Friday, March 18, 2011


I have been working on writing a home-working policy. Given that I work from home it has been a bit of an eye-opener. I guess that there are things that we do in our non-work life that may not be too healthy for us - like sitting at the computer for hours on end. If we do this in our personal lives then that's OK. But if we do it when we are working we need to follow health and safety guidelines and good practice. I am not one who decries such things - having, many years ago, worked in the coal industry and after that in health and social care I am very aware of the life-changing events that can happen through carelessness and the placing of profit or service objectives over personal cost.

Reading through health and safety guidelines has made me question what I do and the need to take my health and safety a little more seriously. I am not sure how many of our ministers work from home and I cannot find anything in the Help is at Hand publication about any kind of policy to cover this. I will be emailing the GA to ask if there is anything.

So what are the key features that we need to be looking at? Here are a few that I think are important.
  • Health and safety in particular with regard to VDUs (computer and laptop screens) & eye-tests, work-station safety, the comfort and support of the work chair, taking sufficient breaks, repetitive strain injury, stress and isolation;
  • Skills and support re new technology - working remotely means working with computers and mobile phones - how do we support our ministers in using this technology and what advice are they given when things change? Smart-phones have certainly revolutionised the way that many people communicate.
  • Support - in all its guises. Who does the checks to see that the workplace is OK and meets health and safety guidelines? Who is there if someone feels stressed? How do we ensure that working time directives are followed?
  • Understanding tax law with regard to travel expenses e.g. understanding about the designation of the permanent place of work (there can be more than one) and general office expenses.
  • Understanding legal implications of home-working.
  • Security of the person, equipment and data.
  • Monitoring activity and outcomes.
It seems that there is a lot here to think about. Perhaps some congregations and communities have done some of this thinking - it would be interesting to find out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More on policies and procedures

I have been involved with governance of charities for over 25 years and have written many a policy but having paid work which focuses on writing policies and procedures has been a sobering activity. I really haven't done very well in the past - the polices have been OK, probably the procedures have been better, but they haven't been as good as they will be from now on. It's good to be paid to learn!

Procedures are relatively easy to write - they are just writing down what is done. For example a financial procedure will say who holds the cheque book, who signs the cheques, how the cheque book and bank account are reconciled and so on. However the policy is a bit trickier - we need to ask ourselves what are the overarching principles that guide, for example, the financial operations.

It is these moments or even hours of reflection that can bring the most insight. It is not about what we do but about why we do it. Sometimes we do things because we have to - legislation, the government and the Charity Commission tell us that we do. In some instances it is because we want to do things - we decide that we want to that bit more.

I remember one discussion at our Meeting House about repairs and maintenance and I voiced the opinion that we should do the best that we could because we weren't just doing it for us but for future generations. How many of us are dealing with issues that were caused by short-cuts or poor quality work in the past? We understand why - because funds would have been tight. But if in our policies we say that when making a decision we not only have to consider the impact on today but also on tomorrow, then we are saying something about the responsibilities that we believe we have to those who come after us.

It really isn't enough to know what we do (our procedures) but we have to understand collectively why we do these things (policy). This is how we make our principles real.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unitarian Communication Co-ordinators Network weekend

Have just returned from the UCCN weekend. What a joy to be with people who are passionate about communicating and also competent and skilled at doing so.

James Barry showed us how to get to grips with poster making in the Friday afternoon session. On Friday evening Angela Maher (Birmingham New Meeting House) led us in a session on creating phantom friends - trying to imagine the sorts of people who might be attracted to us and how they would get their information and what sorts of activities they would like to get involved with. This was not only informative but fun. For the rest of the weekend we covered poster and publication creation (James Barry), radio interviews ((Rev) Bob Wightman)and writing press releases (Kate Taylor). We had two moving epilogues the first nights it was led by Lyanne Mitchell (Glasgow) and the second by Kath Forder. It is a lovely way to end a day.

On Sunday we heard the plans for next year - I will certainly be booking again. We will have sessions on developing a communications strategy, on further desk-top publishing and probably a session on the basics for those who have never done any. Can't remember anything else apart from our Friday evening speaker who will be Martin Gienke from Bury St Edmund's who will be talking about how they organised their 300th anniversary celebrations.

Much gratitude to them and to Diane Bennett, Joan and John Wilkinson and Tony McNeile for working so hard to make it happen. Apologies if I have forgotten anyone. And here's the link to the UCCN website.

You can find more details of what went on at the weekend on Adrian's Blog listed on the right of this page.