We've all had those days. It's hectic, you're working hard, but it's even harder to see what you're actually getting done. Luckily, for this month's guest post, Nicola Greenbrook is exploring some useful hacks to ward off procrastination and help us be more productive at work.
Just as soon as you've finished reading this, of course...
How to be productive at work
According to HR software provider CIPHR, more than half of workers cite distractions such as smartphones, the internet, chatty co-workers and email overload as factors that prevent them from working properly and reaching their full potential.
As well as external influences, our own personal approach to work can impact on productivity; as the American writer Mark Twain once said: 'Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well'.
Most of us defer until the last minute every now and then at work, but if you're a serial procrastinator it's likely you'll chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately seek out distractions.
On the bright side, it's a habit that can be overcome. Here are some tips on how to boost your productivity at work.
Don't do, without a to-do
When you're busy, the temptation is to tackle work head-on and treat planning as a waste of precious 'doing' time.
In fact, lack of preparation can contribute to reduced productivity. Some of the most effective workers set their key priorities before anything else; either at the end of the working day to eliminate decision-making tasks in the morning, or at the start when their mind is fresh.
Writer, brand consultant and Women Who founder Otegha Uwagba, offers some great tips on maximising productivity in her modern career guide Little Black Book. She recommends not checking emails or social media first thing in the morning to avoid tumbling down an 'internet rabbit hole'. Instead, Otegha suggests reframing the first and most precious hour of the working day as 'Power Hour'; setting out the day's priorities and planning workflow upfront.
Try categorising your to-do list into three parts:
1. the dreaded, least favourite tasks
2. stuff you're motivated and excited to complete, and
3. personal admin and the 'nice to do'.
It's easy to launch straight into (2) and (3), but tackling (1) first could provide headspace and some well-earned smugness. Starting important tasks early avoids cramming two hours of work into one, sloppy work and frustration.
Put pen to paper
Modern technology offers some innovative tools to work efficaciously.
My current favourite is virtual to-do list Wunderlist which helps you note, diarise and tick off your personal and professional to dos.
It's a great app to 'mind dump', project manage and ease a brain that's crammed to bursting. You can also share lists with others (my husband really appreciates getting notifications at work that say 'Nicola has completed 'Buy Toilet Rolls') and it's great for planning.
Yet, sometimes there's nothing better than the humble written list and, to quote Otegha, often it 'helps to go analogue'.
I'm a part-time HR Specialist at an intellectual property law firm, which I hugely enjoy as well as freelance writing and parenting. It's essential I maximise office time and compartmentalise my varying responsibilities. Keeping a notebook on my desk keeps my sometimes-wandering brain in check; when 'buy nappies!' or a new article idea pops into my head without warning, I quickly scribble it down and carry on HR-ing.
This means the thought or action doesn't disappear and I can jot it down quickly rather than add to Wunderlist on my phone (I hate colleagues to think I'm idly scrolling on my phone when I'm at my desk). It's safely stored, ready to tackle later when the time is right.
Step away from Twitter!
Ah yes, social media - productivity's nemesis. Most of us can relate to starting the day with good intentions, briefly checking our phones over coffee then looking up twenty minutes later after being lost in a Twitter abyss.
Consider going cold turkey and removing apps from your smartphone, or 'rewarding' yourself with blocks of scrolling time at lunch or on the commute. Social media usage-limiting apps like Moment automatically track how much you use your phone, allow you to set restrictions and even force yourself off it (gulp) when you're over the limit.
If you've discovered a fascinating article you're desperate to read now but know you shouldn't really at work, Pocket could be the answer. It's an app and web service that helps you manage a reading list of internet articles; when you find something you want to view later, you put it in your Pocket. For retrieving later when you can read about Bodyguard without getting in trouble.
Know when you're 'peak you'
Sunday Times bestselling author, podcaster and broadcaster Emma Gannon believes the key to productivity is knowing when you're at your best (her most productive time is between 10am and 3pm).
She works in ninety-minute bursts and when she needs to 'deep work' and focus, she sets her phone to aeroplane mode or banishes it to another room and sets an out of office on email to ensure no disturbance.
Get to know how you personally work best - there's no right or wrong. If you're at your least dynamic in the afternoon or suffer from energy slumps, save your admin and less creative work until then.
Consider shaking things up a bit and begin your working day an hour earlier, if your lifestyle permits. This could equal precious time away from distractions, clients or colleagues and getting ahead of the game. Or set a 'do not disturb' and notify your team how long it applies for; this creates a personal responsibility to finish a task and you can't blame others if you faff about instead.
Have a break, have a...
Some days, the deadlines compete fiercely with each other, your to-do list runs off the page and you absolutely must leave on time.
When lunchtime looms, it's easy to ignore the rumbling tummy, a slightly fuzzy head and simply plough through. Yet, skipping breaks can be counterproductive and significantly impact mental performance.
Being at your desk doesn't mean you're being productive, and working hours on end without any break can make us slower. Silicon Valley consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang argues in his book 'Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less' that dismissing rest stifles our ability to think creatively and truly recharge.
After each productive burst take a short break and, importantly, step away from the screen. Consider the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method developed in the late 1980s. Essentially, this means breaking work down into chunks of time, usually 25 minutes, and intersperse these with short breaks. This means you're not working non-stop and expecting your poor brain to be at peak performance for great big stretches of time.
Being productive doesn't mean over-doing it.
Making some simple adjustments such as establishing your key priorities before tackling the load, limiting social media and taking regular breaks could be the difference to working smarter, not harder.
To quote poet and activist Maya Angelou, 'Nothing will work unless you do'. Now step away from the phone...
Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist & Freelance Writer
We’re always open to adding new faces to our friendly and diverse team – find out more about what it’s like to work for us, the opportunities available and the kind of people we’re looking for.
Recently expanded into our new South West office, our executive team offer bespoke recruitment solutions for CEO, chair, senior management and trustee positions, with an exceptional track record of success.
Our hugely popular series of inter-charity competitions includes bowling, quiz nights and lead sponsorship of the London Charity Softball League! Get the lowdown on those and more events here.
Welcome back to Charity Careers, in which freelance writer Nicola Greenbrook invites key influencers in the charity sector to share their career story and how they navigate the professional world. We discover what they've learned along the way, what motivates them to get up in the morning and what their dream breakfast might look like when they do... In these extraordinary times, Nicola was delighted to chat (virtually, of course) to Susana Lopez, Head of Leadership Giving for Cancer Research UK about her impressive career to date and balancing parenthood with the personal reasons that drive her work for CRUK. She also learned how the charity is responding to COVID-19 and why breakfast in Spain, the complete works of Austen and Tiger King are a few of Susana's favourite things… Hi Susana - we know the name of course, but how would you sum up CRUK's mission and cause? In the 1970s, just 1 in 4 people in the UK survived cancer. Today, thanks to research, that figure has doubled. At Cancer Research UK (CRUK), our ambition is to continue to accelerate this progress so that 3 in 4 people survive cancer by 2034. As the largest independent funder of cancer research in the world, we define global research priorities. Untethered to government funding, we can react rapidly and have the agility to support courageous, risk-taking science. Since our beginnings in 1902, our work has helped uncover the causes of cancer, leading to some of the earliest studies into risk factors, including the link between smoking and cancer. We also laid the foundations for the UK’s national cancer screening programmes and today’s radiotherapy and surgery techniques, and we have contributed to developing eight of the world’s top 10 cancer drugs. Today, we support more than 4,000 nurses, researchers and doctors across a network of exceptional cancer research centres and partner with more than 80 organisations all over the world. We cover every aspect of cancer research and every step of the cancer journey, from our patient information programmes to prevention, diagnosis and treatment. What are you responsible for in your role? My role is really varied! I head up Leadership Giving which sits within the wider Philanthropy and Campaigns team. We work with amazing supporters who want to make a difference by investing in truly cutting-edge research and support. This includes the Catalyst Club, dedicated philanthropists working with us over the long term to have an impact on key areas of CRUK's work; early diagnosis, developing the next generation of science leaders, and the new City of London centre. What drew you to CRUK and when did you join? I’ve had two stints here; from 2006 to 2015 I was a trust fundraising manager and then a senior manager in CRUK's first capital campaign team, Create the Change, raising £100m for the development of the Francis Crick Institute in Kings Cross. I came back to the organisation in November 2019 as Head of Leadership Giving. The simple answer as to why is that cancer has had a profound impact on my life and my family; we lost my mum to ovarian cancer eight years ago; the treatments that kept her well for nearly four years post diagnosis were in part developed by CRUK. All four of my grandparents died of cancer, and too many other family members. I'm an Arts graduate, so was never going to go into science and find new and better treatments myself, but I can put my shoulder to the wheel in the fundraising efforts and secure the investment needed for cancer research. We're hearing much more about medical research in these unprecedented times of course, albeit for a different reason. How has the current pandemic impacted CRUK and your role in particular? Michelle Mitchell, our CEO, has been very open on the impact of COVID-19 on CRUK; unprecedented times indeed. We’ve had to close our shops, and postpone huge events like Race for Life and the gala events which really drive our fundraising programme, and are predicting a 25% drop in income this year, potentially more. The organisation has renegotiated leases on shops, made full use of the government's Job Retention Scheme by furloughing a large number of staff, and made every saving possible in order to protect the investment we make in the front-line science. Even so, we've had to make some tough decisions about the science we can fund, and have had to plan for cuts to that spend. Within my role, we work closely with senior volunteers, ambassadors who are willing to open up their networks and introduce potential supporters to our work, often through a range of events. Obviously we can’t plan those events currently, so we have had to almost throw out the old plans and start afresh. This could be terrifying, but has actually felt very liberating - we have permission to think outside of the box, and to really get insight from our supporters as to what they feel will work, and trial some new ways of working. How did you start your career and what have been the key roles? My first role was as a trust fundraising executive at YMCA England. I'd returned to my home town (after a post-uni year in Spain) to find everyone had scattered, mostly to London! So when a friend contacted me to say there was an entry level role at YMCA England where she was working, I applied. Although I knew nothing about fundraising (amazing to think now that there once was a time when these roles were available to someone with no fundraising experience), I quickly realised that it was a perfect role; lots of talking to colleagues in service delivery about what they were planning and what the impact would be, creative and impactful writing, talking to potential supporters and asking for advice and selling in the work and the difference it would make to homeless and disadvantaged young people. I've since worked in a range of organisations at a range of levels and I don’t know if there are roles I would pick out as being particularly key. Maybe my senior manager role at CRUK the first time around (!) as it really exposed me to working with amazing senior leadership and senior volunteers and to work with really significant supporters to secure multi million pound gifts towards a capital appeal, and to see how a campaign really works. What I would say is that there have been people who have been key to my career; from my first manager at YMCA England, Christine Douglas, who taught me how to structure a trust proposal and how to write for impact, through to Jennifer Cormack at CRUK who showed me how to lead a team collaboratively. Debbie Gilbert at St Giles Trust showed me how to show up as a leader (and never to take no for an answer!), Catherine Miles at Anthony Nolan showed me how to manage upwards and protect your team, and Russell Delew at CRUK gave me the opportunity to work on what was at the time CRUK's biggest capital campaign and secure some of the biggest gifts of my career… Was a charity career always your goal? It really wasn’t; I didn’t know what fundraising was when I applied for my first job in the sector. From childhood I wanted to be a journalist, but fell out of love with the idea on graduation (although three of my family are journalists on TV and in print now, so I feel I'm living the dream vicariously through them!) and I was at a loss what to do with the skills an English Literature degree and a naturally nosey nature had fitted me for. Luckily it turns out being inquisitive, talkative, with a good memory and a way with words is a perfect basis for a career in trust and major gift fundraising. How do you keep your skills fresh and ensure continuous learning along the way? I'm a huge fan of continuous learning - we can all learn something new. I've been working as a fundraiser for 25 years (ARGH) and still enthusiastically sign up for the Institute of Fundraising Convention each year alongside interesting looking briefing events, and especially the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration’s (SOFII) annual I Wish I'd Thought of That event. I also think it's imperative to learn from your peers and keep your ear to the ground with what's happening across the sector to ensure you don’t end up in your own little organisational bubble/echo chamber. To that end, I set up a networking group and invited people I met across the sector to come along; we meet four or five times a year and share news, ask questions, ask for support and advice and make connections. It's fascinating to see how other organisations deal with the challenges we all face - we're meeting in May, and I can't wait to hear how everyone is dealing with COVID-19! What would you advise graduates seeking to join the sector, or more experienced people considering a leap into leadership? When I'm interviewing, I always look for behaviours over a skill set, so my only advice to graduates would be show flexibility, how you've taken on new responsibilities or roles, and your willingness to learn. Skills can be taught. For people moving into leadership - choose the organisation carefully! I’m being half-facetious, but the serious point is to look at how the organisation supports its managers and leaders, what's expected of them, and what training there is internally - for example on managing a team, conducting 121s and annual reviews. These skills are key to managing and too many organisations think they’re innate. They aren't, as anyone who has suffered with a badly trained manager will tell you. Aside from that, be open, honest and transparent - turn up as yourself, and as authentic as you can be. When times get hard, it's tough to maintain a facade! And finally, approach someone you admire and ask them if they'd be willing to act as a mentor. I've listed some of the people who have been key to my career, but I've learned so much from so many people across the sector which has been invaluable. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Christina Grant (who contributed to your article on how to be assertive at work) had a profound impact on me when she worked at CRUK as a trainer. I use some element of her Raising The Bar training and coaching every single day in my work life; the key one is 'Human beings like threes'. Every single meeting opener, presentation, 121, PDR, whatever, I frame around three key points, because it works! What’s the most challenging part of the job? I’ve had lots of challenging jobs, and roles that I’ve left because I couldn’t see how I could make a useful contribution. I can honestly say that I don’t feel that way in my current role; the only challenge, as cheesy as it sounds, is sometimes reining a really ambitious team in! And the best bit? Where to start? The pride in knowing the work we do has a direct impact on cancer, and today, on COVID-19 as CRUK pivots to working on vaccines and treatments for the pandemic, and releases clinicians and nurses back into the NHS to work on the front lines of coronavirus. Working and being in awe of world leading medical researchers who are answering the toughest questions of cancer. Working with world leading fundraisers from whom I can learn so much. And knowing that my mum would be so happy that I've come back to CRUK, an organisation that she supported. What have been your career's biggest ups and downs to date? Up: working with a family who were keen to support an area of work, and who, after a couple of false starts, agreed to an initial gift of £1.1m, and then a further gift of £5m towards a campaign. I secured that gift just before going on maternity leave, so there was a nice completeness to it! Down: working up a huge proposal, full agreement from the finance team and CEO, all ready to go just before Christmas, for a January board meeting date. My ‘spidey sense’ was tingling, though, so I thought I'd make one last check with the project lead. After a couple of days they came back with 'Oh, we've decided not to do that anymore'. It was, I'm afraid to say, the final nail in the coffin for my time at that organisation! Who do you look up to in the sector or more widely? One of my oldest and dearest friends is a sister in A&E in our home town; I’m always in awe of her, but especially at the moment. My sister is a primary school teacher. and after four weeks of trying to teach a six year old, I'm in awe of her, and in fact all teachers. Across the sector, I look up to those people who walk the walk not just spout the theory - I'm loathe to name names as I know I'll leave someone out, but the people who have closed the big gifts, grown income streams, got senior leadership buy-in for major gift fundraising and in doing so created transformational growth. Let's finish with some quick lifestyle questions: are you up with the lark or a night owl? Left to my own devices, I would go to bed at 8.30pm and sleep til 9.00am. I love sleep. Juggling a small child and a full-on job, the lie-ins are less frequent although I am blessed with an early bird husband, so I definitely get more than my fair share! What gets you out of bed in the morning, rain or shine? Usually the six year old asking questions about dinosaurs, trains or planes ... more seriously: deadlines and wanting to get on and make a difference. Urgh, that sounds awful. But true! And what's your dream (and actual) breakfast once you're up? Dream breakfast - lockdown over and travelling again - would be some mixture of fresh eggs, bread and fruit overlooking the sea somewhere hot and beautiful. If it could be the motherland of Spain, so much the better. Actual breakfast more likely to be overnight oats with yoghurt whilst logging on … Does a typical day exist? Not really, but it would usually involve checking in with the team, checking in with senior managers, or looking over proposals and reports for donors to feed in my thoughts: after 25 years of doing the job, it's really key to me to share what I was taught and what I've learned the hard way! Also planning, taking part in some thinking about upcoming projects or launches, and best of all, meetings and calls with supporters and senior volunteers to talk about the work of CRUK, and to solicit their support in a variety of ways. What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment? I'm an English Literature graduate who, in another life, would have been at my most content lost in an English department somewhere writing an interminable thesis on Austen. I have weird reading tastes - early 19th century fiction and contemporary US fiction. My favourite authors are Jane Austen, Curtis Sittenfeld, Tom Woolfe and Jonathan Frantzen. I could happily just read them for the rest of my life. Oh, and Mhairi McFarlane for cracking modern UK writing. I have absolutely gutter tastes in TV though; Tiger King was a recent highlight and aside from that, rubbish reality TV, especially the Real Housewives franchise, or what my husband calls 'your programmes about ladies shouting at each other’. I’m relatively new to podcasts, and just didn't get them at all until I came across Gossipmongers and I’m now a convert. Best. Podcast. Ever. And finally, how do you wind down in your spare time? If I have any, I like to switch my brain off with things that are detailed but mindless like knitting. I make many, many scarves, as that's about the limit of my skills. I dream of being able to make something more complicated. A huge thank you to Susana, we very much appreciate you taking the time to share your story, career insights and invaluable advice with our readers - we wish you and CRUK all the very best in the challenging weeks ahead, and of course for the future! Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist and Freelance Writer Contact Nicola, check out her website or follow her on Twitter, or for more on Cancer Research UK and why they need you more than ever, please visit their website. More Charity Careers #1: Sara Rees, Head of Fundraising, Rays of Sunshine ► #2: Hannah Sanders, Consumer Brand Partnerships, Save the Children ► #3: Andy Harris, Director of Income Generation, Shelter ► #4: James Harris, Associate Director of Communications, Marketing and Membership, Rethink Mental Illness ► #5: Chris Oak, Associate Director HR & Facilities, SPANA ► More from the Harris Hill blog 12 tips for video interview success Interviewing via video is the new normal for now, and if it's also new to you, here are some practical tips on the process from our executive recruitment experts, courtesy of director Jenny Hills. Read more ► How to work well from home Millions of us are doing it, but is working from home really working for you? Nicola Greenbrook has the lowdown on the lockdown and advice to help you turn the new arrangements to your advantage. Read more ►
Interviewing via video is the new normal for now, and if it's also new to you, here are some practical tips on the process from our executive recruitment experts, courtesy of director Jenny Hills. Getting the basics right: make sure what's behind you isn't distracting How to get the best from video interviews By now you'll probably know the basics from the video meetings that have come to dominate all of our working and social lives: make sure your camera and microphone are working ahead of the call, check your pyjama bottoms aren’t in view below your smart top, and that what’s behind you isn’t distracting. But over the past few weeks, we’ve picked up a few additional practical pointers that can help you ace that all-important video interview: Try a test run If you’re not familiar with the videocall platform you’ll be using, ask your friendly consultant for a quick technical test-run. We want you to nail this meeting, and if a test-run will help that, we’re only too happy to do it. If you’ve applied directly, ask a friend to do a test-run with you well ahead of the interview. Lights, camera, wardrobe Wear what you would normally wear (at least on top) to an interview. However, keep in mind the quality of your camera and the lighting. You don’t need a camera any fancier than the one that came with the laptop/smartphone, but if you know the image quality isn’t great, try and sit in a well-lit room, and consider the colours you are wearing. A white shirt in front of a white wall in bright sunlight might mean you blend into the wallpaper too much. On the other hand, wearing dark colours in room with less-than-great lighting risks you appearing as a grainy blur to the panel. In all cases, don’t silhouette yourself in front of the light source! Steady your nerves (and devices) If you're using a smartphone or tablet, find a way to prop it up and keep it steady for the interview, rather than holding it in your hand: a shaky picture can detract from what you're saying and create the impression of nervousness, even if you're confident, calm and collected. Stay informed Keep the relevant details (job description, person specification etc) and your application to hand, either printed out or in another window of your screen. If you’re switching between screens to look at something (most videocall platforms allow you to do this without leaving the call), remember the panel can still see and hear you. Be prompt Keep to your start time! Normally, arriving 10 minutes ahead of an interview is good practice, but if you log into the Zoom meeting early, you may interrupt the panel’s pre-interview discussion, or they may simply not be there are they’re taking advantage of a quick break to run to the bathroom. We’ve been advising our candidates to log in a minute before the actual interview. This gives you time to make sure the audio and video is working before it cuts into precious interview time, but also allows the panel to take their breaks, talk amongst themselves and be ready. Remember you're on camera! When on videocalls, some people understandably forget about eye contact and look around the room whilst talking (as many of us do when we’re thinking). Don’t stare down the lens (creepy), but try to keep your eyes on the screen. It doesn’t really matter where on the screen, but the person who asked the question is a good bet, especially if you find looking at yourself distracting. Express yourself There’s no need to be a mime artist, but if you use body language (nodding, smiling, leaning in, etc) you might want to exaggerate it a little bit more than you would in person so it shows up on camera. This helps engagement between you all as people. Someone sitting motionless and expressionless is hard to relate to, and the panel want to get a sense of you as a person and as a potential colleague. The show must go on For relatively minor audio and video disruption (screen freezes, distorted audio), we advise ignoring it unless it has impaired your understanding of what the panel are saying/asking. We’ve found that this keeps interruptions to a minimum, and on the flipside, we’ve seen conversations lose momentum when every bit of digital static is commented on. Be expressive, but not a mime artist. Also recommended in all other situations. Don't panic This way of working is strange for all of us, so don’t be phased if something goes pear-shaped. Can’t hear? Explain and wait for it to resolve (leave and re-join if necessary). Six-year-old has to show you the spaceship now? Cat decides it needs to sleep on the laptop? Smile, ask the panel for a quick pause to deal with it, and get back to it. We’re all human, and if the panel doesn’t understand that, do you want to work for them? Stay focused That said, despite the interruptions and informalities of working from home, the conversational style in videocalls is by necessity pretty formal (even for an interview). If two people speak at the same time, both are completely unintelligible so everyone has to take turns to speak. You are also missing out on almost all the non-verbal clues that we don’t realise we rely on so much. A particular risk is talking to fill the silence and missing clues you’d normally spot that the panel are disengaging from your answer, so stick to focused, relevant answers (the STAR technique is a good general guide). If you’ve said something interesting and they want more detail, they’ll ask. Make sure you leave a pause between someone asking a question and you talking to ensure they’re done, and that panel members are given opportunities to ask follow ups. Be flexible If your internet connection is bad enough to disrupt the conversation, apologise, fix it if at all possible, but if not, ask if you may switch your camera off and go audio only, or even dial in to the call instead. This should be a last resort because it’s the only way you can hear and respond to the panel. On the other hand, if one or more panel members go audio only for the same reasons, don’t get phased and keep your eyes on the screen. Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they can’t see you. BYO refreshments Finally, much as they’d like to, the panel can’t offer you the glass of water/tea/coffee, so make sure you have one to hand for when you need it. A separate celebratory beverage for when you leave the videocall having given the best interview of your life is optional. To wrap up, there are practical differences between the usual in-person interview and a video interview, but the intent behind them is the same: for you, is this a job you want? For the panel, are you the person they want for the job? Being able to adapt to these differences may not guarantee you the job, but feeling more confident and relaxed about the process will give yourself and the panel the best chance of making the right decision. Jenny Hills Chief Executive & Director Recruitment Practice, Harris Hill Search executive opportunities ► More from the Harris Hill blog How to work well from home Millions of us are doing it, but how well is working from home working for you? Guest blogger (and frequent home-worker) Nicola Greenbrook has advice to help you keep things running smoothly. Read more ► Should you be working for a large or small charity? The biggest charities may have the biggest opportunities, but you'll typically take on more responsibilities somewhere smaller - so which is better for your career? Faye Marshall and our fundraising specialists weigh up the options. Read more ► How to be assertive at work Altruistic behaviour is fundamental to the charity sector, but saying yes to every request can leave you seriously overwhelmed. Nicola Greenbrook explores how you can learn to stand your ground and be more productive as a result. Read more ►
With much of the world in lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, working from home is the new normal for many. Our guest blogger and freelance writer Nicola Greenbrook offers suggestions on how to work productively, interact socially and look after our physical and mental health. How to work well from home We are living in exceptional times. The virus that emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan has caused a global COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing, the UK is in lockdown, the shutters have come down on all non-essential shops, schools and nurseries are closed, and many charities are in crisis. Government guidance advises people to work from home where possible, travelling only when it is essential. But for those unaccustomed, or averse, to homeworking, it can take a while to adjust. Throw into the mix that our partners/flatmates/children are our new colleagues, how can we work productively and efficiently from our homes - and keep our minds and bodies healthy? ___________________ Create a designated workspace The spread of coronavirus has been rapid; one day you were at work, the next creating an ‘office’ in your flat amongst the laundry and hunting under a pile of magazines for a pen. Before you do anything else, prioritise setting up a clear and defined workplace, separate from your home life where possible. If this is the kitchen table for the time being, ensure it's clear, free of coffee cups and has easy access to power. HSE's Display Screen Equipment (DSE) workstation checklist offers clear guidance on areas such as chairs, screens and lighting. Adding a personal touch to your workspace might help with the adjustment to homeworking (best to avoid dedicating an entire working day to #workspacestyling though). Kim Watson, comms freelancer and co-founder of holistic therapies business The House of Palms finds that it increases her productivity: ‘I have a proper workspace, a desk with plants, pictures, candles and natural light etc. All things that make me feel happy and wanting to work - that helps!’ Establish a routine and set boundaries I'm an HR Specialist for an IP law firm in the City for three days a week and a freelance writer at home for one day and weekends (plus a Mum in between). This provides clear boundaries and compartmentalises my working week. However, the lines are currently blurred; each part is now worked from home. It’s an unprecedented situation for most of us; there’s no commute to act as a physical divide and we've literally brought our work into our homes. So what can we do to restore some order? Creating a simple plan for the week ahead can help stay on track; try scheduling activities against set times and get to know when you’re ‘peak you’. If, generally, you’re less dynamic in the afternoon or susceptible to energy slumps, consider doing less creative work then. If working alongside a partner or flatmate/s AND children, and without a separate room to work from, at least delineate a space that is solely yours. Over breakfast each day, consider holding a team meeting with your ‘new colleagues’; discuss and agree the hours you’ll each work (especially if caring for/homeschooling children as well) and how you like to work (loud music vs complete silence etc). Then be prepared to compromise and be flexible - we’re all in this together! ___________________ Watch the clock It’s tempting to work all hours just because we can. Stick to your regular office hours where possible and commit to meetings in your diary rather than pushing them back. Establish a routine; stop for lunch and utilise morning and afternoon breaks to do a quick house chore or grab a drink - and step away from the screen. Work steadily, stay focused and STOP at a set time - then switch off. It's unlikely you'd run back to the office at 11pm after an evening out, so there’s no need to head back to your laptop at home. Stop looking for distractions There’s something about being in your own home that feels more comfortable, don’t you think? Sure, you could squeeze in some pre-work Netflix over a bowl of cereal, but can you stop at one episode? What about chores? Are you finding it hard to ignore the messy kitchen cupboard /peeling paint/huge pile of stuff to sort out? Yes? You could be procrastinating; save the decluttering for the weekend. Mirror your homeworking day with your office one. If a relative or friend wants a chat in the middle of the day (rather than it being a genuine concern or emergency), politely reschedule for lunchtime or post-work. It's important to digest public health information, but avoid getting bogged down in multiple sources, too many WhatsApps or unreliable social media posts. Don't let a quick peek at your phone become a Twitter marathon. ___________________ Be healthy in mind and body Working from home can be challenging and isolating, and you might be feeling a certain level of anxiety and distress. Explore some coping mechanisms that could alleviate feelings of uncertainty. For example, limiting social media (and visiting positive accounts only like Upworthy), using meditation and relaxation apps, reading a book or sitting in the garden to restore a sense of calm and wellbeing. Mental health charity Mind offers some brilliant advice on coronavirus and your wellbeing. Try exercising in your former commuting time (for your mandated, one form of exercise a day) to start or end the day in the right way. Runner's World has some good tips for staying active during social distancing and the Guardian suggests the ten best online (and free) home workouts. Stay hydrated and eat well, avoiding the temptation to fall into a pattern of idle snacking and ransacking the crisps cupboard at 10.00am. NHS factsheet ‘Water, drinks and your health’ provides some helpful reminders on this. Finally, ensure you follow sanitation and good hygiene practice to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at home too. Wash your hands and clean your keyboard, phone and other equipment regularly. Here's a reminder of the advice on this, via the CIPD (or click for pdf): Stay in conversation Maintaining some form of human connection while homeworking is essential, and emotional support is a critical part of our physical and mental wellbeing. If your workload allows, contribute to team chats or group emails when you can so you don't drop off the radar. Consider a virtual coffee break with your team and ask what they’re working on, come up with ways to support each other and share what’s on your list (or your mind, if you feel comfortable). Jot Form offers some great ideas for online business tools and ways to communicate, such as using a video conferencing tool like Zoom for meetings with multiple attendees, hosting courses, and webinars. And finally… • Get dressed - It’s tempting to jump straight into it and conference call in a work top with pyjama bottoms, but before you know it, it's 3pm. Get showered, first. • Support local businesses - Consider signing up for an online yoga class with a local teacher, order takeout as a lunchtime treat from a café and buy your basic necessities from a local shop. • Learn how to homework - LinkedIn Learning’s remote working course can be done in small chunks and includes insight from entrepreneur Arianna Huffington. • Reach out - If you're struggling, don’t hesitate to speak to your HR team for support or access any employee assistance programmes available. ___________________ These are unsettling and worrying times, and a huge period of change for the UK’s workforce. You may be feeling out of control right now, but try to focus on the things you can control (washing your hands, taking exercise and breaks, eating well and drinking fluids) rather than what you can’t. Take it day by day; get to know what works for you to get the best out of homeworking and stay in good physical and mental health. Stay safe and well - and indoors. Nicola Contact Nicola, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter. The coronavirus pandemic is a fast-moving and developing situation and official advice should always be taken. You'll find the most up-to-date information via the UK Government, NHS or World Health Organisation sites. More from Nicola Greenbrook How to set goals (and stick to them in style) ► Podcast your way to workplace wellbeing ► How to be assertive at work ► More from the Harris Hill blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? ► Smarter than the average bear: the Charity Series Quiz Night champions! ► Caudwell Children: Building a better world for disabled children ►
Previously in 2020: fires, floods, locusts and a global plague, but if you're tired of Apocalypse Bingo and keen to hear about our inter-charity quiz (or just desperate for literally anything new to read by now), you’re in luck! A quiz to remember Cast your mind back if you can to the halcyon days of February 2020: that carefree age when you could leave the house at will to go around touching your face and buying toilet paper with abandon. It was in this bygone era, when gathering hundreds of charity people in a bar was a convivial prospect rather than an invitation to certain doom, that the 2020 Harris Hill Charity Series Quiz Night took place. And rather good it was too. You’ll perhaps be wondering who held the winners’ trophy aloft, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - who knows how many months we might have to spin this out for - so firstly some very well-deserved thank-yous: to our wonderful hosts at Patch St Paul’s, who’ve hosted countless times and always manage to make a hectic night look effortless with smiles all round; and to our quizmasters extraordinaire Rob Wyatt and Matthew Glass, not to mention all the rest of the organising committee who work so hard to bring these events together so brilliantly. The big draw There are also thank-yous galore when it comes to the other big draw of the night, the fundraising raffle, which this year will make a real difference close to home, contributing to a much-needed specialised wheelchair for Muscular Dystrophy's Ravi, who never misses an event despite living with the condition himself. We’ve had some fantastic prizes before but this year’s selection was surely the biggest and best to date, all donated thanks to the huge generosity of the organisations and businesses below that we would strongly encourage you to go and frequent! Not right now obviously – they’ll be closed and you might get arrested, which is never as much fun as it looks. (In no particular order, that's Vauxhall's Embody Wellness and Floatworks spas, the Movember Foundation, Mondo Brewery, Northcote Biscuiteers, Linnaen restaurant and spa, Headcase Barbers, stylish retailer Oliver Bonas, Psycle Clapham, Sadhana Yoga & Wellbeing, the Sipsmith Gin Distillery, Beefeater Gin Distillery and a small team you may be aware of called Manchester United Football Club!) There were even more prizes on the night too - we don't have all the details in this new home-working world, but our huge thanks to you too! Of course there’d be nothing raised if nobody bought tickets, so an enormous thank you to every single person who did, and once again to our CEO Aled Morris for bumping up the total quite significantly to raise a fantastic final figure of £2,200! ---------- And so to the winners… There are some familiar names among our titans of useless trivia this year, and after a closely-fought contest there was a tie for second place between 2018 winners the Canal & River Trust, who nearly barged (sorry) right back to the top, and the combined talents of The Brooke and C40, collectively known as The Globetrotters! But out in front and fast becoming Charity Series legends, a team who know things as well as they throw things (given their second place in 2018's quiz and victory in November's bowling), our congratulations go to the irrepressible Citizens Advice aka The BearOs! All of which begs the question, can they follow up those consecutive quiz and bowling triumphs by doing the triple and topping this summer’s charity softball league? Sadly the coronavirus may have something to say about that, as we wait to see the extent of its impact on the 2020 season. Naturally the committee will be watching developments closely and doing whatever can possibly be done, but safety of course comes first, so all we can say for now is watch this space! Just not all from the same place, obviously. Until next time - whenever and wherever that may be - take care and stay safe! Team HH x More from the Harris Hill blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? ► The Harris Hill and CharityJob 2019 Salary Report ► How to be assertive at work ► How to set goals (and stick to them in style) ► Back to the blog homepage
Ever wish you were more assertive, when those 'few little requests' become a giant mountain of work? Our guest blogger, freelance writer and HR specialist Nicola Greenbrook has been finding out how, with insight from professionals in and out of the charity sector. How to be assertive at work Assertiveness is an essential workplace skill, but can be tricky to apply if you’re an introvert or have trouble speaking up. Many of us avoid being more assertive through fear that our colleagues, and boss, will think badly of us. Yet, taking on just.one.more project despite a full inbox can lead to over-work, over-tiredness and overwhelm - not to mention a dent in your personal life. So, how can we reclaim the power? Should I be aggressive, passive or assertive? First, let’s explore these different behaviours: • Aggressiveness can be defined as ‘a determination to win or succeed, and the use of forceful action to do this’. Fictional fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly is a wicked master of this. • Passivity on the other hand is ‘acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance’. Always going with the flow and yielding to other people’s demands can lead to burnout and resentment. • Assertiveness falls somewhere between the two extremes. Not simply being calm, confident and firm with your convictions and decisions, being assertive is a state where you approach situations assuredly and objectively and are happy to seek feedback, aware of the growth and development it can bring. A satisfying compromise. Assertiveness in the charity world For people working in the third sector, the need to balance assertiveness with empathy - listening to service users, understanding their circumstances and inspiring action - can often be a particular challenge. In a recent LinkedIn thread, the author had observed the number of women in her office who over-apologised (for getting into the lift, having the door held open for them or just taking up space). As part of the discussion, Garry Wilkinson, Head of Charity Partnerships at Vintage Cash Cow considered whether being a chronic apologiser isn’t necessary limited to women. ‘Maybe it’s also something to do with sorts of people who work in the Third Sector; they tend to be people with high levels of empathy and are very conscious of the feelings of others,’ he suggested. Christina Grant, an executive coach and trainer for the fundraising sector has considerable insight in this area. She believes the fundraising role is fundamentally an influencing one. However, she observes that whilst her trainees are drawn to the sector by a desire to make a difference, limited budgets can often mean they lack adequate training or support in influencing and assertiveness. Fundraising also attracts a high number of women. Yet senior teams, major donors and senior leaders in organisations remain predominately male-dominated - and so influencing is even more critical. She believes the fundraiser has a challenging role, because in a first meeting with a donor or supporter, ‘they have to be seen as friendly and warm whilst also being authoritative, knowledgeable and credible’ so as to be trusted with a gift. Women also face even greater challenges at work when they start displaying assertive behaviours in the workplace which are then deemed as ‘bossy’ or overly aggressive. So what can we do to address this? The power of words We’ve all heard people say ‘you need to be more assertive!’. But what if you can’t find the words or find yourself apologising instead? Olivia Dunn, Head of Marketing and Communications at Halpin Partnership Ltd has observed women and men disempowering themselves with the words they use at work. In her insightful article ‘The shortcut to empowered communications’, she offers valuable advice on using emboldening language without bravado. Olivia suggests ditching ‘just’ (‘I’m just part-time’) and ‘I think’ which can dilute your point before you’ve even made it. She makes a compelling argument; it’s not the words you add in but the ones you remove which can empower you. Why it's win-win to be assertive at work Being professionally assertive can increase your self-confidence and lower your anxiety and dependency. It can also help you stay in control and communicate more effectively and healthily. A graphic designer from London shared with me how assertiveness worked for them: ‘Last year I worked on a particularly messy job for a lovely client.’ they explained. ‘Remaining assertive throughout the project meant the experience for both me and my client remained positive - even when the project became a source of stress. The feedback at the end of the job was that I handled things with grace’. Setting clear boundaries about what they were OK with in their own mind before conveying them externally, as well as taking control when requests from clients or others feel ‘too much’, was a useful strategy for them: ‘Instead of saying ‘no’ and explaining why I can’t do what they want, I try to respond positively. I explain what I CAN do and when, or I pass them on to someone who may be able to help, instead of giving the impression they’re inconveniencing me. If someone ignores or shuts down my assertiveness with a passive-aggressive response (including no response), I’ve learnt to let it go, move on and find people to work with who are a much better fit.’ How to be assertive! Assertiveness may not be an innate characteristic for everyone, but it can be learned and developed. Christina Grant emphasises the importance of body language and gestures in key meetings, especially when making first impressions. She explains, ‘For example, it’s important for women to seat themselves in prime spots in a meeting room and to be present in the room physically’. She points out that seemingly little things can affect this; being overly concerned about everyone's comfort and refreshments or taking responsibility for taking notes when no one else does. ‘This can sometimes damage our own credibility without us realising it (although if a woman has enough confidence she could take notes and make tea and it would not have an impact on how she is perceived)’ Christina explains. She also encourages women to ‘open’ meetings with a two-minute, strong introduction, to ensure other attendees know they're ‘leading’ the meeting and will sense their authority. ‘It should help other people to relax and feel confident that you have a plan and you're in control - not in an aggressive way, but rather a signal that you’re confident in your world’. Here are some final strategies on being assertive at work: • Practice outside of work first. Build up your assertiveness muscle; speak up about bad service or ask for the table you want at a restaurant. • Set clear boundaries. Career and business coach, Nathalina Harrison likens good assertiveness to good parenting. Put clear boundaries in place on how you want to be treated and communicated with and be clear about the consequences if they’re not adhered to, whether upwards (your manager and stakeholders), sideways (your peers) and downwards (your direct reports). • Be analytical. If you want to be assertive but you're hesitant and reluctant to speak up, do a quick analysis of the situation. What’s the worst that could happen? ______________ Assertiveness is an invaluable skill. It can bolster your career progression, improve your visibility and credibility in meetings and strengthen relationships with colleagues, clients and contacts. Being confident in your approach, removing disempowering words and setting clear boundaries will ensure you nail it at work. I’m certain you’ll like your assertive (not aggressive) self a lot better than the passive, exhausted resentful one and soon that mountain of work won’t look so daunting. Just don’t be Miranda Priestly, OK? That’s all. Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist and Freelance Writer Contact Nicola, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter. More from Nicola Greenbrook How to set goals (and stick to them in style) ► Podcast your way to workplace wellbeing ► How to negotiate a pay rise in the charity sector ► More from the Harris Hill blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? ► Caudwell Children: Building a better world for disabled children ► The Harris Hill Charity Series 2020 ►
HRRRRRRRRNNNNK! HRRRRRRRRNNNNK! Yes, as you’ve so rightly guessed, that's the unmistakable sound of the Harris Hill Charity Series klaxon signalling the start of the 2020 Series! But what is the Harris Hill Charity Series? We decided to ask the question. In slightly larger blue type. What is the Harris Hill Charity Series? We’re so glad you asked. In the most straightforward terms, it’s a series of three fantastic inter-charity contests that just get more and more popular by the year: February’s big quiz night (more of which in a moment), bowling night in November, and right through the summer from May to August, the daddy of them all: the London Charity Softball League! For us, it's also a way to give something back to the sector we love working with. We can’t claim credit for organising the events – that’s all down to the tireless and super-committed committee from numerous charities who heroically (and entirely voluntarily) do the hard work in their free time to make it all happen, and who we really can’t thank enough. But we're delighted to have been lead sponsor since time immemorial, currently estimated to be somewhere around 2005. If you’re under 35 or so, that’s a year from the distant past when you were probably still at school or uni, while for the more ‘vintage’ among us it’s one of those that feels about three months ago and cannot possibly be FIFTEEN YEARS already. Yikes. How can my charity get involved? Via the aforementioned committee who you can read about here and here, and much like the other A-Team, ‘if no-one else can help... and if you can find them' (ideally Mr Leo Visconti, founding father of the softball league) maybe you can sign up for the next available event. All charities are welcome, and if you're keen to play softball but don't have the numbers for a full team, do not despair: many of the league's top teams are a hybrid of two or more charities working together, a great example of the collaborative and supportive spirit that makes the league something really quite special to be part of (but still fiercely competitive!) Meanwhile, speaking of hybrid teams and the next event... It's the 2020 quiz night! Yes, tomorrow if you're reading this today (Feb 24th), today if you're reading this tomorrow, and 'some time ago' if you're watching this on catch-up, the Harris Hill Charity Series Quiz Night is back! Around 40 charities will be heading to the fabulous Patch St Paul's, where the winning combo of Can Mezzanine and Disability Rights UK (aka The Cantelopes) took top honours in 2019, very closely followed by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and Lumos. Just a few rounds of challenging questions now stand between us and knowing who's the smartest in the sector (SPOILER ALERT: probably not us), and there are some particularly fantastic prizes to be won in this year's fundraising raffle. So our huge appreciation and a round of applause if you will please, for these brilliant businesses who've kindly donated prizes, including Vauxhall's Embody Wellness and Floatworks spas, Mondo Brewery, Northcote Biscuiteers, the stylish Linnaen restaurant and spa, Oliver Bonas, Psycle Clapham, Sadhana Yoga & Wellbeing and the ever-popular Sipsmith Gin and Beefeater Gin! One last note for those attending, don't forget to bring some cash for raffle tickets if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning one of these brilliant prizes (and there are more to come!), may the best team win, and we'll see you there! Team HH x More from the Harris Hill blog ► View all current charity vacancies ►
Does size matter? It’s a question we’re certainly not the first to tackle - if that’s the word - but what size of charity is best for your career? The bigger the better? Or do the best things really come in small packages? Here's what our fundraising team and deputy CEO Faye Marshall had to say in a 2019 article for The Fundraiser (relevant for most other charity jobs too), updated here for the blog. Should you be working for a large or small charity? As specialist recruiters we work with charities of all sizes, helping fundraisers find those best aligned with their priorities. For some the environment or location will be more important than progression, for others career development may be paramount, and for many of course, the cause in question will be top of the list. Sometimes only one type of charity will do, but in many cases there are both larger and smaller options, each with their own advantages. So how do you know where to go? Appropriately enough there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but what we'd recommend generally depends on three things: where you are in your career, your experience to date and where you ultimately want to go. Let's start at the beginning. Starting out If it’s your first charity job, the best place for your baby steps may be the biggest organisations. That might sound counter-intuitive but as with any new job, there’ll be downtime while you learn the ropes and won’t be fully productive. You’ll also need training, and someone with the time and resources to deliver it. All of this means there are costs, which are often unaffordable for small charities operating on little more than Hobnobs and hope. However their larger counterparts are more likely to have support for new starters in place, as philanthropy manager Annabelle Burt told us of her role at NSPCC: "Starting my charity career in a large organisation has without a doubt been the best decision I’ve made. The organisation invests a great deal in personal development, and they’ve already given me countless opportunities to attend nationwide conferences and training with the best in the business. I’m given all the support I need to succeed in my role and really value being able to learn about different areas of the charity sector from collaborative working with other departments." Stick or twist? Perhaps you’ve now got a couple of years under your belt, doing direct marketing for a major charity. You're enjoying it, maybe even to the point you can't imagine doing anything else - but nevertheless it’s usually wise to diversify. Specialising too soon may limit your options later – for example after six solid years when you see the perfect direct marketing job, but the candidates you’re competing with have four years in DM and two in other fields. Many employers will favour your competitors for their more varied, well-rounded experience. And the same of course applies should you change your mind and want to branch out later. So it’s worth trying different things: don’t put yourself in a pigeon-hole unless you’re prepared for the possibility of living there permanently. Like beanbags, debt, and conversations with people who’ve taken up CrossFit, they’re easier to get into than out of, and best avoided if possible. Shifting down can be the best way up Moving to a smaller charity is often a fantastic way to branch out. Leaving that large DM department behind, you might now be a team of one - and it's unlikely to be the only thing you do. Whatever your job title might suggest, in a small team you’ll always need to help each other out, which could mean events, community projects, partnerships with local businesses and more. And with few support staff you’ll likely do more than just fundraising, which could mean admin, marketing, media relations, procurement (somebody’s got to buy the teabags) or even catering and hospitality, because those cakes for the big event won’t bake themselves. It's a challenge for sure, but a great way to develop existing skills and discover others you didn't know you had, while gaining diverse and multifaceted experience that's likely to broaden your future options. Speaking of which... Further into your career: where next? By now you’re perhaps looking for your third or fourth fundraising job, and having worked for both larger and smaller charities you’ve got the experience to go in either direction. The best move now largely depends on where you're ultimately looking to go, so it's a good time to take stock and think hard about where that is. Then, consider what you've done and more importantly, what you haven't yet done to help you to get there, and aim to plug any gaps that could hold you back. If you’re aspiring to a directorship with a top ten charity for example, you’ll need to start boosting the big-name experience on your CV. Ultimately it may just come down to the environment you prefer, and on which side of the whole big fish/small pond question you feel more at home. Both have their advantages (and drawbacks) of course, so here are some that we've yet to cover: ► Autonomy can be huge part of the appeal: if you’re the entire corporate fundraising team, guess who’s in charge? If you’re used to following procedures and losing even your most brilliant ideas to multi-layered, glacially-paced approval processes, the freedom to chart your own course is both liberating and exhilarating. ► As a result you’ll be very hands-on, designing and delivering your campaigns from end to end. You’ll get to do it all yourself, the only drawback being that you’ll have to do it all yourself, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in making things happen. Whatever you do will be noticed, so you can bask in the credit when it works - though of course with nowhere to hide if it doesn’t. ► That close connection with leadership helps small charities to be more agile, changing course more quickly than their bigger brethren. Getting the whole organisation on board with your new initiative is a lot easier when you can fit everyone in one room. ► Usually you’ll also be close enough to your beneficiaries to see that you’re making a difference – something fundraisers buried far from the frontline in a major charity HQ may envy. ► Having a well-known name can have significant advantages in key areas like fundraising and marketing. For one thing, if you don’t need to explain who you are, you’ve got more time or space to make your case. And there’s no denying it looks good on your CV. That said, while a big name might open some doors, it isn’t always an advantage: a 2018 study by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership found public trust in national charities significantly lower (at just 29%) than in local community charities (43%). ► However, you’ll have more resources to call on in your fundraising efforts, and often on a larger scale: partnering with a major corporation for example, or a national TV advertising campaign, experience you’re unlikely to gain locally. ► Arguably the clearest advantage is the prospect of progression. If you’re the events person for a small charity but want to manage a team, you’ll either need to grow the charity considerably (and fast) or move somewhere big enough to have one. Even if there’s a role above you to aim for, there could be a long wait before it’s a vacancy. By nature, larger organisations will have more opportunities more often, so there’s more chance of moving up without having to move out entirely. What about salaries and benefits? Things are more evenly matched when it comes to things like flexible working and staff benefits. Both large and small charities tend to score highly, but large-scale events and the social side of bigger organisations may give them an edge, depending on your preference. As for salaries, check out the Harris Hill & CharityJob 2019 Salary Report which has market rates for more than 120 different roles in the sector, including differences in pay between small, medium and large charities. While larger organisations do appear to pay a little more in general, as you might perhaps expect, the full picture is rather more complex. Most of the disparity is at senior levels, based on larger remits and scope, but at the junior end there's often very little difference. There are certainly big name charities who offer small starting salaries, knowing their brand alone will bring in new talent, just as there are smaller organisations paying above average to attract potential staff. So at least in the early part of your career, charity size is unlikely to have a huge impact on pay. You might earn a little less at a smaller charity, but that could pay off handsomely in future thanks to your greater breadth of experience. So where should you go next? Most of the fundraisers we work with move between both large and small organisations several times in their career, and it’s a good strategy. The strongest CVs have a balance of both, and the breadth of experience you’ll gain will give you the option to move in either direction. Meanwhile if you’re switching charity sizes, be sure to read the job description in detail. Jobs with the same title may have very different remits depending on the size of charity, so know what you’re in for and be wary of assumptions. Don’t let the bright lights of a big brand blind you to what’s actually a more limited role, for example, or dismiss a superb opportunity on account of a name that you’ve never heard of. And if you’re not sure of your next move, consider where you eventually want to be, and what’s missing from your CV to get there. The chances are that’s your answer. Final thoughts: we've inevitably made some generalisations here, and for every trend we’ve mentioned there are charities busily bucking it. But both large and small charities can offer superb career opportunities, and the best advice we can give is to make the most of them however you can. Plenty of factors can make a great employer, so a charity’s size isn’t everything. Believe it or not, it really is what you do with it that counts. Faye Marshall, director of permanent recruitment and deputy CEO, Harris Hill Search all charity jobs ► More from the Harris Hill blog How to negotiate a pay rise in the charity sector ► Charity Careers 5: meet SPANA's Chris Oak, Associate Director of HR ► How to write a great supporting statement ► The Harris Hill and CharityJob 2019 Salary Report ► Return to the blog homepage
Welcome back to Charity Careers, in which freelance writer Nicola Greenbrook invites key influencers in the charity sector to share their career story and how they navigate the professional world. We discover what they've learned along the way, what motivates them to get up in the morning and what their dream breakfast might look like when they do... Kicking us off for 2020, Nicola was delighted to chat to Chris Oak, Associate Director - HR and Facilities for Society For The Protection Of Animals Abroad (SPANA) about his career, keeping your perspective, why he bounces out of bed in the mornings, giving back to the community, and an extraordinary commitment to Doctor Who… Hi Chris. Please tell us a little bit more about SPANA and its mission? Put most simply, we believe any working animal is entitled to live a life free from pain. We facilitate this in a number of ways; free veterinary care, veterinary training (in some of the countries where we operate veterinarians receive no hands-on training whilst studying) community training and education programmes. The cornerstone of our work is the three ‘T’s - treat, train, teach. What are you responsible for? My role encompasses the full range of HR-related functions; looking after selection/recruitment/on-boarding, appraisal and one-to-ones, Learning and Development, organisation design, policies and procedures, support and business partnering for managers and disciplinary and grievance management. I provide support on teams and structures to the senior management team, advice to trustees on HR related matters and off-boarding and exit interviews. I also lead on all IT and premises-related aspects of SPANA which includes, room and desk allocation and IT projects. We’re currently out to tender for an integrated IT service that would include IT, telephony, printing, video conferencing and connectivity across our countries of operation. Is there a particular appeal or campaign you're focusing on in 2020? • Blindness - Every year, SPANA vets treat thousands of working animals facing sight loss. • Traditional practices - From pouring engine oil into an open wound to pressing scorching hot irons onto a working animal’s skin, traditional ‘cures’ seem barbaric. But owners that carry them out are trying to treat their animals in the only way they know how. • Lameness - Lameness is misery for thousands of working animals and is most commonly caused by problems in the feet. This suffering could be avoided with a simple solution – proper farriery. Where and how did you start your career? Were there any key roles along the way that helped your progression to Director? I began my career in Leisure Management, where I continued to work for 26 years in a variety of roles for a variety of employers. During this time I worked as a Manager, Deputy Manager, Gym Manager, coach and Personal Trainer, Marketing Manager and Sales Manager. I’ve also worked as a lecturer in PE, done youth work and was the Records Library Manager at University College Hospital. Had you planned to move into the charity sector? It wasn’t always my intention, but I’ve always been drawn to work where I feel I can make a difference to the lives of others. When I saw the (then-advertised) HR Manager role at SPANA and read the JD, I was very interested, especially when I read further into what the charity did. Although, admittedly, I hadn't heard of SPANA before then, having experience and a background in various forms of education meant I was very interested in the work SPANA does in that field. What advice would you give to, for example, graduates considering a move into charity or emerging leaders about to make their first leap into management or a director role? To graduates I'd say the most important thing is not so much their passion for the charity’s work but rather the role and its main purpose. Being excited about the work of the charity is the icing on the cake; but first and foremost must always be the ability to do the job. For emerging leaders - I’d always say, think of the additional responsibility that comes with moving into management. If you’re taking on team leadership for the first time, ensure you've gained skills in both management and leadership; so you can move beyond technical competency in your current area and towards being skilled at getting the best out of others. Similarly, for moving into a director-based role - there’s always a need for the ability to take the bird’s eye strategic view of the team and the organisation. As people move up the ladder, another key skill is the ability to effectively collaborate with colleagues at all levels and move beyond straight hierarchical methods of managing. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, who gave it and why does it stick in your mind? Keep your perspective. I can’t remember exactly who said this, but I think it was one of the senior youth workers I worked with when I first started in that field. It sticks in my mind because I so often see - and have occasionally been dragged into the trap of - trying to do everything every day. We should always strive to do the best we can and help others achieve their best…but the world won’t end if the things we selected to do today don’t get done! What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? Bringing other managers to a point where they can recognise their own responsibility as managers, so HR can evolve into the business partnering role it should be; advising colleagues and moving away from being mostly a reactive service. What’s the best/most rewarding part? Seeing people flourish and moving on to new ways of working that engage a wider audience. Bringing change to the people element of the charity. What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career? Of all time, it was building children’s holiday activity programmes when I used to work in the leisure industry. In one case we started with no programme and no children, building up to a maximum of 130 children per day offering activities for children aged 5 – 16 years every holiday. At SPANA, I think it’s been the introduction of a more focused HR function taking control of a wide range of activities. In my past three roles (all new HR roles for growing organisations) it's been establishing HR as a standalone provision with a purpose, beyond ensuring the admin functions it was originally envisaged for are delivered. Who do you look up to - either in the charity sector or more generally? Very few and very many people! I think we can all take inspiration from the work of almost anyone around us - and should do this. Looking only at the top of the mountain sometimes obscures the great views to be obtained on the slopes. If I had to choose just one, I’d lean towards Richard Branson - more for his support for the development of all of his staff. As for a quote to live by I’d probably go for Charlie Chaplin: 'Life laughs at you when you are unhappy. Life smiles at you when you are happy. But, life salutes you when you make others happy’. Let's finish with some quick lifestyle questions: are you a snoozer or a spring-out-of-bedder? My alarm goes off at 6.00am - and I’m a spring-out-of-bedder! I almost always get up immediately and most days go out for a morning run in the park behind my house. What's your dream breakfast (and your actual breakfast?) Dream breakfast is either scrambled egg and smoked salmon or a full fry up. Most days I actually have either cereal, or boiled eggs with croissants. In either case it is always washed down with a large glass of water (I’m not a tea or coffee drinker). Is there such a thing as your typical day? NO such thing! Much of the work is reactive and unpredicted as I tend to spend quite a lot of time giving support and advice to managers in meetings, which I see as a key part of my role. I deal with organisational matters (payroll, pensions, benefit management etc.) as well as the usual bundle of ‘vital’ emails that arrive every day. What gets you out of bed in the morning, even when it’s cold and raining? I love the morning even if it is cold, dark and wet! I’ve always seen this as a magical time of day when it feels everything is made new ready for us. As a reflection of this, I’ll soon be launching a new activity for people in my local community called ‘Spirit Walks’. This will be held either at sunrise or sunset and once a month throughout the year, providing the opportunity for gentle contemplative walks in our park and to greet either sunrise or sunset with prayers, poems or reading that feel apposite. This will be open to everyone and free; part of what I consider to be my service to the community. What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment? I don’t really do podcasts but I was watching Grimm recently. I’m a fan of Death In Paradise as well as Doctor Who (I’ve seen all of them in real time except the very first one, with William Hartnell as the Doctor!). I’m reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman as well as Marathon by Hal Higdon (I’ll be running two marathons and an ultra-marathon this year). What else do you do outside work? Lots of exercise has always been a key part of my ‘off work’ time, as well as community work. I served as chair of my local residents’ group for five years, organising various activities during that time. I'm also an active member of my faith; I am Baha’i (a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people) and have served the faith in a number of capacities over the years. And finally, what have you committed to do (or not do!) in 2020? As above, two marathons and one ultra-marathon (50 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh) so far. I’ll be doing a couple of half-marathons too. I’m also committed to my monthly Spirit Walks as well as the free walks I lead in my local park every Saturday for all people which encompasses gentle walking with a range of functional exercises. Aside from that, I’ll also be trying to complete my second novel, a children’s story - I’m yet to find a publisher for my first children’s novel, but the search continues… Sounds like a very busy year for you, Chris! We wish you all the very best with your many endeavours, and thank you for taking the time to share your story and career insights with our readers. Nicola Greenbrook - HR Specialist and Freelance Writer Contact Nicola, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter - and to find out more about SPANA just click below to visit their website. More Charity Careers Charity Careers 1: Sara Rees, head of fundraising for Rays of Sunshine ► Charity Careers 2: Hannah Sanders, consumer brand partnerships, Save the Children ► Charity Careers 3: Andy Harris, director of income generation, Shelter ► Charity Careers 4: James Harris, Associate Director of Communications, Marketing and Membership, Rethink Mental Illness ► Back to the Harris Hill blog homepage ►