Caroline Taylor, Community’s National Secretary for the Finance and Professional Sector, looks at how the union is finding new ways to engage with members and potential members as new working patterns change how people work.
The world of work is changing, we all acknowledge and appreciate that, so much so Community created its Commission on Workers and Technology.
It is now becoming even more real in our workplaces. It may not just be the increased use of automation in respect of robotics and streamlining industries but also in a potentially positive way for employees. Jobs are becoming slicker, new technologies are making it easier to work from home, flex working hours, and desk hop! It means organisations are able to offer a hugely increased level of flexibility, and work-life balance at the same time as maximising office space and costs. A win-win you would think for everyone.
Unions must remain mindful though of the huge challenge that faces them with these new working patterns on the increase – accessibility of membership. As a union we need that direct interaction with our potential membership and current members. Ours is an organisation built on developing relationships and being visible: whether by visiting workplaces, flyering or using notice boards that employees can walk past, or being able to access reps on the ground to talk to and ask advice. As work becomes more flexible and agile we have to be mindful that we may lose some of this direct contact.
We also need to keep clear in our minds the wellbeing of our membership who are now working in a multitude of different ways and ensure they don’t become too isolated as well as keeping up to date with the health and safety issues that may occur due to new ways of working.
With this in mind, Community’s finance sector has already started to work on this with one of our leading employers, Zurich. Having spoken to the company, Zurich recognises that it’s harder for employees and the union to ‘talk to each other face-to-face because of the many locations, different ways of working, agile working, flex work, dynamic working, homeworking and fieldworkers etc.
Therefore, we have worked together to develop our own page on Zurich’s works social media app, Workplace (Facebook for work). This open forum will mean we will hopefully be able to continually have a dialogue with our current and prospective membership. Our union reps will be accessible to all even if you can’t physically get into a branch to see them. We will be able to advertise the good work of the union. This will also bring the union more into focus with our younger digitally minded generation who are always on their phones for some reason!
This is all down to the good partnership we have with the company who have worked with us to develop this new way of communicating with their staff, and we look forward to continuing this growth in accessibility within the organisation.