Craig Jones: Why we are selling our office and moving to a permissive system of hybrid working

Delivering urgently-needed support demands a radical rethink of working practices, resources and campaigning culture

Craig Jones

Health charities have been among the most profoundly affected organisations by the dramatic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on society. 

At the Royal Osteoporosis Society, our support services experienced almost two years of record demand as NHS services operated – and continue to operate – at severely restricted capacity.  

We know the health system will take time to recover, so we need to be at the top of our game to make sure people get the support they deserve.  

That’s why we have just completed a wholesale review of our mission, strategy and the ways in which we leverage our resources. 

As well as a brand new corporate strategy, which will be launched in January, we have changed our accommodation, recruitment practices, working patterns and culture. 

Most tangibly, we are in the final stages of selling our office building in rural Camerton, eight miles outside of Bath, which has been our home for the past 25 years.  

Early in 2022, we will move to a better-connected rented office in Bath city centre, where we will embrace a flexible, permissive system of hybrid working that gives our people the best of both worlds between home and office work.  

The pandemic has shown that employers have nothing to fear from home working.  Having developed this mutual trust over the last 18 months, it would be churlish of ROS to force people back into 35-hour weeks in the office. 

Our employees, quite understandably, prefer one or two days in the office every week, with the rest of the time spent working from home.  

This works well for both sides: hybrid working reduces travel costs, makes caring responsibilities easier and improves morale, while helping us employ more diverse employees and people who live further afield. 

It works for the planet too. Previously, about 40 cars would have pulled up daily at our Camerton office. 

When we get to our new city centre home we’re anticipating a revolution in car-pooling, park-and-ride usage and cycling to work.  

Crucially, this move allows us to change the balance of our resources, unlocking capital held in property to invest more heavily in research, new support services for the public and the professional development of our people. 

ROS has only £1 to spend on each person with osteoporosis, so if we want to achieve our mission we need to squeeze the most we can out of all our resources. 

Under a system of hybrid working our Camerton building, which in the past accommodated 85 people, would have been criminally underused.  

Instead, we have chosen an office with a smaller floorplate, putting a premium on collaboration spaces and modern meeting facilities, brought to life with an inspiring layout and design. 

Our “new normal” will be home working for solo tasks such as report drafting, and pre-booked office working for team-based activities such as training and workshops.   

Most importantly, this move will be a catalyst for our new strategy, which will be marked by a step change in campaigning, public engagement and advocacy. 

To beat osteoporosis, ROS needs to be a bold, campaigning charity that makes the strongest case for reform in the NHS, social care system and other public services. 

We’ll invest significantly more in public outreach to challenge unhelpful myths, reduce stigma and empower people to take positive action for good bone health. 

We know that no charity can successfully bring about social change on its own.  Funders regularly remind us of their preference that charities should find more opportunities to work together. 

We want the new ROS to be much more about networks and a movement, rather than just a service provider.  

We won’t feel the need to “own” everything ourselves. Instead, we’ll become more collaborative, better at partnership working and stronger at holding others to account. 

A city centre location on the doorstep of universities, hospitals, businesses and partner charities will be a powerful accelerator for that change. 

We’re looking forward to throwing open the doors of our new base to visitors, stakeholders and volunteers who want to be part of making it happen.

Craig Jones is chief executive of the Royal Osteoporosis Society 

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