TiHS Episode 44: Lucia Harrison – getting hybrid services and work right is a whole organization effort

Welcome to episode 44 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I chat with Lucia Harrison, CEO of the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre about her experiences transitioning to hybrid services and a hybrid workplace that includes a 4-day work week. The effort, and it took a great effort, resulted in a 95% satisfaction rate from staff, particularly when it came to improved work-life balance. All organizations are going through this change, trying to figure it out, trying to find the right mix. Lucia has many lessons to share. Lessons you can implement in your organization.

Podcast logo with text indicating episode with Lucia Harrison

In OCASI’s January 2023 newsletter a number of sector leaders were asked to share their insights. Lucia’s caught my eye and I knew that we needed to dive in more deeply. At the core, her advice is to talk with your staff. Involve them in this whole process. Trust them. Make it something that you envision that you’re going to be working on probably forever. You’ll be tweaking this. You’ll always be piloting something. You’ll be trying new things. You’ll be learning as you go.

I think you’ll find this an important and useful conversation for you. I hope you enjoy it.


In January Lucia wrote: “Our agency has moved to a 4-day work week, with 2 groups on a rotation so each group gets a 4-day weekend every second week. We increased our workday to 8:45 hours. Everyone still works 35 hours. The centre is still open 5 days a week, and we have actually increased the number of hours our centre is open to serve clients. We implemented this in June and a survey conducted in Oct had a 95% satisfaction rate from staff. The most common comment in the survey was “improved work / life balance”.

We also have most staff working on a hybrid model, except our LSP staff because of the nature of our agreement with the library. Our board approved this as a pilot in June and they have agreed to approve permanent changes to our personnel policy to reflect these changes. The board’s major considerations were 1) that our clients were being served, 2) staff well-being and 3) that we were meeting our funded commitments.

We have seen increased productivity and based on our staff survey, we have boosted morale. It is working for us.”

She expands on this and more in our conversation.

Some of the questions we discussed:

  • You’ve created an interesting and innovative approach to hybrid work at KWMC. Can you tell me how that evolved and where things are at now?
  • What lessons have you learned that others in the sector could benefit from?
  • What advice would you give other sector leaders who aren’t sure how to approach hybrid work models in their organization?
  • What does client service look like in the new model?
  • How have your clients reacted to this new approach?

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has been edited slightly edited (name error fixes). It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Marco Campana 0:00
Welcome to Episode 44 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode, I chat with Lucia Harrison, CEO of the Kitchener Waterloo multicultural center about her experiences transitioning to hybrid services, and a hybrid workplace that includes a four day workweek. The effort and it took a great effort resulted in a 95% satisfaction rate from staff, particularly when it came to improve work life balance. All organizations are going through this change trying to figure it out trying to find the right mix. Lucia has many lessons to share lessons you can implement in your organization. In their January 2023 newsletter. O’Casey asked a number of sector leaders to share their insights Lucy has caught my eye and I knew we needed to dive in more deeply at the core. Her advice is to talk with your staff involve them in this whole process. Trust them, make it something you envision that you’re going to be working on probably forever. You’ll be tweaking this, you’ll always be piloting something, you’ll be trying new things you’ll be learning as you go. I think you’ll find this an important and useful conversation for you. I hope you enjoy it. Welcome to the technology and human services podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, I’m gonna let you introduce yourself Lucia and tell us a little bit about where you’re coming from today.

Lucia Harrison 1:11
Hi, my name is Lucia Harrison. I’m the CEO of the Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Center. We are a full service settlement agency. Obviously in Kitchener working throughout Waterloo Region. We have coming into 57 years of history of serving this community and serving immigrants, refugees, and those with no status. So I’m pleased to be here. Thank you, Marco.

Marco Campana 1:38
Awesome. And full disclosure for people listening. Lucia and I go way back. So if we get ridiculously giddy are there inside jokes, you know, just ignore us. I might keep those in anyway. But ya know, it’s so great to talk to you. And the main reason we’re talking today is because I actually have something that Debbie Douglas from O’Casey shared in one of her in last month’s newsletter, I think, where she was talking about how sector organizations are kind of adjusting to the emerging new realities of hybrid service delivery, but also hybrid work models. And she shared what you’ve been able to accomplish at the Multicultural Center. And it just struck me as something that there’s much more but not below the surface of that because it sounds like an amazing outcome. But I know that a lot of work probably had to go into doing it. So. So let’s talk about this interesting and innovative approach to hybrid work. And maybe you can just sort of start with how did that evolve? And where are you now?

Lucia Harrison 2:33
Well, if you want to talk about stars aligning, that that’s what I would say happened with us that despite all the negative impacts of COVID, there was a series of events that happen throughout COVID, that kind of gave us an opportunity. So we had put our building up for sale, Jerry COVID sold, it made a rental agreement on a new premise. That was bare walls. So we got to design from concrete. And we started to envision a space that would be different we had finally successfully pretty well gone paperless. Thank you COVID. We had everything stored in the clouds. Thank you COVID. It’s all secure. And but, you know, two years of working out of the office gave us this clean slate. And as a management team, what we decided is people in our sector can be a little hesitant was changed and you know, can be a little adverse to change that in a way it was kind of like, let’s just do this. Let’s do it all. What do we envision in future. And so we envision a hybrid model, it had worked very well for our organization, we had continued to serve the same or more clients. Our workshops were happening virtually. So that had worked, we knew it worked. But we knew we had a lot of clients who much preferred face to face service. We had clients who preferred virtual service. But we also wanted to be proactive that, you know, the mental impacts of COVID and the stress on staff. So I can’t talk about hybrid without sort of doing the full gamut that what we decided to implement was a hybrid work model. For all of those staff that we could do that with there are some that we could not and going to a four day work week, which the way we’ve arranged that gives every staff person a four day weekend every second week. So we were dealing with If you know this amazing space, how to best use it, how to best serve our clients, and how to deal with the mental health impacts, and they know the stresses on staff. So we implemented all of that, as we came back to work in April and May, when, you know, some of us had started coming back. So there was, there was no history said, we were kind of lucky, there was no history in this building. So, you know, and the hybrid work model does not impact our library settlement workers. That entire agreement is to have settlement workers in the library, I mean, really, to encourage people newcomers to come in to the library. But while working at the library, they’re still providing a mixture of virtual and face to face service, but they are providing a presence in the library. For everybody else, it is a two days in the office two days out of the office, unless needs come up. It’s kind of a minimum of two days. But if we need you in the office and other day, well, that’s, you know, what has to happen this week, we’ve accommodated people who for whatever reason, did not want to work from home at all. And they just come into the office there for days, and that works fine. We have an open table area that people can come. And if they need to just plug in for a little while they can do that. It was a long process. I joked with Marco before we went talked earlier that I’m using a lot of dye on my hair, because it’s gone very, very gray from the process of trying to find the schedule that would work on the four day schedule, as well as implementing the hybrid. But it’s now it’s gone very well. Maybe I’ll stop and see Marco, if you’ve got questions or want to lead in another direction? Yeah,

Marco Campana 7:17
no, I mean, all of that’s really useful. I have so many questions. But one of the things is that, as you wrote in what Debbie shared is that the result is a 95% satisfaction rate from staff. And the most common comment when you surveyed them was improved work life balance. And I think that’s something that had that came that’s come up a lot in conversations convenings, and surveys, during the pandemic, that this whole remote work thing worked for a lot of people. And it surprised a lot of people that they that they enjoyed it, that they were able to accomplish their work goals, you know, meet their outcomes and outputs, but that they, you know, didn’t have to commute that wasn’t stressed, dropping kids off and picking them up and things like that, in fact, some people are saving money, because they don’t have to do that pre and pre school and after school care, for example. So I wonder, as you’re talking about how the how you created the model, and as you mentioned, in our previous conversation kind of took 10 years of your life off. But you clearly worked with your staff to develop, what’s your what’s your you’re doing now? Can you speak? And that’s something that, you know, as a model, or at least I would assume you did, so you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume you work together as a team as an organization to kind of figure this whole thing out. And I know that that is a stress for a lot of people in organizations, but that I’ve spoken to is like, do we do a top down? Do we do a more democratic thing? Like how do we approach this? So how did you approach the idea of how the work was going to be actually done? Was that a conversation was that, you know, consultants were brought in, like, how did that go? No, it

Lucia Harrison 8:50
was definitely conversations with staff, a lot of conversations with staff, a lot more conversation with my management team. We initially did a survey with staff on their views of hybrid. And that’s where we started was, you know, how do you feel about the hybrid model? And based on those responses, we knew we could make it work and we knew we could accommodate those people who did not want to work from home, sort of that was we figured that part out the staff that must go to the library, they knew that that’s the nature of the funding, it is the reason we get that funding. So there, you know, there was no, there might be a little bit of jealousy, but they were very aware that they had to be present in the libraries. And then the four day workweek was a topic of conversation that we brought up with a number of staff and not surveyed in the same way but Got enough feedback that there was clearly an appetite for it. And quite honestly, people not believing we could make it work. Which is kind of funny because to be true, right. But that’s as we developed a schedule. And maybe that’s why it was so hard as we’ve got 40 staff, and we tried to make sure that every manager saw every one of their team during the week, and as much as possible, trying to get the team together, and that all the managers would be present in the office, so that we were all crossing paths. And so that scheduling was a little bit hard. And I think it’s the only time that by the time we had a schedule that said, Okay, we’re going to try this. It was at that point presented, this is a pilot, this is what we’re going to go with for three months, then we’re going to serve a you get your feedback if we need to tweak it, but it kind of reached the point of we cannot keep changing this because every piece that we changed, impacted other people that resulting in more changes. So that I would say, if you want to call that top down, it was kind of like, okay, here’s the schedule, we promise we’re going to revisit, but this is what we’re doing for three months. And it was after those three months that we did the survey that we had a 95% satisfaction rate with what we had implemented.

Marco Campana 11:34
So all of that pre work, obviously paid off, I assume, then after June, you’ve made some tweaks, but nothing major if people were that happy.

Lucia Harrison 11:41
Now. Now, we really have not, again, the occasional tweak, someone is taking a course and they need to change their schedule better. No major changes. No, it’s it’s working very well.

Marco Campana 11:57
That’s amazing. So all that pre work. So it’s all about that pre work. And you mentioned as well. Understanding your clients, right, some clients preferred virtual, you said and some clients prefer in person. So how did you figure that out? Because that’s the thing that again, a lot of agencies, I think it’s easy, just ask them. But, you know, what have you implemented to figure that out? And are you actually continuing to have that conversation with new clients with existing clients to just get a sense of what the right service mix is to meet their needs?

Lucia Harrison 12:29
It’s a combination of things in partnership with our immigration partnership, there was a survey done with clients, and we included COVID questions, you know, about, you know, preferences of virtual to face to face. And it was kind of interesting that many of the employment clients were quite happy doing virtual workshops, some of the face to face, but it was pretty clear that the more vulnerable the clients were, the less likely that they liked virtual service. So, you know, we have one person dedicated to working with refugee claimants and folks are coming in here, they don’t have the technology, they don’t have access, that person is in the office all four of their days, because we know that their clients just cannot use technology. Maybe they will in a few weeks, but not when they get here. And I think our settlement workers also, you know, they will offer would you like to meet face to face would you prefer to meet virtually, so there’s sort of an ongoing asking. And then we’ve also done hybrid on our workshops that we have it now set up as a virtual meeting room. So we can have a combination of people who prefer face to face as well as people joining by video. So they can they can choose. So it’s the initial feedback that we got this from the immigration partnership survey, but now it’s an ongoing, what’s your preference?

Marco Campana 14:11
Yeah, which I think is essential replicate, they may change over time, but when you’re talking about those workshops, so you’re delivering a workshop with participants in person as well as online at the same time, so the high the high flex model and and how’s that going? Because that’s a conversation that started that’s been starting in the sector that people feel is it that’s like the most sort of, I guess the highest complexity of service delivery because you can do a virtual workshop like a webinar or you can do an in person workshop. And it’s you know, you attend one or the other kind of thing, but this high flex approach is you know, choose however you want one day maybe you want to come in and on the next workshop, you want to be online, what kind of resourcing and training and facilitation and human resource Horses has it has it required to figure that out to do it? Well.

Lucia Harrison 15:05
I don’t think we’re there yet. To be honest, we’re doing it.

Marco Campana 15:10
It’s an experiment. Yeah.

Lucia Harrison 15:12
And it’s working, I know that there is other technology out there, that would make it a better experience. And I’m not the technical person. So I might have a harder time explaining there, there are ways we could make it better. Probably to the tune of five or $10,000, which what we wanted to do is try this out to see what kind of appetite there was for it, before we sort of make a major investment to make it better. So you know, we’re using a screen, we’re using a speaker, people can hear what is going on. But it’s not, it’s far from the high tech model that you’re talking about. And I think we will entertain it, if we continue to see an appetite of people wanting both.

Marco Campana 16:05
Yeah, I mean, I think that sounds like a really good way to experiment, because you’re not going to be sure about whether it works for your your staff or for your clients until you play with it a little bit. And then once you do, you can make a business case for for investing those 510 $1,000 for creating smart office rooms, right? Because zoom has these. I mean, there’s lots of solutions now, especially because of the pandemic of these sort of smart rooms where you can do these kinds of things. And so that’s interesting. No, it’s an approach or easy, it’s, again, you’re easing into it, and you’ll tweak it and decide what to do as you go. So this sort of constant innovation and experimentation, I think is something that I’m hearing you’re talking about that is more difficult. I find in our sector, especially from a funder perspective, you’re supposed to just this is the way we do it. And then we do it for five years, and then we’ll change it after after that. But but this is a much more kind of, I guess, agile approach to how you’re doing the work. And I wonder how staff are are adjusting to that or adapting?

Lucia Harrison 17:04
I would say pretty well, I mean, after two years of pandemic, I mean, I give credit to our sector, I certainly to our staff that, you know, we transitioned instantly, we, we were ready. We knew it was coming, we made sure everyone had laptops, everyone, we had Voice over IP phones, we had already started Cloud Storage. So it was pretty instant. But how innovative people who literally, you know, beyond turning on their computer had almost no technical know how at all how quickly they did adapt. And I’m finding that that now, making those adaptations is coming easier to people they know what’s possible. So, you know, by themselves with it help, but they make it work?

Marco Campana 17:56
And are you finding I mean, one of the other things people are struggling with is how do we choose the right tools? And then how do we ensure everybody is is a as a power user or an expert on those tools? So as an organization, have you kind of had that conversation where here’s the video conferencing software we’re going to use, here’s the digital messaging we’re going to use and here are the devices you need to be able to use proficiently. And here’s all the security and privacy and confidentiality protocols that go along with all of the different tools. Is that something that you’ve sort of? I mean, maybe standardized is the wrong word, but that you’ve all agreed we’re going to use these these types of tools in our service delivery.

Lucia Harrison 18:33
I would joke that our IT person gave us no choice.

Unknown Speaker 18:39
As they do, right.

Lucia Harrison 18:43
Our chief our person was pretty adamant right from the beginning that he wanted to go ahead with Office 365. And we had a lot of resistance. We had been a Google based organization.

Marco Campana 18:56
But that’s a big shift. Yeah. Okay. That’s interesting.

Lucia Harrison 18:59
Yeah. Yeah, it was. And if I was going to swear in this interview, it would be about that. I honestly still, like the Google environment better, I find it more friendly. But some of the things that, you know, office 365 could offer and quite honestly, it was a system he knew better and for him to provide us support. But we’ve been able to do everything in that environment. And, you know, in maintaining confidential records, we can get a guarantee that Microsoft is storing them in Canada, not, you know, across borders. Every time there was something we wanted to do, we could make it work in office 365. So that was kind of dictated to us nicely. And then that training has been provided as we’ve gone along, so our pre employment team would go through training on pay if you I’m going to do a workshop in this manner, this is how you would do it. I think we all need more. Right? I think, you know, I swear we could have weekly security updates, and still not keep up with the vast amount of scams and information stealing potential that’s out there. But so true. It’s kind of scary. But so to me that is ongoing.

Marco Campana 20:27
Yeah, I mean, it’s a learning curve that it will never end is how it feels like with the technology, because exactly the tools themselves will evolve, I was seeing, there’s a workshop this afternoon to learn about Microsoft 365, that one organization’s offering. And there’s some new tool called loop, which is this interesting social kind of networking, almost kind of thing. And I’d never heard of it before. So I went and looked at it on their website. So they’re evolving their product as well. And so there’s always things to learn about and on how can you use this internally? How can you use it with clients, for example? So it feels like it’s a never ending kind of loop? And so I guess, as part of your organizational professional development, is that something that is? I mean, I know that you’ve always done this kind of stuff. You’ve had staff and they’re learning, but is that become even more of a priority? In terms of stop learning and staying on top of these things?

Lucia Harrison 21:19
It is, but I’ve, a lot of it is now basically being done one on one, which in the end works better. You know, how one person understands compared to another one. That when staff are struggling, that one on one instruction tends to go farther than us pulling them all together and telling them and then forgetting three minutes after they finish their coffee?

Marco Campana 21:47
Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. Because everyone learns differently and needs to be supported differently. So I guess, when you’re hiring now, are you looking for people to have certain technical skills? Or is that part of the onboarding process to get them up to speed on Microsoft 365 to get them up to speed on, on how you’re using these these tools, but also, again, the human side of it, right? The privacy, the confidentiality, the facilitation skills, the being engaging in a video session? Is that something you’re looking at, as a job expectation that more people will start to have those skills coming in? Or are you bringing people in and then training them on those things to ensure that you’ve got sort of an organizational baseline across your staff?

Lucia Harrison 22:29
I would say we certainly have a baseline that we’re looking for have, you know, experienced experience using Office 365? or similar? We’ve had a few occasions where I mean, if that’s missing, it’s just too steep of a learning curve. Other but to be fair, I have to say that when we’re doing hiring, it is rare now for people not to have those skills, they come with a certain amount of social media, certainly, you know, savvy with the computer to some extent, they’re coming with those skills, whereas we might not have expected that 10 years ago.

Marco Campana 23:13
Yeah, it’s it doesn’t feel like a long time. But it’s a lot of change in the last few years around the types of practical skills that people need to have. For sure. Awesome. And on the soft side of the skills, I wonder if that’s something that’s been part of the conversation with staff, because I’m hearing a lot from people in the sector that you know what I figured out the tools, I become a zoom power user, or a team’s power user or WhatsApp or whatever it is that they’ve decided as an organization to use. But they’re still struggling with facilitation and engage particularly around engagement, like people engaging people in their online sessions, or you know, those kinds of things. Is that a conversation you’ve been having as well.

Lucia Harrison 23:53
I think for the people that are actively engaged in group workshops and group activities, that facilitation skill is something that we’re looking for, when we’re hiring for staff, the, you know, people who might have been on if you’ve got people on staff who have been settlement workers for 20 years. There certainly was a learning curve in trying to do those kinds of sessions remotely, and certainly now have a real preference to providing them face to face. So I mean, there is a lag of information there. I’m not sure with some of the older stuff, if that’s going to change. And I’m not sure if it’s reasonable for me to ask for that to change at this point. We’ve got a you know, a broad grouping of staff that if one person is not comfortable, we’ve got other ones we’re more than comfortable to help and step in on some of that.

Marco Campana 24:59
So So that’s interesting as well then. So there’s, excuse me, there’s flexibility in that, in that overlap in that approach. So you’re not necessarily expecting everyone to have the same suite of digital skills, especially if they just either aren’t interested or don’t feel like they can build them. But other staff can can support them by being the facilitator in that session by stepping in and having that kind of cross team approach, I guess. Exactly. Now, that’s really interesting, because I know, again, people are struggling with, does everybody need to have the skill set? Do we create a digital team? Or do we kind of go with the flow of everybody’s skills and kind of have a flexible and fluid system like, which is sounds like it’s kind of what you’re describing? Is we you know, everyone has their strengths and contribute, where they where they need and want to, but you’re not going to make onerous expectations on people who, who may not have or want to develop some of those skills?

Lucia Harrison 25:54
In most cases, no, we don’t need to.

Marco Campana 25:57
That’s great. And again, I think that’s, that’s helpful and complex for other people to figure out, right? Because that’s, that requires a lot of oversight, a lot of trust, a lot of communication amongst the staff and a lot of collaboration.

Lucia Harrison 26:11
It really does. And I think, you know, one of the things that I had coming into this, in the implementing of all of this is starting from a point of trusting that my staff were working, and I think that’s a place for a lot of the people in the sector struggle. I can’t see you, are you really working? And I really took it to a level of okay, we have basic deliverables. You’re expected to see this many clients or do this many workshops, and really keeping myself out of the headspace of are you doing this between nine and five? Are you feeding your dog while you’re supposed to be working? I don’t care. Are you getting your job done. And I think that was really helpful in the implementation of this is that it was based on trust that people were doing what they needed to do.

Marco Campana 27:06
Yeah, and you outlined in your piece, again, on the ocassion newsletter, about what was really the sort of the three things that were important, which were clients are being served, which is, again, like you’re describing outputs and outcomes, but also staff wellbeing, and that you were also meeting your funded commitment. So the funded commitments and the clients being served are the are the ones that most people would be focusing on, which is where the whole surveillance mentality comes in. Right? I need to make sure this is happening. But staff wellbeing is something that really doesn’t get spoken about enough in our sector. And I wonder how that became part of the pillar, one of the pillars of your approach.

Lucia Harrison 27:44
Think it always has been, you know, it is pretty clear to me that for my staff, and especially, I would say, the frontline, frontline staff, and I talk about this during COVID, that I feel like our settlement workers took the brunt of trauma, our pre employment workers are others. But our frontline settlement workers, were dealing with people who were dealing with trauma during COVID, dealing with complex issues. But even before COVID, it’s sort of knowing that our settlement workers cannot do their work if if they are not well, if they if we if their mental health is not being taken care of. And as a CEO, I only have so much control over that. I mean, I can encourage people, you know, get counseling, you know, go out, go for walks, I mean, all of those standard things, but of trying to find a way to do what we could as an employer to help with that well being and I think that was even more important coming out of COVID.

Marco Campana 28:54
Absolutely. But and again, I think I mean, I completely agree, and that makes sense. But it’s, it still seems to be something that isn’t isn’t that your mentality, your your approach isn’t something that I’m seeing in a lot of places, people are fixated on the other two kinds of pillars, right at the expense sometimes of worker wellbeing. And even from our funders perspective, sometimes there’s not enough talking about supporting, it’s all about meeting the client meeting the funded deliverables, meeting the client outputs or outcomes, whatever is being defined in those in those moments. And x, everyone’s expected to work in an underpaid overworked environment, regardless of their mental health. Right as sort of the history of our sector. So it’s refreshing to hear that. And I think that’s important for people to hear that that’s a part of your one of your pillars, even if it’s just a natural pillar, because that’s how you’ve always done it, to have it there and make it formal, I also think sends a message to your staff, you’re part of our considerations. You’re part of this, we’re not just here to to, you know, run people through our service mill, but you know, you have to be part of by being okay with how we’re doing,

Lucia Harrison 30:03
no, and that survey that we did the comments of people going, you know, on the four day work, getting a four day weekend, every second week of, you know, by the time I hit Saturday noon, I’ve done all my errands, I’ve done everything I have to do. Now I get Saturday afternoon, all day, Sunday and all day Monday to be with my family take care of myself. You know, when people learned very quickly that, you know, you take a vacation of 10 days, you can actually only use up four of your vacation days, because the rest is in that long weekend. And they figured it out pretty quickly. And they they really noted it in their comments that how much they enjoyed that.

Marco Campana 30:47
Yeah, I mean, four days alone seems like a mini vacation every, every for every every two weeks. And just like again, with the stress of the job and being able to take that time to disconnect a little bit more. And like you said, get all this stuff out of the way. And so you can literally enjoy that weekend, whether it’s by yourself or with family, it just I can see how that would recharge people even on its own, regardless of the fact that they can, you know, piggyback that and use less vacation time, but get more vacation at the same time? It’s a Yeah, it seems like it’s well worth the 10 years of your life and the gray hair.

Unknown Speaker 31:25
In terms of your staff, at least.

Lucia Harrison 31:27
Yeah. Well, that’s great. And I love it. I mean, you know, I mean, as CEO, I sometimes work on the days, I’m not supposed to be working. But I’ve always done that. And it’s the nature of my work. But when I am determined that I need my break for days is fantastic.

Marco Campana 31:43
Yeah, that’s awesome. And how I’m curious, you’ve you’ve alluded to this a little bit in terms of coming back now, how clients have have reacted to your new approach. Obviously, you’re meeting the needs of the clients, because if they want virtual, they can get it if they want in person they can get it. There’s the high flex kind of approach. There’s there’s, it feels like there’s no wrong door for them. They can, as you mentioned, with your settlement counselors, they’ll have a conversation and say, Yeah, I want to do some of this by by texting or some of this in person. Have you been talking or surveying or figuring out in general, how this is working for your clients?

Lucia Harrison 32:19
We have a survey that’s just ready to go out that we are asking those questions. I know one issue that we’ve run into, and we’re trying to figure it out is if we have an urgent situation, and a person comes in on a Thursday of someone’s workweek, and it is urgent, needing multiple actions. And that staff person is now not coming back till Tuesday, because they’re in there long weekend, that can seem like a very long time. So we are looking at, you know how we can have the teams work together that if there is something really urgent, is there someone who can step in? If there’s a language barrier, you know, can we bring an interpreter in but another settlement worker could deal with it. So that is one issue that we’re dealing with. But the reality is that we’re busy. And, you know, we have one to two week wait time in some cases for our clients to get in to see settlement workers. So the issue is bigger than just the four day workweek. But that being said, we are we just dotted the I’s and cross the t’s on a survey that is going to our staff that is asking a lot of those questions. That’s great.

Marco Campana 33:45
I mean, that seems so important. But of all the things I guess it seems like if that’s the and that that sort of outlier scenario, if that’s the one that’s most concerning, other things are clearly flowing well. In general, with the way you’re you’re you’ve sort of laid out the service?

Lucia Harrison 34:03
I think so. I mean, it’s so there is that interruption for staff. And we also I mean, on the flip side of that if there is an issue. Sometimes communication for staff is an issue under this model. You know, if you’re into a four day weekend, and then you’re not crossing pads here, of still remembering that we could use all those tools we learned during COVID to connect to people. But that little bit of loss of connection is is something else that we’re dealing with since then, you know, things like having more frequent potlucks in the office that just brings everybody together to sort of reestablish those team feelings. Having the managers intentionally organize things off site with their entire team. But that disconnect is something we’re still trying to deal With as well,

Marco Campana 35:01
that’s useful. That’s important to know about because you want your team to still feel like they can come together and, and feel like a team, even if they’re passing each other week to week in some cases because of the different schedules. Right. So that’s, yeah, I could see that as being a challenge. But it sounds like you’re trying to figure out ways to kind of create that morale that team cohesion, and amongst 40 staff, the majority of whom are doing this hybrid work model. That’s going to take some, some some learning, I assume.

Lucia Harrison 35:29
Yep. Yeah, I think. And again, I mean, that’s what we’ve assumed all the way through this is that the we will tweak as we need to and as we go along.

Marco Campana 35:41
So in terms of the advice that you might give other sector leaders who are struggling with some of this, obviously, one of them is talk with your staff, involve them in this whole process, make it something that you envision that you’ll it’s you’re going to be working on, probably forever, you’ll be tweaking this, you’ll be piloting you’ll be trying new things, we’ll be learning as you go. What are some other pieces of advice that you might give, that we may not have spoken about from your experience of approaching this and leading an organization through the process? Drugs? Getting

Speaker 3 36:19
fair enough, though, self medication process?

Lucia Harrison 36:24
Yeah. I think you’ve already talked about it is, you know, when I,

Lucia Harrison 36:31
when we talk as a management team, it is a two pronged of keeping the center in the very center of what we’re doing. And not from a funders perspective, but what what do our clients need, and then what the staff need to be able to provide that. So if those are the two pillars, then taking care of staff and client needs are the two pillars that I feel like we need to focus on because our staff cannot do the work if they’re not being taken care of. And I for me, that is very important, because my ultimate is I want to serve the clients, they are the people who need our help who need our services. But to do that, we have to support our staff. So I feel like looking at it from those two lenses, some simultaneously, is what we really need to move these things forward.

Marco Campana 37:31
I love that I mean, all things flow from what you understand and know of your clients and what you understand and know that your staff need. I mean that that makes such logical sense that everything else as complex as it might go, or be, you’ll at least know what you need to be working on. Because you understand them so completely. I agree. Excellent. All right. I love it. There’s so much there’s so many kernels of knowledge I love I love this, this is such an eye and again, I think there’s people who are struggling with this and trying to figure out how do they move forward. In so there’s so many models and ideas out there to hear from a peer to hear from an organization that sort of figuring this out. And and as an as I would say further ahead than a lot of organizations in doing this is super useful. Is there anything I haven’t asked you about with you about your experience that you want to share or let people know to think about as they’re, as they’re working through all of this?

Lucia Harrison 38:26
Now off the top, but other than adding that while we implemented all of this, we also implemented a hotel desking model. So we did it all in one bang at the same time. So if you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it, right.

Marco Campana 38:42
Yeah. So shifting to Microsoft 365, hybrid work model, hybrid service model, new space, completely new way of laying out that office space and using it that’s, that’s a lot all at once, but, but it’s like the ripping the band aid off, I suppose, just get it done, and just

Lucia Harrison 38:58
just do this. And there was, again, we were lucky in that we had a whole new slate to work from, right and that not everyone has that. So it was really good. Nobody came back to an office that had pictures of their grandchildren sitting in the corner, no one, right. All of that was taken care of when we had to move everything out of the old building. And having made the decision that we would use a hotel desking model here. So you know, I don’t have an office, I book an office like everybody else. But I can appreciate that that’s harder for organizations when staff are coming back to an office after two years. And there’s Fifi, you know, picture of the dog in the corner, whatever. So I’m lucky in that way as well. But I do believe implementing all the changes at once was strategically. It was really good, difficult Because, yes, because I know I know people in my sector, I know people in my staff, there is going to be a certain amount of resistance. So let’s just do it all, and then deal with the issues as they come up. Awesome.

Marco Campana 40:15
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I think this is just incredibly valuable for others to hear your experience and to know about what’s possible. And what are some of the ways to go about doing it. So thank you so much for for taking the time to chat about it today.

Lucia Harrison 40:30
Thank you, Marco. And it’s been nice looking at you and chatting with you.

Marco Campana 40:33
I know it’s so great to connect again.

Lucia Harrison 40:35
We miss you here.

Marco Campana 40:37
I miss my early days. Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my site at marcopolis.org I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or marco@marcopolis.org Thanks again.

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