Creating a digital and hybrid workplace culture at Blood Cancer UK
Blood Cancer UK’s mission is to beat blood cancer within a generation. To do this, we need to attract and retain amazing people to work with us. And we think creating a thriving hybrid and digital working culture is a fundamental lever for us to achieve that. For 95% of our roles, there is no requirement to work from an office at all, and we don’t have core hours. Our starting point when we really started to think about how we wanted to design our digital hybrid culture was what we needed to achieve as an organisation. Our employees are great- they are resilient, unbelievably hard working, and passionate about our mission. That means we need to make sure that as an organisation. we balance trust and autonomy with responsibility and accountability.
In order to do this, we wanted to create a decision making framework which each individual could use to make decisions on where, when and how they work. We didn’t want a rule book, and we knew everyone works differently. So, we use our organisational values as our decision making framework. This means everyone always Stands in Others’ Shoes when booking meetings, or requesting work from others. And being United as a Family means that everyone takes their own wellbeing seriously, as well as looking out for their colleagues. We altered our performance management process to match our agile working approach – we focus on meeting objectives, not on how many hours are spent at a desk in a specific location. And each team creates their own agile principles together. These are the practical statements which set out how teams communicate and work together, and are reviewed regularly.
This way of working is new to quite a few of our new starters, especially in terms of the levels of autonomy. So, we try to make it as clear as we can be training and coaching line managers, and by creating our ‘Day in the Life of’ series, where individuals across the organisation share how they manage their work objectives and responsibilities alongside the rest of their lives. We also run specific training on digital wellbeing, focussing on creating connections in a hybrid workplace, as well as how to create and maintain boundaries between work and home, and how to manage social media usage.
We didn’t get everything right along the way. We encourage a culture of sharing when things don’t go exactly to plan, and what we learnt along the way. Initially, we asked everyone to turn their cameras on, for every meeting. But we soon learnt that doesn’t work all the time. Zoom fatigue can come on quickly, and as we learnt to manage our teams more effectively online, we learnt how to have meaningful conversations on the telephone, or without cameras on every time.
Overall though, our approach is working. Our retention levels are high and have been for the past two and half years, averaging 94%. Our turnover for new starters is incredibly low, 1% at six months. The percentage of employees recommending us as a good place to work increased from 41% to 95% between December 2018 and March 2022. And we were the 9th best charity to work or in 2021 according to Best Companies, and the 7th most Inspiring Workplace in 2022.
Our journey hasn’t finished yet. We’re just at the end of a strategy refresh, and some of our staff are still returning to an office environment. For some of our colleagues, they will never choose to work in an office, and so we’ll keep revisiting our culture and our ways of working, to ensure that we don’t inadvertently create any silo working, and so that we don’t create any inequalities.