New way of working is a win-win

Stonewater’s new hybrid working model is based on flexibility and accommodating how each individual wants to work in order to achieve the best results for themselves, our customers and the organisation.

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It is focused on delivering excellent services to generate high customer satisfaction, rather than centring solely around colleague attendance.

This flexible way of working has evolved following our successful shift from office to home working within 24 hours of the first lockdown last year.

Our model considers the need to support people’s wellbeing while we are physically distanced. For instance, over winter, we encouraged everyone to take extended lunchbreaks to ensure they get some exercise during daylight hours.

We have also introduced a scheme offering interest-free loans to help colleagues create or improve a dedicated workspace in their home.

With social distancing restrictions easing, we are ensuring the model includes opportunities for colleagues working remotely to get together in person. So, later this year, they will be able to book space at our hubs (in Bournemouth, Reading and Coventry) for meetings and collaborative sessions.

In addition, we are providing colleagues with a budget to cover the cost of one-to-one meetings and catch-ups with team members in local cafes or other community venues.

Anne’s story

Our highly flexible approach benefits not only our colleagues but also our business, allowing us to recruit the best talent regardless of where people call home.

Anne Balls, who lives in Norwich, joined our team in the midst of the pandemic in September 2020 to lead our communications around ‘Stonewater 25’, a change programme that includes implementing more digital ways of working.

Here, she explains how our hybrid working model has helped her and her Stonewater colleagues.

“Without Stonewater’s new hybrid approach, I wouldn’t be able to work here, and the team wouldn’t benefit from my years of experience and expertise. If I wasn’t able to work from home in Norwich, I could never have considered applying for a role where my office would have been in Reading – a six-hour round trip by rail.

“This organisation and management flexibility, based on trust, has meant it is far easier for me now to balance my family and work life – such as walking the dog myself, rather than employing someone, and being able to support my 85-year-old father-in-law with food drops and socially distanced visits during the pandemic.

“Recently, I helped him take a lateral flow test and register it with the NHS, so he could visit his sister-in-law in a nursing home for the first time in more than a year.

“When asked, 89% of Stonewater colleagues were in favour of hybrid working and work-life balance has definitely improved for most of them – although maybe not for those who had to home-school!

“Flexible working means we can manage our own time effectively. The virtual environment allows us increased access to colleagues at all levels of the organisation through different channels – it’s a great leveller. There is also greater visibility of senior leaders through collaborative communications events, including our virtual Company Day and monthly Team Talks.

“This way of working, along with Stonewater’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, means the organisation can better accommodate specific individual needs. This makes for a more diverse team, which benefits the whole business.

“Our investment in IT, security and connectivity has meant colleagues can work from anywhere to keep the business running effectively. This includes income officers, who can now take payments securely from home. Being digitally enabled also meant the Board could function during lockdowns and we were able to house 1,700 families while working remotely.

“Other benefits include the environmental savings in terms of office space and commuting. Our carbon footprint was down by 90% from travel and 50% from office use last year. Customer satisfaction has been maintained and our cost savings will help us invest more in building more much-needed homes.

“The benefits are huge, but I have to say that online recruitment added an extra dimension compared to previous recruitment processes I’ve been through. As well as preparing what to say and ask in interview, there was the concern about what to do if my wi-fi let me down, who to look at when answering questions and the inability to pick up on non-verbal cues and respond appropriately.

“Because of the pandemic, ten months on from my appointment, I’ve still not met my team face-to-face. Although they are available and supportive on the phone or online, it’s not quite the same relationship you might build when you work together in person. For instance, you don’t run into someone in the kitchen, and you can’t nip out for a coffee.

“Having said that, video calls have bred familiarity with everyone’s pets, partners, children and home décor, all of which are great for an off-point chat!

“This way of working is ideal for me, and it certainly gets results in terms of service delivery in the business, but I look forward to getting to know people better and collaborating with my team in person when it’s safe to do so.”

Are you looking for a role that enables you to predominantly work from home, whilst providing collaborative ways of working? Then check out our latest vacancies on our careers page.