Men's Sheds



"There's a very generous amount of storage Box have offered — our thanks for that!"

— Nick Pilbeam, chairman

Helping a Scottish Charity Manage Documents
with Box Software

Men can often lose their friends and social life through retirement, redundancy, divorce, or simply the children leaving home.

To help remedy this, Men's Sheds were set up in Australia to offer a place for men to practice craftsmanship with other men and to talk, share problems, and make friends.

The sheds were set up as relaxed social spaces that gave users the opportunity to maintain their practical skills — tinkering with machines, woodworking, and learning skills — or having a cup of tea and putting the world to rights. And all this can be supplemented by anything from health courses to cookery demonstrations.

In recent years, the Men's Sheds movement has spread rapidly across the world. The Westhill & District Men's Shed was the first branch of the Men's Sheds to be set up in Scotland, but two years later, an astonishing 40 more were in the pipeline.

"It was the usual story…"

One of the Westhill & District Men's Sheds' major challenges related to document management. Aside from the policies and procedures familiar to all charities, they need access to operations manuals, safety notes for each piece of machinery, and training guidelines. There are also particular policies regarding donations of equipment.

Nick Pilbeam is the chairman at the charity. "It was the usual story," he recalls. "Everyone had a document they'd copied, saved somewhere, and made changes to. Some files might be named 'latest' even though they dated from a year before."

"This was our problem — we might email round a new version of a file, but there was no guarantee that it would be read."

For Nick and others, this was causing real headaches in terms of record keeping and maintaining consistent documents.

"You need to understand that we're not care workers; people attending the shed take responsibility for themselves. So if a support worker brings a new person along, they can't just leave them here and say 'goodbye.' We need to be able to give them the most up-to-date set of guidelines along with a proper welcome form and everything else."

Making Sure Documents Are Consistent and Up-to-date

To deal with this, the charity ended up taking a donated perpetual license for Box Starter Edition in 2015. Although he describes it as "still early days," Nick is very positive about the practical difference that the software has made.

At its simplest level, Box is a file-sharing and synchronization system. Using the cloud, it enables users to access their documents and those of their colleagues from anywhere, ensuring that these files are always the most up-to-date versions.

Nick's first steps with Box have been to set up all of the charity's essential files so they are accessible from home and work, both for him and for the other people who might need them.

A Piece of Cake to Load Files

He describes loading up the files as "a piece of cake," and the software has achieved the organization's primary goal: all of its documents are consistent now and always up-to-date.

"There's a very generous amount of storage Box have offered — our thanks for that!"

A relatively high proportion of the charity's volunteers have a decent comfort level using technology, but Nick says that he would also recommend Box to other organizations less at ease with IT.

"We're trying to be more complex, but it would be possible to use it very simply," he says.

"You could easily just upload everything that you wanted to be shared and use a single login for everybody. The extra level of control would not be there, but that would be your nursery steps to get people going quickly, and then you could perhaps move on as soon as they were comfortable."