewater, said: “At the start of the pandemic we introduced a new pulse survey centred around the literal definition of wellbeing to help our colleagues reflect on how happy, healthy and comfortable they feel but then also signpost them to appropriate resources, support, guidance and employee benefits.
“By having a predominantly homeworking approach, our aim is to further support the wellbeing of our colleagues whilst enabling us to also get closer to our communities. When people have the flexibility to manage their day in a way that suits them and their families, it closes the gap between ‘corporate’ and ‘customer’ and promotes people over process.”
The introduction of hybrid working was a key ambition of Stonewater’s longer term strategy and future operating model (FOM) prior to the pandemic. As a result of its early investment into digital transformation, the organisation was well positioned to switch to homeworking for most of its colleagues within 24 hours of the first lockdown.
“We have seen how beneficial a home-based organisation can be for our colleagues and customers alike and we want to capture and build on the benefits – bouncing forwards, not backwards, in a post-pandemic world,” added Jenny.
One year on from the first lockdown, Stonewater handed over a total of 671 new homes to customers, completed on more than 200 shared ownership home sales and exceeded its 83 per cent target customer satisfaction target.
Whilst colleagues have had the technology needed to successfully work from home for the past year, to ensure that all colleagues have the provision to be based from home long term, the organisation has introduced a number of new benefits, policies and collaborative platforms to support this. Such as the offer to all permanent employees of an interest free loan.
Colleagues will be able to apply for up to £10,000 to create designated workspace in their home environment, which could involve altering a room, building an extension, or creating a suitable office in the garden. Having a dedicated space to work from helping to give a more clearly defined separation between work and home life to support the long term wellbeing of home workers.
Jenny commented: “Adopting a hybrid model and ensuring its success has required reimagining what additional support we need to provide to ensure Stonewater remains a great place to work, for everyone. This has included developing a concierge concept to support colleagues with navigating our physical and virtual ways of working.
“When we initially transitioned to remote working, we took steps to invest in our teams by initiating training programmes around emotional intelligence. As part of this, managers have developed their own personalised values to promote value-based leadership that interlinks closely with our Customer Promise programme.
“We know this journey will involve us needing to continue to adjust and develop new solutions all whilst offering much greater flexibility and paying close attention to the wellbeing of colleagues that we now don’t see in-person every day, but we firmly believe that the new model we have developed is the way forward for Stonewater.”