Anna Fraser left a successful career in education to run the family business Scott Fraser Training, a tree surgery training centre in Kent. She also volunteers as a scout leader.
She says “When not working or scouting, I am a volunteer for Shout 85258, a text line for anyone who is in crisis no matter how big or small.”
Anna loves working for Shout 85258 so much that she wrote to us about her experience because she says, it shows how remote working can be done really well. Shout developed their model in a pre-Covid world, consciously designing an operating model to support a distributed, remote volunteer workforce.
It’s a great read for managers and team leaders, full of ideas you could consider as you think about how to manage remote and blended teams in a post-Covid 19 world.
It’s clear that we all need to look for new ways to work in teams. Many of us have been operating on the basis that lockdown is a temporary blip. Let’s hope so. However, that blip is likely to lead to permanent changes in working patterns that will require different operating models.
The words are Anna’s, though we’ve added some helpful headings to help you think about how you might adapt some of the ideas for your team:
“I wanted to share how the managers and leaders at Shout treat us, as I feel it is one of the best and most supportive organisations I have ever worked with, especially when remote working.
The whole setup is geared towards everyone’s positive wellbeing and mental health, and how this can impact our work:
During our training for Shout, we’re assigned a Coach who stays with us throughout our training and beyond, and we can email or text them anytime.
Following a particularly tough conversation, for example, where the texter expressed an imminent risk of suicide and an active rescue had to be initiated with the emergency services, my Coach contacted me to see how I was and if I wanted to talk.
Throughout lockdown, my Coach emailed me several times, checking in to see how I was and if there was anything she could do to support me.
This naturally creates a welcoming and supportive environment and professional friendship.
Support from shift supervisors
Every time we log on for a shift, we also have a Supervisor assigned to us – we can talk to them whenever we want. They always check in with us, when we log in and out, and when we start a conversation with a texter.
If a conversation is dragging, if we’re stuck as to how to support the texter, or if it is a high-risk conversation i.e. imminent suicide, they are available for advice, guidance or to call the emergency services if required.
This is all done in a very positive way: the language they use is empowering and supportive.
Building team spirit using chat platforms to enable peer support
Along with our Supervisor, when we‘re on shift, we can also text chat with other crisis volunteers – there are three chat sections:
- Random – any topic is discussed, usually what we’re eating!
- Support – if we would like some advice about how to handle a texter or where to find a signpost (we have access to a bank of signposts to give to texters if required).
- Debrief – if we’ve had a tough conversation with a texter, we can chat here.
All these chat facilities are actively used. Everyone is so supportive. It is an amazing feeling. The fact that we can talk to other volunteers can be a welcome relief during some conversations.
Feedback: normalised and shared
We also have a private profile page. The Supervisors can leave feedback here – it is used as encouragement and is very supportive. They may send a message or comment after the first shift… after a particularly tough conversation… anytime.
When a conversation with a texter closes, the texter is also asked to complete a short questionnaire. Any comments they make are posted to our profile page. These comments are such a boost and make me feel so proud.
Regular communications and recognition
A weekly newsletter is sent out which includes:
- Achievements (depending on how many conversations you’ve had, you go up a level, when you go up a level, your name is listed.)
- Texter feedback.
- Relevant information and news.
This keeps us fully in the loop and makes us feel involved.
Involved in change
Annual surveys are carried out and action is taken based on our responses. We, as volunteers, are involved in every process and actively listened to.
We have a learning platform that has expanded as a result of this. We now have access to free online courses and there are numerous online groups we can join e.g. book / running/ walking/ local ‘meet-ups’.
Self-care is a BIG thing: actively discussed and promoted.
Celebration and getting together
An annual meet up is held in London for free. William and Kate came to last year’s one. There were talks, workshops and the chance to meet other volunteers. There is a group of us who live locally who have been meeting for a while. We are now great friends, they have been a huge support.
Shout asks that volunteers complete 200 hours of volunteering. It is a testament to the company that 95% of volunteers stay way beyond this.
Overall, Shout empowers, listens and supports their volunteers, this is evident in their actions, not just their words or policies.
[Whether for teams of volunteers or teams in the workplace]… I think it boils down to the same thing: to have effective teams, people need to feel empowered to get on with their work and feel they are listened to, supported and cared about.
These may be the soft skills of business but without them, can a team really be effective?”
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text-messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. As a digital service, Shout 85258 has become increasingly critical since Covid-19, being one of the few mental health support services able to operate as normal at this time.
If you’re interested in volunteering contact them at https://giveusashout.org
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