RRA Architects is an award-winning firm based in Cheltenham comprising a highly dedicated, multi-disciplined team with a wide range of experience and knowledge of the built environment.
They have a diverse range of national projects including private houses, offices, sustainable housing communities, heritage repair and conservation, retail spaces, mixed use development, education buildings and schemes for both private and public clients.
Rachel Palmer, Director, explains why the company actively promotes employer supported volunteering:
‘We wholeheartedly believe in supporting our employees' passion for giving back to the community. That's why we gift our staff time off to volunteer for charity or community projects of their choice.
This approach allows each individual to select a cause that resonates personally, ensuring their involvement is entirely voluntary and not driven by external pressures.
Although we have used the example of organising workshops for students, our team's volunteering efforts take many forms with each person choosing how to use their unique skills and expertise to make a difference.
For instance, RRA Project Designer, Sarah-Jane Bonner, used her volunteering time to provide professional services for the Open-Door charity, assisting with the refurbishment of their new premises.
Group Business Manager, Jane Cooke, on the other hand, is currently liaising with a local school to set up mock job interviews, providing valuable interview practice for the students.
Why we do it
Of course, the obvious answer is to give back to the community.
It is well documented that volunteering offers numerous mental, physical and social benefits to those involved.
However, it has a much wider impact; when our team members return from their volunteering experiences, they bring back a renewed sense of energy and ‘joie de vivre’ to the office. So, from a company perspective, supporting our employees' charitable endeavours fosters a sense of fulfilment and purpose among the individuals which ripples through the whole company.
Beyond the positive impact on individuals and collective well-being, our commitment to community involvement is beneficial for the company image as well. It enhances our internal and external marketing efforts, showcasing RRA as caring and socially responsible. This, in turn, contributes to improved recruitment, staff retention and serves as a tangible demonstration of our values to potential clients.
How this works at RRA
We have a long history of supporting our team members with their ideas and truly believe that a culture of giving enriches us all, not just the recipients. This company attitude means that people feel confident that the company will welcome their idea and celebrate their effort, so they are not concerned about requesting time to volunteer. Consequently, we have informally supported volunteering for many years on an ad hoc basis, with individuals organising their own volunteering opportunities.
However, it is an activity which we are hoping to encourage more of, so we are looking at other companies to see if we can, and should, adopt a more formal model.
We need to assess whether this would positively encourage more of the team to take part or whether they would feel less control and more pressure - which may have a negative impact.
Perhaps we can find a halfway solution which would benefit everyone.
RRA Associate Oliver Smith shares his experience of running a voluntary workshop at Hereford and Ludlow College. Ludlow Sixth Form College Oliver says:
"I vividly remember the excitement and uncertainty I felt during my own college days, and now, being in a position to share my knowledge and experience with the next generation feels incredibly rewarding.
Helping these aspiring architecture students discover their passion and guiding them towards a fulfilling career path is an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Seeing their eyes light up with enthusiasm and knowing that I can make a positive impact on their journey is truly rewarding. It's a way of giving back and inspiring others to pursue their dreams in architecture, just as I did. As they say: 'When you teach, you learn twice,' and being part of this process feels like coming full circle, enriching both their lives and mine."
Hannah Day, Head of Visual Arts, Media and Film, Ludlow Sixth Form College explains how Oliver has helped them through his volunteering role:
‘‘Oliver has visited the Visual Arts, Media and Film departments Careers Day twice. On both occasions he talked about his route from college, through university and into work as an architect. This was particularly helpful in showing students how they too can move from where they are now into any number of exciting areas of work. It was particularly helpful as he attended Ludlow Sixth Form College himself and so was in their position only a few years before.
As well as his talk, he offered a practical task, asking students to come up with design solutions for a real brief he had been given. Some students considered the brief in practical ways while others went down a flight of fancy. Both approaches allowed students to explore building design problems and solutions but in diverse ways. He has also been generous in offering feedback and support for students applying for university.
As we see more students interested in architecture in our current year one this offer of help will be instrumental in placing students into their first-choice universities.”