Councils are considering different ways of working in light of the pandemic.
As we follow the Government roadmap to easing COVID-19 restrictions, attention has returned to the future of the office and how the ways we worked previously may change.
Discussions are focusing on hybrid working – a way of structuring work, communication, working hours and physical locations to enable our council staff to be as productive as possible, no matter where or when they work, and with whom.
We can learn many lessons from the new ways of remote and distributed working that the national lockdowns imposed on us.
However, we must also be aware that, in many instances, our covid-enforced working practices mostly relied on ‘lifting and shifting’ our office environments into our homes, or on frontline staff rapidly developing new ways to deliver services according to what was emerging on a daily basis.
This was not proof of the success of ‘the great home-working experiment’, as some have billed it. This was about many employees trying to work differently in a crisis and adopting ways of working for that – and this will be difficult to sustain in the longer term.
However, this ‘shock’ to traditional workplaces has opened up the possibility of exploring what different ways of working we could develop – ones that could truly represent our organisational principles and deliver our ambitions for our communities, while meeting the changing needs and desires of our staff and communities.
When considering such far-reaching changes to our working practices, there are some significant workforce issues to bear in mind.The key questions to answer are whether hybrid working is right for your council, and why. For example, is moving to a hybrid model about managing financial pressures, and responding to recruitment and retention challenges, or being more eco-friendly (by having less commuting and travelling to work or fewer offices)? Whatever it is, start at the beginning, and explore all your organisation’s strategic objectives and how different arrangements of hybrid working could help you to deliver those.
Other key issues and questions to consider include:
- location – some local government roles will have less flexibility on where they are able to be performed
- consultation and engagement – employees, elected members, local partners and other stakeholders all need to be involved in thinking about, and developing, hybrid working practices
- productivity and performance – how will you manage and motivate staff when they are working more remotely?
- teamwork and collaboration – how will teams come together, share ideas, innovate, and learn from each other when they are working remotely?
- leadership and management – do managers understand how to manage and motivate staff who don’t sit next to them?
- employee health and wellbeing – what are your staff telling you about what works for them?
- equality, diversity and inclusion – do new ways of working create opportunities for all staff or just some? How do you avoid a two-tier workforce?
- finance – will different working patterns and locations save or cost money?
- governance and accountability – do your governance and reporting systems support more devolved decision-making and agility?
We examine each of these issues in more depth on the LGA’s website, where you can also find out more about the LGA’s wider support for workforce and HR.
Our aim is to stimulate debate, share practice, generate innovation and shape ideas to help you develop new ways of working that are meaningful for your council.