Every month we like to share a recommendation from one of our ambassadors: something that inspires them in their responsible business work. This month we asked Melodie Peters, UK & Ireland Sustainability Lead at Arcadis, a global design and engineering consultancy. Melodie drives charity and community engagement programmes for Arcadis UK&I. In the past year Arcadis employees have tripled their take-up of the Arcadis Charity Day. Arcadis has 4,000 employees and 22 offices in the UK.
As remote working becomes the norm, employers’ community engagement can inspire disengaged employees
“The last 18 months have been a challenge for many of us. For those required to work from home, the loss of the communal office experience has had a profound impact on our sense what constitutes a working day. The tasks may be getting done, but has the social side of work diminished?
For many, this has led to feelings of isolation.
I believe this presents a unique opportunity to rethink how we engage with charities and communities. Three factors are driving this momentum: employers recognise the value of engaging with charitable causes; dislocated employees are hungry for purpose in their local community; and charities have never been more open to ideas.
My local foodbank in South Manchester, where I’ve been volunteering since September 2019, was inundated with volunteer enquiries in the first months of lockdown. The majority of these were local people looking for a way to help their local community. To begin with this was overwhelming, but we soon realised it was worth changing how we engage with volunteers. As a result, we’ve simplified our application process, created new roles and expanded our working hours. We’re now reaching more people and have a volunteer base that better represents our diverse community.
Go to the Trussell Trust website to find your local foodbank, and then let them know your skills and availability. Like many charities, foodbanks now have the digital platforms to enable volunteers to make localised deliveries or commit to one-hour blocks of time. They are open to ideas.
I also like the work being done by the Alzheimer’s Society. Its Companion Calls programme supports those caring for people with dementia, with trained volunteers making a regular call to a carer. For the carer, it’s conversation and connection. For the volunteer, it fits around a working day managed by Outlook Calendar and multiple Zoom calls.
I expect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of thing. Check out I Can Be in London for its work with children, or Bookmark and its online reading mentors. Neither will require you to leave your seat. Both will have a positive impact on the lives of young people.
Both foodbanks and ‘online’ volunteering can be great gateways into more sustained engagement.
Our working lives are changing. The term ‘hybrid working’ may not be familiar to all, but the idea of day split between parenting, work tasks, domestic chores, video calls and maybe a little exercise is likely something we recognise. Adding an hour of volunteering to the mix might not be a bad thing.
I believe there is more desire from employers to be good citizens, to be forces for good in their local community. How we do this is up for grabs, but it starts with a conversation. The door is open.”