Embracing flexible working made Cancer Research UK more efficient, customer service manager Jane Swindle has said
As a charity funded entirely through public donations, it’s incredibly important that Cancer Research UK is able to account for where every single pound of money is spent and that we maximise the amount we put into life-saving cancer research. In the financial year 2011/12, we spent £332m on our annual cancer research activity.
One of the most effective ways we have found to optimise funding resources is by carefully managing our resources and constantly reviewing and challenging what we do and the way we operate. In 2010 we moved our existing London-based staff that needed to remain in London into one single building, the Angel Building in Islington. Before that point, our staff occupied several different office buildings which had been used by the charities that formed Cancer Research UK some years before. While there were initial costs involved in moving, in the longer term the move has resulted in significant cost savings. We are saving 20% on future operating costs as well as reducing travel costs.
The original plan was to relocate staff desktop computers and laptops to the new site. However, the move also presented us with an opportunity to implement a flexible working policy. This would allow staff the option to work from home, or on-location and not only promised to deliver further cost savings for Cancer Research UK, but deliver an array of other benefits.
The reasons behind the move to flexible working
Given the size of the charity and the breadth of our work, including fundraising and research which takes place across the UK, there are times when staff members are out of the office, in meetings or at training for example. We wanted to make sure that our space and equipment doesn’t sit empty or unused. Therefore it made sense for us to consider scaling back the amount of IT equipment we needed to provide. Having discussed it internally we decided that we could comfortably operate with 70% of the desks and computers we had at the time, with no negative impact on the organisation.
On top of this, although we had taken the step to consolidate our offices, it was still important we maintained a presence right across London to enable us to work closely with partners and other organisations such as leading universities, teaching hospitals, the Francis Crick Institute and the government.
Flexible working seemed to address this need perfectly, giving staff unrestricted access to their system files, everyday programmes and applications on the move, via any smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC.
How was it managed?
As part of the move, we wanted to upgrade our operating systems from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows 7, but were wary about the costs of upgrading our hardware to support such a switch. Therefore, we decided to move from a Windows-based client-server IT infrastructure to desktop virtualisation, essentially outsourcing 99% of our back-end IT equipment.
The first major benefit this provided was that, with our datacentre being looked after by an external provider, we dramatically reduced the amount of physical space we needed to dedicate to IT infrastructure. We went from around 300 servers, a space the size of a basketball court, to a single corridor of just 10 cabinets.
Using technology from Citrix, our staff in the Islington office now have access to everyday applications like Microsoft Office and the Adobe suite, as well as legacy applications such as donor systems and a clinical trials programme, all from a hosted virtual desktop running Windows 7, regardless of location.
Only a few mobile staff, such as shop managers and clinicians, have retained their corporate laptops and the software development team has kept its traditional desktops.
Benefits of flexible working
This new way of working has opened up numerous windows of possibility. Staff can now hot-desk, work from home, or from wherever is most convenient for them on a particular day. In addition, it also means that we can make organisational changes without moving furniture and equipment and add staff without requiring additional space. Staff can re-organise quickly and easily into project teams, which historically took huge investment in time to achieve.
Since moving to the Angel Building, flexible working has already seen space requirements cut by a ninth. We were able to scale back to two floors from two and a quarter and we are confident we can reduce our physical footprint further as more people choose to work flexibly, as enabled by Citrix technology.
We always drive for efficiency in our operations to ensure we use our supporter’s money as wisely as possible. For every pound donated, 80p is available to spend on our work to beat cancer.By consolidating our locations and adopting a flexible working environment, we have been able to channel more funds into what really matters: beating cancer.
Jane Swindle, IS Customer Support Service Manager at Cancer Research UK, explains the motivations behind switching to a flexible working policy and the benefits generated as a result.