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RSPCA to sell headquarters as it moves to ‘more modern’ flexible work culture

22 Sep 2021 News

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of RSPCA, and Baby the dog

The RSPCA is putting its main office up for sale as it plans a flexible approach to the workplace and wants to release funds to invest in activity.

Staff are expecting to spend less time in the office in the future, so the charity wants to downsize and find more suitable, and cheaper to run, offices nearby.

Part of the property strategy also includes opening a London hub next month. 

Around 380 staff work at its main office in Southwater, West Sussex. Nearly three quarters of them said told bosses that they wanted to work more from home in the future and 70% said they wanted to do between one and three days in the office at most.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, told Civil Society News that even before the pandemic the charity was not using the full capacity of the office space and now “we are expecting to use the space less than we did”. 

Like many charities, RSPCA is now piloting a more flexible model after office-based staff worked mostly from home during the pandemic. 

‘We want to get the best price’ 

One of the reasons for the sale is that the RSPCA wants to invest in delivering on the strategy it set out at the beginning of the year. 

Sherwood says the RSPCA expects to generate “millions” from the sale, but does not want to give a specific figure as the charity is “testing the market” to try to get the “best price”. 

He is not expecting the move to take place until 2023. 

“We also recognise that the RSPCA has a long relationship with Horsham,” he adds, so the charity will work closely with the local council on its plans. 

The RSPCA moved into the purpose-built Southwater site about 20 years ago and has been based in Horsham since the 1970s.

The charity will look to move into smaller offices nearby, but is looking for somewhere with better public transport links, which will help to reduce the charity’s carbon footprint and make it more attractive to potential new staff. 

London hub 

The RSPCA has also leased offices in London from another charity and will open these in November. 

Sherwood says that being closer to Westminster will make its advocacy work easier. It will also make it easier to build partnerships with other charities.

Staff will be able to book time at the London hub, while others could use it as their permanent base, which also “helps recruitment”. 

The combination of an easier to reach main office and the London hub means the RSPCA hopes it be able to attract more people from more diverse communities and “expand recruitment pools”. 

Work-life balance 

Sherwood says the property strategy is a key part of its wider strategic objective to “modernise culture”. 

Most of the charity’s support staff have been working from home for 18 months and people have become “used to blended models”, he says. 

People have found this helps to balance caring commitments and achieve a work-life balance which they value.

Sherwood also hopes the changes will lead to shift away from having “head office culture” to one that is more “integrated with our services”. 

The Charity Finance Summit returns on the 7 October. The 2021 programme has been developed in response to feedback and insight from sector experts, and will deliver the most up-to-date developments in key topic areas of VAT, tax, investment, risk and strategy, alongside long-awaited networking opportunities. View the programme and book online.