Action on Hearing Loss is giving up its London headquarters and allowing some staff to work from home “for the foreseeable” as part of its response to coronavirus.
The charity is the largest so far to announce a long-term move to more flexible working in reaction to the pandemic. Its London staff have been working from home since lockdown began in March.
Action on Hearing Loss, which had an income of just under £40m last year, said that it plans to stop renting its main offices in Highbury, north London, and will be looking for a smaller space in the capital to use for meetings.
The move represents the latest in a series of property decisions taken by the charity over the last five years.
In March 2015, it sold its headquarters on Old Street in east London for £11.8m. The organisation purchased its property in Highbury for £6.6m in the same year, and invested another £1.5m in refurbishments before moving staff into the building in 2017.
The charity then put that building on the market for about £9m in 2019, and rented it back from the buyer.
The chief executive Mark Atkinson said at the time that this decision was part of a “financial recovery plan” to help the charity recover after several years of running an operating deficit.
Mark Atkinson: ‘We can make it work’
In a statement about the latest decision, Atkinson said: “We have decided that now is not the right time to commit to a new London workspace. The past few months have proven we can make it work.
“We don’t see the point of rushing a decision when the world is changing around us. Offices might be very different after the coronavirus crisis, and ways of working as we know them may be different.
“This is our opportunity to be on the front foot of any changes presented by coronavirus, and make innovative decisions driven by the needs of our people and our charity. In essence, we want to reinvest the money that would have been paid in rent, business rates, utilities etc into delivering our purpose and rewarding our staff. Our view is that there are better ways to use that resource.
“We realise this will affect staff in completely different ways. As a charity we have a long-standing commitment to flexible working, so for many it will be welcome news, bringing more flexibility to the way we work, but we realise that working from home longer term for others may be less ideal.
“We are committed to working with all staff and managers to make sure their workspace suits them and their roles.”
Staff will be consulted on plans for any new working space in London.
Action on Hearing Loss also has a headquarters in Peterborough. A spokesperson for the charity confirmed that this will now become its headquarters and business address.
The spokesperson added: "We have a number of offices across the UK in various stages of leases, and will consider our other offices on an individual basis in line with their leases and the people who work at those offices."