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North East Charity Leads its National Network In A New Way of Working To Show People It Cares

A North-East based charity is taking part in a trail-blazing pilot to benefit both its clients with extended hours and services and its staff with an innovative way of working that is believed will positively impact on their wellbeing and performance.

Spear headed by CEO Alison Dunn, Citizens Advice Gateshead is the first one in the national Citizens Advice Network to lead the way with the new model of working.

This model will allow us to challenge traditional ways of working and the 9 to 5 model of delivering services which throughout the pandemic we discovered is broken for our clients, as it is too restrictive for their needs in some cases. So, the new rota includes the team working 80% of their hours within an extended parameter of delivery hours that will benefit clients who struggle to make appointments between 9 and 5 on weekdays, for 100% of their salary. This, over time, will enable the charity to better meet the needs of clients at times that suit them. Alison said:

“This is an exciting, although initially challenging, trial for us implement to see if there is a better, long term, operating model for Citizens Advice Gateshead, which allows both an extension of hours for services to benefit our clients and a better, healthier way of working for our team.


“This Four Day Week model will allow us to be more accessible to our clients, which our funders welcome, and grants our team more time to have more flexibility with family and out of work commitments, leading to greater enthusiasm and productivity in their work.

“An immediate benefit to our clients other than extended hours of service, and over time the introduction of more services, is that their interaction with us will undoubtably be with a Citizens Advice Gateshead team member who is less stressed by work, more productive, and more focused on giving the qualified, quality help we are so well known for.
“A further benefit is that it will remove challenges for those who feel excluded from our services and not just because we can’t reach them geographically. They don’t want (or can’t) see us through the day, they are at work, or at the school gates, or at the hospital with their sick relatives, they need (and deserve) a more flexible service from us.
“We will be monitoring the pilot closely, based on feedback from the clients, funders and the team along with facts that have been collated on what we expect will be an improvement in service.”

In a recent staff survey, over 90% of staff were in favour of taking part in the trial Paul Oliver, Corporate Services Director at Citizens Advice Gateshead, said:

“The great benefit is that with our increased staff engagement, services to clients will be more accessible later into the evening and at weekends. We believe that this is critical at this time in ensuring our services reach as many people as possible and we expect to see that the six months of a different approach has boosted not only our service delivery to our clients but also made us into a more agile and responsive organisation

“The response in general has been very positive. It is important to us that our staff get down time and that their health and wellbeing is a priority, so this is a natural change to make if it proves to support that.

“The four-day week also has other positive impacts on society and the community, including reducing the impact on the environment, balancing of gender inequality and potentially increasing life expectancy.”

Citizens Advice Gateshead is one of just 70 UK based organisations that have joined the national 4-Day Week trial, where they get support, advice and access to mentoring from companies who have successfully completed the trial already. Having onboarded the trial in July, the charity initial scheduled a 6 month trial, but because of the positive impact seen to date, the trial has been extended until March.

Staff feedback to date includes quotes such as:

‘So far it’s great for me, the 3 days off is fantastic and I find that I have no issue at all hitting my target, I think that little bit of pressure knowing I must fit it into less time actually makes me more productive.’

‘I have really enjoyed it so far and have definitely felt more rested. I think knowing when your day off is and being able to plan time helps, so having fixed days is a positive.’

‘My work/life balance has improved so much! Now I can spend my weekends doing things I enjoy, knowing that I have a weekday to meal plan, clean and do any life admin. I have found that I’m sleeping better too, and getting just as much work done each week, if not more.’

‘We have clients who try to call us out of hours, sometimes as late as 8pm so working more flexibly will help us to give them the support they need at a time that suits them better.’

‘The 4-day week has had a positive impact on the team who are all pulling together and there seems to be a lot more teamwork and sharing the admin duties. This means that staff are able to prioritise speaking with clients, which has seen an improvement in first contact success rates.

‘Coming to work rested and refreshed after an extra day to recover means that clients are receiving the very best from me.’