Gold-plated keyboards for all

John Burnell on what to do when staff complain about the working environment

Q: What sould we do if staff complain about the office temperature and lack of good equipment?

They may have a point. After all, many charities can't afford decent premises, and many others think they should be spending their money on beneficiaries rather than on making the lives of their employees easier.

But how far should you go to address these complaints? There are some basic standards you must adhere to. Workplaces need to be at a minimum temperature, which varies according to the working environment, within an hour of the normal start time. And although the law does not specify a maximum heat, you have a general duty of care to make it bearable. Uncomfortable workers have been shown time and again to be unproductive workers, so a small investment in better heating or air conditioning will pay dividends.

And what of the more deep-seated antipathy towards 'wasting' money on state-of-the-art equipment, pushing up your overheads? We are wonderful in the voluntary sector at making good and mending, but there does come a time when doing nothing can be counterproductive. A photocopier that has a tendency to break down will, in accordance with the immutable Sod's Law, do so just as you are about to send out the annual general meeting mailing, resulting in an expensive postponement. Computer software that is so out of date it doesn't interface with new web developments will reduce your fundraisers' chances of reaching appropriate beneficiaries. The list is endless.

So when staff raise these complaints, listen to them, because they know better than anyone what their work involves. Most of the time, they won't be asking for gold-plated computer keyboards, but the essential tools of the trade that will enable you to be a more effective and efficient organisation.

- Send your HR questions to

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in
RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners

Third Sector Logo

Get our bulletins. Read more articles. Join a growing community of Third Sector professionals

Register now