Studying the impact of home working

Volunteer Zoe Poysden has just completed a research project for Martlets about the consequences of remote working on staff wellbeing. Zoe is a psychological wellbeing practitioner and was keen to utilise her skills to support Martlets. She also gained valuable work experience that will help with her forthcoming studies.

At Martlets, we’ve been keen to understand the impact of remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of our teams are having to work differently during these challenging times, many of them remotely from home. Our people services team wants to offer the very best support to staff and volunteers and Zoe’s help has proved invaluable.

Zoe grew up in Sussex and has just begun her clinical doctorate at the University of Edinburgh. She is training to be a clinical psychologist.

“I had some time to spare before starting my doctorate and wanted to use my time wisely,” she says. “I knew about Martlets and I’d been to one of their amazing Halloween Balls. I thought I could help a local charity and ideally utlilise my skills at the same time. Martlets were keen to draw on my experience, and research into staff wellbeing seemed an interesting idea. The project got me in a good state of mind for starting the doctorate.”

‘Home working is greener and improves productivity’

Working with Martlets’ people services team, Zoe looked at the positive and negatives aspects of working from home. She also considered what good practice looks like.

“We wanted to look at the research already out there,” she adds. “And find out how working remotely affects different groups of staff including volunteers and clinical, administrative and other key teams. I read up on what Norway is doing as Norwegians were working remotely prior to COVID-19. They advocate that it is greener, supports a work-life balance, improves productivity, demonstrates trust in employees and fosters increased camaraderie.”

There is also evidence that working from home can help people adapt and build resilience during challenging times. This can lead to improved psychological functioning, self-perception, interpersonal relationships and philosophy of life.

Zoe talked to Martlets’ staff to find out how they were feeling and what impact home working was having.

“There were positives such as spending more time with their families and being able to exercise regularly,” she says. “But on the other hand, some people felt that not seeing people in person had impacted on team dynamics. Understanding this means that people services can look at how offer support.”

‘The research gave me lots of creative ideas about my dissertation’

Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the research was carried out entirely online. So Zoe didn’t ever meet any Martlets’ team members in person.

“We had team meetings face-to-face on Zoom though,” she adds. “They got me involved as much as possible and made me feel included which was great. I was reading up on palliative care and this was so helpful. I’m going to be specialising in clinical health in my final year of study. The research gave me lots of creative ideas about my dissertation – about palliative care work and the impact of COVID-19.”

‘Martlets makes it so easy’

“I also looked at volunteering for other charities, but Martlets makes it so easy,” says Zoe. “They have their volunteer recruitment process organised really well and it all got set up so quickly. That was just what I needed as I only had a certain amount of time before starting my doctorate. I would say to anyone thinking of volunteering to give Martlets a call. They will discuss with you what you’re interested in and look at your potential and the best fit for you. They were creative about what I could do and how it would help me as well as help Martlets.”

‘Zoe embodies what we are aiming to achieve with our volunteer strategy’

Watch this space for the outcomes of this important piece of research and how the findings will promote staff wellbeing.

“We’ll be using Zoe’s research and recommendations to refine our wellbeing initiatives,” says Sharon Howes, Martlets’ director of people services. “These initiatives are designed to support our teams both on and off site. They’ll help us deal with the challenges of work. Notably, where work has now moved into the domain of nearly 100 staff and volunteers’ homes. Our teams are adapting so well and we are confident they will continue to work well together in this new situation.”

John Richards, volunteer strategy lead at Martlets, adds:

“Volunteers such as Zoe embody what we are aiming to achieve with our volunteer strategy; to find people with the skills we need to enhance our services, whilst offering real benefit for the volunteer themselves. We wish Zoe all the very best for her ongoing studies.”


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