We’re updating our working practices to match our values

Monday 03-02-2020 - 09:47

As an organisation, it’s important to us that SOS-UK reflects our values in all aspects of what we do.


We launched as a new charity on 1 October 2019, after having developed as NUS’ sustainability department over the past 10+ years. NUS already has progressive hiring, employment, and general working practices so we carried those across into our working culture here at SOS-UK.

When we thought about our transition into SOS-UK, we set up a series of Task and Finish Groups, led by groups of staff from all levels of the organisation, to develop recommendations around our new ways of working. Some of that was very practical – e.g. booking travel – but some was also quite radical in developing our working practices. Now that we’ve been up-and-running for four months, we thought we’d share what we’re doing in case other organisations may be interested.

Shared time for rest

This year, NUS and SOS-UK both had a two-week closure over the Christmas holidays. This closure did not count as annual leave. We have always shut-down between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but the extra days on either side resulted in an even more relaxing, rejuvenating period of time for the team to spend with loved ones without the worry of coming back to a full inbox! Because of how well-received this was by the team and what a positive impact it had on wellbeing, we have decided to have a two-week closure every winter to ensure we always return to work in the new year refreshed and ready to hit the ground running!

Flexible working to reduce carbon

We know we need to reduce flying, both for professional and personal reasons, and have been exploring ways to incentivise people to not fly. Our travel Task and Finish Group explored some great ideas, such as those developed by 10:10 around additional holiday time for no-fly travel. We carefully considered these options but are always careful not to put personal shame on more systemic problems. There are a lot of different social and economic factors that may contribute to peoples’ travel choices and so we decided to instead extend our flexi working policy to encourage low-carbon personal travel and remote working in such locations.

We already pride ourselves in our abilities to work on trains (most of us travel 2-3 days per week all across the UK by rail) and work remotely (over half our team are based from home).

So, this means that, within the reasonable limits of a role, that staff can:

  • Work on a train whilst travelling for personal reasons
  • Work on a ferry whilst travelling for personal reasons
  • Work from another destination to maximise your time/cost of low-carbon travel

 We hope this approach will mean:

  • Better likelihood of being able to book cheaper, off peak train tickets (e.g. travelling earlier on a Friday and working on the train, travelling back on the Monday and working on the train)
  • Extended stays with family, friends, or in a nice location
  • Maximise the ‘benefit’ of the carbon, time, and money involved in travel by staying slightly longer in a location
  • Healthy work-life balance

To make sure that we practice this in business-related travel, too, we have a sign-off process before air travel is booked. Flights are taken only if deemed absolutely necessary and require approval of a director (and directors’ travel must be approved by another director). Air travel must be on an as-needed basis and must be clearly justified by the expected outcomes related to that travel and only in circumstances where over-land/water travel is not possible. We strictly do not fly within Great Britain will always prefer over-land/water travel, no matter the difference in price/time.  

Nine-day-fortnight trial

Finally, we will be piloting a nine-day-fortnight working pattern for a four-month trial from mid-March through mid-July. This means we will be working 63 hrs over two weeks, rather than 70 hrs. This will be on an opt-in basis, so staff can consider whether they would like to take part.

We are conducting a pre- mid- and post-survey to monitor and evaluate the impact on the team’s wellbeing and our work over the trial. We will share an update in the summer with our learning!


Are there other things you feel we should be doing? Are there things your organisation is already doing that you’d like to share? Please tell us what you think on twitter @sosukcharity.

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