When everything is hybrid, what does that mean for Society buildings? (Fireside Chat)
When everything is hybrid, what does that mean for Society buildings? (Fireside Chat)
SARAH GREAVES: Hello everyone, and welcome to today's Fireside Chat for Society Street entitled "Plan S and Purpose". My name is Sarah Greaves, and I've been in publishing for over 20 years, working in editorial and publishing roles, both at Nature and Hindawi, and I now work independently within the publishing industry. But at heart, I'm still a frustrated academic, thinking about how we can make things better for our authors and our editors.
SARAH GREAVES: And so today I'm going to be joined by some wonderful colleagues from across the industry, for what I hope will be a fascinating chat. And I'm going to be introducing them all to you very shortly. We're going to spend a few minutes just setting the scene. And then I'm just going to let the speakers take over and move the discussion forward. Our fireside chatters today are going to be Gaynor Redvers-Mutton, who is the associate director for Business Development and Sales at the Biochemical Society, Graham Blair, who is director of membership, media, and development from the Royal College of Anaesthetists, and Emma Wilson, who is Director of Publishing at the Royal Society of Chemistry.
SARAH GREAVES: They will hopefully be getting into a very heated debate, very shortly, where they will also be joined by Jon Treadway, who is a Director at Great North Wood Consulting, and has been a colleague of mine for many years whilst we were working at Springer Nature. So I'm going to quickly let everyone wave and say hello, before we begin. There they all are!
EMMA WILSON: Hello.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Hello.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: Hello everyone.
SARAH GREAVES: To quickly set the scene, can everyone remember, just after the pandemic, that seems like quite a long time ago now, when we were just able to start going back to work, we could maybe meet our friends, we could go to events and we could go to the theatre. Well at this time, Jon and I sat down and thought about how UK societies were coping in this post-pandemic world, especially with the impact of Brexit, seen here in the UK, and with the upcoming changes around Open Access being driven by Plan S. And we were thinking, was this changing how UK societies were reacting to things within the industry?
SARAH GREAVES: We set out to interview about 15 UK societies about this topic, and found out something quite surprising, which is going to drive our debate today. For reference, the summary of these conversations is currently in press at Learning Publishing, so look out for that if you want to learn more. And today we're going to take that step forward, and talk about those surprising findings, and hear if they're still relevant today.
SARAH GREAVES: So I think that's more than enough for me. I'm going to come back and wrap up at the end. I'm going to drive things as we move through this chat. But I'm going to hand over to Jon, and he's going to discuss some of the big issues that we're going to debate today.
JON TREADWAY: Thank you, Sarah. So just to recap, we approached a significant number of STEM-focused UK societies to talk to them. And in the end had around a dozen discussions and responses from them. Our framing in approaching them was to try and understand how they were finding the transition to Open Access, and the impact on publishing of COVID, and just generally what their experience was at that point in time.
JON TREADWAY: And we were quite surprised that when we had those conversations, actually the Open Access transition wasn't the main focus of our discussion. It wasn't the main thing in the minds of the societies that we spoke to for a combination of reasons around the ongoing support they were receiving from commercial partners, and the state of engagement they had at that time with Plan S and others debating the transition.
JON TREADWAY: We certainly had interest from members, and it was a concern, and it was something they were thinking about. But actually they were facing multiple operational challenges right at that point in time. And the best way I can describe it perhaps, is that overnight, their assets turned into liabilities. They found that things that they had used to support the ongoing work of the society through generation of revenue, had suddenly become costs that they had to continue to bear without the revenue generation.
JON TREADWAY: So they had buildings, the buildings that previously had generated revenue from hires, or events, or from rent. All of those things fell away as the pandemic took hold. They were faced with empty buildings as everybody took to homeworking and were unsure whether they would want to come back, what proportion would come back. And the access to materials that they housed in their buildings.
JON TREADWAY: Many had libraries, many housed the historic records of the society, physical records that were now just a cost with nobody actually wanting to access them, often in listed, highly valuable settings. And so they faced really very pragmatic, very challenging questions around, can we move to running events online. Will people be interested in that? Can we generate revenue, or do we have to run them for free?
JON TREADWAY: Can we afford to offer rent rebates. If we offer rent rebates, what will the future of renting offices to partners and like-minded organizations be? And at the same time, quite existential questions about whether their building was fundamental to the mission of the society. And similar questions that actually people had been asking about publishing businesses.
JON TREADWAY: Is this fundamental to the communication of results across our membership, across our discipline and our community? Or do we need to rethink the importance of our building, of our presence here in this location and our publishing arm? So really interesting conversations in the survey, and we tried to summarise those in our article. But that was some time ago, and so I cantered through the results, but I think our interest today is really whether the same issues are still present and high in the minds of those that we're talking to.
JON TREADWAY: So if I must there. Maybe I could hand over and ask people whether that resonates for them still. And Graham, perhaps you'd like to go first.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Certainly Jon. Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. Those two issues are something we're grappling with on an almost sort of daily, weekly basis, particularly around events, particularly around our building. So if I take the events to start with. When the pandemic hit, I remember a day with my team where we canceled 40 events in one day.
GRAHAM BLAIR: That was certainly an event in my kind of event career that I had never done before. And as we slowly brought events back, first online, then starting to work out what's the mix between hybrid, or fully online, or fully face to face, it was like, where do we land this, and how do we get back to something that is useful for our members and the audiences that we want to attract to our events?
GRAHAM BLAIR: And what that's seen is us just reimagining events completely. Relooking, asking people questions. What do they want from events? And as you can imagine, with a broad membership, everyone wants something different. So how do you land the event to make sure that it hits the objectives you want to deliver through it? And certainly what we found is that we're trying to portion out our program so that we can hit different areas.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So we will have some completely face to face events. Because there are people, who that is what they absolutely want. They want to come face to face, they want a network, they want to meet, they want to look that speaker in the eye, and they want to ask them questions afterwards. However, also what we've got is an audience that wasn't attracted by the networking. Wasn't interested in exhibitions and other stands.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Just wanted the core CPD, "I want to get the information. How do I get that? And I'd like to do that from home, thanks. Because I can't be bothered with the travel, I can't be bothered with the accommodation, I don't want to pay for it, and I don't want to spend the time on it." So those people want that online event. So how do you mash the two together.
GRAHAM BLAIR: What we found is that we are doing some hybrid events. They are hugely complicated. They can be expensive. But what our membership, we've also found difficult to get across to them is, these are more complex than running a face-to-face event just in a room. For example, just a face-to-face event might take two of our events team to run.
GRAHAM BLAIR: To run a hybrid, might take six of them. And far more time, because you are running effectively a live TV show. But what we're seeing is, we're actually seeing a growth in our online audience. And that's not only from our UK members, but that's also internationally, which is great, from a society perspective. And what we're seeing is people wanting to access that content in a way that they might Netflix, or other subscription services.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And they might buy access to the event, but it doesn't mean they're going to sit there all day and watch. And that's actually changed how we think about delivering content. And I think that's where the important thing around this is, you wanted to deliver content. The event used to be the delivery mechanism. Is it still the right one?
GRAHAM BLAIR: In some cases, face-to-face yes. Some cases online is better. So it's now just around working out how the mix, and how actually as a society do we do this in a cost effective way. And with the teams, with the skills that we currently have. And that's, I think, probably what certainly we're navigating, and probably what a lot of organizations are as well.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: I would echo very substantially what you said. I think the piece that you wrote, Sarah and Jon, was really interesting and thought-provoking. And very much of its time as well. So I imagine that things will have moved on a little bit since you spoke to people. And the events particularly, I think, was hit hugely in that first wave. Everybody having to upskill, find new platforms, just go about things in a really different way.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: Whereas, I suppose, in a way, publishing could tick along quite easily in the same way that it always had. Yes there was disruption. I would say there was disruption that went in favour of a quick Open Access fix. Everybody had to open, certainly in the society that I was in, opened up all their content for those six months. But it can all be done from the desktop.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: It was very agile. It was the easier bit to do. Whereas as you say, the events were really hit so strongly by suddenly everybody being in lockdown. And I think that there's still now responses and waves to that, because there is so much more reticence about necessarily going to face-to-face meetings. There's a push and a pull, isn't it? There's lots of people who want that.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: And there's lots of people who, if there's a hybrid version, might want to do it, and might say yes I would come, but actually end up not coming. And then for organizations like us, I would be interested to know whether it's the same for you, Emma and Graham. But you're paying double, aren't you? You're expecting people to come, and then you don't necessarily get them in the room.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: Yes.
EMMA WILSON: Yes, I can add a little bit to that. Although, actually, I think our experience was quite similar in lots of ways. And again, I think you made the really important-- But it was it was a massive impact on events. And we had quite an up and down journey, I would say, through that. And we made a relatively, modest investment, I think, in 2020, and were able to go online only for some of them.
EMMA WILSON: And people were really grateful for that actually. We got a lot of buy in on that. But then in 2021, I think, there was fatigue around the online events. And at the back end of 2022, and all of this year, all of our scientific events-- our portfolio is relatively modest in here, but our scientific conferences and events we're offering hybrid on all of those.
EMMA WILSON: And as I said, that investment that we made in the pandemic has pretty much allowed us to do that. Although I agree, and I spoke to my colleagues in the Events Team. And it is much more complex. And we partner as well quite a bit around our AV and various other things that you have to get right. The hybrid, we haven't made a long-term decision about whether we will always offer hybrid.
EMMA WILSON: And certainly some events are very much face-to-face, I'm talking really about our broader scientific conferences that are hybrid. We get 30% of people that come online, which I was a little bit surprised about. I don't know what other people's experience, I thought it's quite high actually. And people want two things from conferences, just as you said, Graham.
EMMA WILSON: Some people want the network, some people want the content. The hybrid thing, it does allow a bit of pick and choosing. And we also think there's an inclusivity and diversity issue as well, agenda which is which is really helpful around the hybrid. It does allow people to make choices, not only about whether they want to travel and pay, but also about a potential, their personal circumstances about whether they're able to do those things as well.
EMMA WILSON: So it's more of a level playing field. But yes, very much echo the things that you've said. For publishing, again, I tend to agree with you, Gaynor, but it didn't feel like that at the time. It felt like a huge thing when we all overnight went from being 300 people in an office, to working in a remote network. But it did work, and the publishing systems were robust and managed.
SARAH GREAVES: From your event side now, are you still working what works best it sounds like? You haven't reached any like, Oh, this is our new end state kind of thing. It feels like you're still playing with what type of event works well for different types of people, and obviously, the costs of that. You all mention the extra costs and running all of these things, hybrid, if that's what people want. So you're all still juggling.
SARAH GREAVES: Do you think you'll be juggling that and figuring it out for a while, or do you think it will settle down and it will become like, Oh, we always do that conference face-to-face, and we always do that hybrid.
GRAHAM BLAIR: I think it will settle, Sarah. But, I think, also, the stagnation of program, we've done this event for 40 years in exactly the same way. That's just not something we can do anymore. We have to evolve these. They have to move on, they have to live, they have to assimilate some of the new technologies, some of the new ways of thinking, some of the different things they're doing. Otherwise, it's essentially going to be a bit dull for your delegates to come to the same thing.
GRAHAM BLAIR: It'll be a bit groundhog day. We're here again, we just happen to be in Birmingham, rather than Leeds this year. And I just don't I don't think people, delegates particularly, will accept that anymore. And I think we've seen a shift in our audience is about what they will expect. And certainly what, one thing, we've also seen, is around a shift in perception of value for money, or real value for money.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And it stems from, during the pandemic we did lots of things that felt right at the time, to be free, or to be open access, or to be whatever. And that is not sustainable. We can't just keep creating content for zero return. As much as we would love to do that, as much as from a member benefit point of view that would be fantastic. Unfortunately, it doesn't run the teams, it doesn't run the systems that we need.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So there does need to be some transaction. That does need to be some kind of way in which these events find their level, find where it's kind of comfortable from an expenditure point of view. Also, from that evolution point of view, you don't want to throw loads of new technology at it that's going to cost you loads and loads of money. But you also don't want it to be dull and boring, because no one's going to come to it.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So I think we are, certainly in the event side of things, going to be looking at how do things just evolve now. We've done a massive revolution, we've done that. And we're still coming down from that probably. But it'll start to be more evolution, rather than this big revolution that we've done. And I think that's where it's quite exciting, because especially with, certainly if you're targeting some younger audiences, there's lots of startup organizations that are doing some quite funky things.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And perhaps as traditional organisations, that's something we'd have never touched. We would never have been allowed to go anywhere near that, because it didn't fit with the brand, or didn't fit with the objects of what we were trying to achieve as an organization. But now, it's almost like all bets are off. We can give it a try. We've almost got that permission to play.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: I think, Graham, that actually is quite similar for the whole piece about a place of work, and whether we go back into the office, the other part of this piece. I see it as still great disruption, and there isn't any set pattern. I'm not sure that we're at a point where we quite will evolve as a sector, because people are trying different things. So the Biochemical Society, we are now completely a virtual organization.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: We have no office. It just all came at a time where we were moving from one office and hadn't bought another office. And instead, the organization has embraced virtual working completely. So we are all digital nomads. And unlike many of our other societies who do have offices, and have to tackle that quite difficult piece of, well how much do you use that office.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: And particularly very expensive in an amazing location which many society offices are in, how do you get a workforce back? I think we are in still in a hybrid place, where, as I understand that, most organizations are saying that it is now much more expected that you would have a hybrid setup, you would work part time in the office and part time at home.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: But I don't think anybody has found the answer to what that will comfortably feel like. And I suspect the same is true for a while with events. What feels comfortable? How much do you go to those expensive venues and pay for lots of catering, only for half the numbers you expected to turn up. It's difficult. I think we're still in a place of a lot of disruption on that front.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Gaynor, as a team, do you meet up regularly, or is it completely virtual?
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: We do have about three set meetings during the year, one of which is a residential. And we're still experimenting, so we're still trying with some committees and council meetings to have some of that face-to-face contact. And we do have some space that we can meet in London. But the really interesting thing is, that it's unleashed this great ability now to pull in a much more international pool of talent.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: We have people who are based in Thailand, or Spain, or Germany, or whatever. And yes, we try and bring everybody together, but we're not really constrained by being a London-based organization anymore, which is really exciting.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Absolutely.
EMMA WILSON: Yeah, and I think it's really interesting what you said about the experimentation and not-- because in the events, we've been quite explicit that we don't know where it's going to end up actually. There has been this huge change, that whole saying about it changed more in a week than it had done in 10 years. Which was actually true. And opened people's minds, just like you said, Graham, and opened ours as well.
EMMA WILSON: But we don't think we know quite where our community will end up. I think now there is an evolution. We saw quite a pent-up demand for in-person, actually, at the beginning, and whether that will come down a bit, and where that equilibrium is. But I agree actually both in the events business, but also in the working, where we'll choose to work in our professional lives.
EMMA WILSON: I think that's evolving as well. The whole thing about all this is the new normal. I don't think it is quite yet. I think that's got a bit of a way to play out. But we have kept our offices. We see our offices as quite an important part, both from a working culture point of view. But we spent a long time talking together. when I say that, I mean the whole workforce.
EMMA WILSON: There's about 600 people that work at the RSC in different places, and different places around the world as well. So it was quite a big conversation about what the hybrid pattern would look like. It's been pretty bottom-up, so each team can decide how their working pattern should be to meet their business objectives. And I think, mostly, that's gone quite well.
EMMA WILSON: But we do see-- I'm in the office today, people come in regularly. We get about 50% occupancy in a couple of - from pre-pandemic - in on a few days. We do not get that on Monday or Friday.
SARAH GREAVES: You so surprise me, Emma.
EMMA WILSON: But we need a critical mass. It was quite interesting, there was a time where we had the hybrid all set up, but it was people going at their own pace, or teams going at their own. And if there isn't a critical mass in the office, then people are like, well, [HUMS].. But I think we have started to reach that critical mass actually.
SARAH GREAVES: But what do you think Graham, because you guys have your own offices still as well?
GRAHAM BLAIR: We do, absolutely yeah. And you're absolutely right about that critical mass piece. So we have, at our building, a mixture of event space, office space, and also spare space that we lease out to other organizations. And as Jon was saying, the events business disappeared overnight. Those smaller societies, again, potentially some of them disappeared, and didn't resurface. And what we're left with is a large building with a workforce that's remote.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And that building still needs paying for, still needs servicing, still needs opening every day. So what we've done is, we've tried to look at each of the areas. And from an events perspective, what can we realistically get in from a business point of view. From our workforce, as in the college workforce, we are on a hybrid model as well. So we were seeing not very huge occupancy.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So we're actually looking to move to hot desking, which we weren't--
EMMA WILSON: Oh yeah.
GRAHAM BLAIR: --so that we can reduce the footprint for staff in the building, which allows more space for commercial letting. So we can then use that space to drive further income. But it raises the question, are we here as an organization to be a venue, to be a landlord, to be those things that are essentially there to just try and make money out of the building that we have. So it then raises the further question, well, should we still have this building, or should we rightsize the building?
GRAHAM BLAIR: Should we then look to see how do we work in a regional sense, with regional hubs, or not? And it's, I suppose, given us the opportunity to ask that question of, well, the fact we have this building doesn't mean it's still right. And that is something we're still grappling with, because on one sense, there's the history there. Not with massive history, we've only had that building for 15, 20 years.
GRAHAM BLAIR: But there's a little bit of history. But also, it's the, well we actually as a membership, certainly our council and trustees feel it's quite good to have a place that is The College. And I don't think they're quite ready for it to be just a virtual sort of thing in the ether. So it is one of those really interesting things around What are we what are we here for as an organization? If we were really breaking down those objectives, does it say, have a building in central London, run it as a rental space, and an event space.
GRAHAM BLAIR: It probably doesn't. So it's really asking some of those trickier questions. Because then you go, well, if we do sell, when's the right time to sell? Is the market on the way down, is it on the way up? It's all of those questions that then you can go round in circles, and round in circles, and you end up at the same place. So for us, we're trying to tackle the bits in their parts, and proceed with, right, if we're going to make that decision to move, that may take a year or two, a few years.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So what can we do in the meantime to make sure we bring in income, and that we've got the feeling that the building's got a bit of life to it. There's nothing worse than going to work, and you're the only one sat on the floor. I can sit at home on my own, I don't have to go to central London to go sit on my own. So it was it's that stuff that, I think, fundamentally changes your direction.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And ultimately, you've got to think about what your members want. What are we trying to deliver for them? And what are we trying to deliver for the specialty, particularly of Anaesthesia. And certainly with Anaesthesia, it's been quite a different ride through the pandemic, because our members have been at that forefront, right at the forefront.
GRAHAM BLAIR: But also, they didn't stop working, they didn't stop going to their place of work. So it seems quite alien for your organization to be changing how you work, and not going into a place. Because what we do it, so why wouldn't you? And it's then, it's different lives, different ways things are set up. And it's just really interesting. But just to jump back to the events side again as well, with that hybrid versus face to face, the elements around corporate partnerships, corporate sponsorships those corporates aren't catching up in the whole digital world.
GRAHAM BLAIR: They still want to go and have a physical presence, and look at people in the face and talk to them. They don't see the return on investment from sitting at a digital event, and no one comes to visit them in their space online. We've even tried to do some more modern thinking, about well, you have an advert, we're creating a TV show, you have a 30-second advert, a 60-second advert. Then they go, we haven't got an advert.
GRAHAM BLAIR: It's like, oh. OK, could you get one, could you make one? It seems a bit remiss. But they haven't necessarily caught up in that way of thinking. They're still hoping we're all going to go back to face-to-face and we'll go back to that model. I think there is some changes, but it's still in the hope that we're going to go back to what it all was.
SARAH GREAVES: Yeah, which isn't going tohappen, is it? Have you got a library of college stuff as well in your building, Graham? Have you got archives and things. Is your building used for that, or not?
GRAHAM BLAIR: So we don't have a huge amount of archives, and we have just digitized all of our archive.
SARAH GREAVES: Ooh.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So. I say digitize, but it's currently in obviously a secure file somewhere. It's not actually made anything more useful out of it, but that's the next piece of the work. But that's exactly it, is how can we make that useful? To be honest, it wasn't hugely useful, sat in central London. How many people came and accessed it? Making it digital might actually make it more useful, more accessible, and then actually of real worth to the specialty.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So again, you can you can go, where is the history, where does it all sit? But again, how are people wanting to access it? It comes down to that. It's actually really almost commercial thinking in what's the product, who is the audience, and what's the pull and push for accessing it? And I think that's what we're having to really evaluate in both events, archives, buildings, all of that thing.
GRAHAM BLAIR: It's about what ultimately does our customer want?
SARAH GREAVES: Gaynor and Emma. You must have society archives and things as well. Holding in your buildings, or not in your building, Gaynor, as the case may be.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: We're just trying to find some storage space somewhere, things that had been. But I agree, actually having worked in another society that did have a library. And it was not used. So I think this whole business of buildings is really, interesting because I think that for such a long time organizations like ours, and societies, did represent a hub. And that hub did have a real physical side to it as well.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: And actually, I was just talking to some colleagues today about where the name came from of the publishing trading arm of the Biochemical Society, which is called Portland Press. And it was because once upon a time, way back, we had a building in Portland Place. That's several generations back. But at the time, it's really symbolic again that it was the hub, the place that people thought about when they came to London to meet with colleagues and come to meetings and things.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: But I do think that time is just moving on a bit now and, and that's not so necessary in anybody's discipline. Actually, I'd be interested to hear from Emma and Graham whether you do have trustees who say, no we want to come to the meeting. We want to have our council meetings there. We want to meet up with everybody, and go to dinner afterwards. Is that still definitely a thing for you?
EMMA WILSON: Yes.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: Yay.
EMMA WILSON: I don't think it needs to be in London, I don't think it needs to be in a fancy building. But our trustees and our committees have had a strong preference for meeting up. And I would say also that it worked online, it absolutely worked on online. But I do think there is something about them working together as a trustee group, where some of that face-to-face is quite important, or can help.
EMMA WILSON: But yeah, our trustees and the majority of our committees. Of course, we run them as hybrid, because people are not every-- And there are preferences that sit within that. But particularly our trustee group, they make a big effort to meet personally. Yeah.
SARAH GREAVES: And do you have to have a library, Emma? Members can just come in and come to the building and do that?
EMMA WILSON: Yes. I must admit I don't know what the footfall of the library is like post-pandemic. I do know the footfall in the building. So our London office, we use more or less exclusively for member events, or small scientific conferences, or outreach, or we rent, or we have hire out for others to use. So we don't really have a workforce in the London office, it's used as a space to further our mission.
EMMA WILSON: And I do know that the hires and footfall is back to pre-pandemic. I don't know if the library is though, I must admit. It was used, but of course that's going to be a relatively small number.
SARAH GREAVES: But it's interesting that your members and people associated with the RSC still want to go into that building, still want to be part of it, right?
EMMA WILSON: Yeah, there seems to be quite a strong pull on that. I think the in-person stuff, I don't think it needs to be in London. Some of them we do in Cambridge, for example. I think it's the in-person bit. We also see in our events, different communities have different flavours of what they'd like. You see some with higher hybrids. We have one event that has decided not to be hybrid, it's the only one in our portfolio.
EMMA WILSON: The organizing committee just said, no, we're going back face-to-face. And the only one, it's only one group. But again, there's some community feel even within chemistry. Yeah.
SARAH GREAVES: Different communities reacting in different ways, and wanting to do things.
SARAH GREAVES: Yeah. And that links back to what you said Graham about
SARAH GREAVES: listenisng to your members and your community that you interact with, hearing what they want.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Absolutely. But also, just on that committees and councils, and things like that, we have definitely a pull to be wanting to come face to face, and have that meal, or coffee, or tea, or whatever it is afterwards. And actually, that piece is actually around the volunteering. And essentially they're volunteers, and they want to feel like they're getting something out of that volunteering.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And what we were finding was, the sitting on a Zoom call wasn't giving them some of the satisfaction that they had previously when they came to some meetings. Now, we've generally put a blank policy in for committees that we would like half of them to be hybrid online completely, and the other half can be hybrid, just so that we've got a bit of cost control from everyone traveling from all over the place, because that's certainly not got any cheaper.
GRAHAM BLAIR: But it really is really interesting from that college workforce, that volunteer workforce, requiring that little bit extra just to make sure that they are feeling the value of doing that volunteering. And it's something that we almost lost. And we were quite conscious of actually we can't lose that, because we will lose all of that goodwill that we get from so many people, where their time is being pulled by just their job, their normal job.
GRAHAM BLAIR: And we could lose our volunteer workforce very easily here without understanding that there is a value attached to coming together. And I agree completely with Emma, it doesn't have to be in central London, in your own building, it can be wherever. It is just there's a value to being together. And I think also, from a workforce, from a staff perspective, our policy is that we have to be in 40% across a month.
GRAHAM BLAIR: So you can mix and match, it's not two days a week, you can mix and match that. And what we're seeing is people going in to collaborate. They're not going in to sit on their Zoom calls all day, they're going in to actually speak to other people, work with other people, and to actually interact with their work colleagues. And to get that piece of value back from working, because there's certainly people who missed that bit, but certainly people who certainly don't miss the commute, and would rather not.
GRAHAM BLAIR: But actually, what we were seeing as an organization is we were missing that collaboration. The silos were getting more siloed. The cross-college pieces were falling down. And we're starting to see that disappear again by getting people together. And ultimately, just the well-being piece. And how do you do well-being for your team, when they're online and you're just seeing them, you're seeing their Zoom face, you're seeing their Zoom environment.
GRAHAM BLAIR: You're not seeing them for a longer period of time that you might just pick up on clues where things aren't going wrong, or they're going wrong and they're not going as they should be. So it's just so interesting how broad this change of where we work, and how we work, and what building it's in, and whether it's together, or whether it's not, has on productivity, people's well-being, all of those things that we never really thought of, you took for granted.
GRAHAM BLAIR: Because everyone came into the office every day. And we saw each other, and we knew what was going on. Now we're all having to think about it, and build it in, and take notice. And that's again, a whole other raft of changes to get used to, isn't it?
SARAH GREAVES: Change at every turn. We got a couple of minutes left before I think we should wrap up and get ready for live debates with everyone who's listening to us, or listening to this part. And we can't wait for the questions. But I think as you can see, this issue of buildings and events, and what these mean to societies as they move forward and face the future post-pandemic hasn't gone away. So the things that Jon mentioned right at the beginning around overnight buildings became liabilities.
SARAH GREAVES: Events businesses, revenue lines dropped completely out of everyone's budgets. This whole piece is still being dealt with. And we haven't even touched it, really, on how that impacts, what the society means anymore, or what it means for its members and what it's offering, although we've chatted about it a little bit. And we haven't even got to the thing that Jon and I started our conversations with people about, which was, oh no, the impact of Open Access coming, and all your journals having to go fully OA, and changing your publishing programs.
SARAH GREAVES: That is something as Emma and Graham was saying. We just handled that, that was fine. And we just carried on doing publishing. We had other things that we were really worried about. As we're wrapping up, I don't know if anybody wants to just say a last a last piece around their buildings, or their events, as we're summarizing? I will go to Gaynor first, because she came off mute first.
SARAH GREAVES: So go for it Gaynor.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: Well actually, I was going to just touch on the Open Access piece. And I'd be really interested to know whether you had, and conduct, those discussions at this point in time. Whether that would start coming higher up people's concerns just as the Plan S deadline looms into sight in 2025. I suspect, I don't know, I was really interested in your findings in the first place.
GAYNOR REDVERS-MUTTON: But I would just expect that open access would loom a bit more into people's vision. And that so much time is now having to be spent, as Graham said, on having some kind of policy in place about how much time people are expected in the office, or not. And if they're not, how you get people together. And again, events as we were talking about before, I think that's still a very moveable feast as different communities just do different things.
SARAH GREAVES: And I hope we get into the OA debate with everyone. Jon, do you want to say something?
JON TREADWAY: Well, I was just going to say, it's a really interesting question from Gaynor. And I think the two things that I would say that have happened definitely since we spoke to people are, one, Plan S is really engaged with society publishers in a different way, much greater level of engagement. It just hadn't happened at the point where we were talking to people. So I think that will raise it in people's minds.
JON TREADWAY: And the second thing is, and it's the point you both made, which is, the pressure from COVID was in the opposite direction. So, really, it was everyone was suddenly moving to Open Access. So it wasn't changing the nature of that pressure, whereas for buildings, and events, and conferences, and everything, suddenly they fell away completely, the opposite of what had been happening in the past.
JON TREADWAY: So that dynamic has evolved in a different way in two and a half years since the pandemic. All those submissions that everybody made, because they were either researching the pandemic or they were sitting at home writing things up that they couldn't do previously, that wave has passed, and now we're in a different space. So I wouldn't be surprised to hear quite different things from people on Open Access.
JON TREADWAY: But as Sarah said, I'm looking forward to hearing the questions and comments that we get in the live debate.
SARAH GREAVES: Emma, anything you'd like to say as we finish up?
EMMA WILSON: Again, it's been really interesting actually hearing everyone's points of view. I was surprised a little bit, like your findings that OA wasn't a bit more front and centre. I agree with the comments that it might be if you revisited that now. But again, just looking back to where we were when the pandemic hit, the big things were really around our events, how we supported membership through it and our education.
EMMA WILSON: Those were the big pivots actually. And supporting teachers who were trying to teach chemistry outside the classroom for a year and a half, or maybe not quite, but it seemed like a long time. But those were the big ones. And the question around buildings. I think there's some really interesting points that have been raised here actually.
EMMA WILSON: As I said, we see our building as a tool actually really, tools to deliver our mission, not embedded absolutely within it. There are definitely other ways that it can be delivered. But at the moment it's a useful and good tool, and important for us currently. Whether that will always be the case, I think there's some really interesting stuff that's come up here that suggests that that is very much something that has to be reviewed and thought through, yeah.
SARAH GREAVES: All right, thanks Emma. Graham is there anything you'd like to finish on as we wrap up this part?
GRAHAM BLAIR: I think it's one of those things you've got to look at, it's glass half full rather than empty. And actually it's quite exciting to look at ways of changing and do new things, and different things. And to work with your audiences, to actually hear what is the thing you've been wanting for years that we've just not done, that we might be able to do now. And I think that a lot of change is a lot to take on board. But actually, if we can start to move towards that evolution, rather than the revolution, I think it could be quite exciting.
SARAH GREAVES: And I think that's quite a good place to end. With a bit of excitement, looking forward to what comes next. So let me thank Jon, Graham, Emma, and Gaynor for this part of The Fireside Chat. And we look forward to hearing what everyone has to say, and answering your questions.