Local government is on the brink of yet another "great disruption" — one so seismic that 233 government leaders believe it will permanently transform the way local authorities work (SAP Concur, 2021).
You guessed it. The disruption we're referring to here is hybrid working.
Now, you're probably already well aware of the potential benefits hybrid work can offer local government, so we won't waste too much time discussing them.
However, to reiterate why this transformation is so important, we've listed a few benefits below.
- 15% increase in staff productivity, a
- 25% reduction in office costs and a
- 30% reduction in absenteeism
So, it's clear to see why 94% of government decision-makers expect hybrid working to be rolled-out permanently across the public sector over the next year (SAP Concur, 2021).
But anyway — let's get into the value.
In the next 5-minutes, we'll shed light on the potential challenges hybrid work poses for your local authority & suggest three ways you can overcome them.
Let us start by saying that 75% of government leaders believe that it will be down to staff to decide their home/office split in this new world of work (SAP Concur, 2021).
Whilst this is great (and essential for building a fully engaged workforce) — it does create some sizable short-term challenges for council departments like IT, HR & Facilities Management (FM).
We'll dive into these challenges in more detail in section two.
However, for now, we want to stress that re-designing age-old work practices is not as daunting as it may seem.
With the right tools & processes in place, your local authority can boost staff productivity, cut costs & improve the employee experience — without total upheaval.
The Impact of Hybrid Working On Council IT, HR & FM departments.
Before we get into how councils can make hybrid working work for them, we first need to clearly understand the obstacles they're faced with.
So, let's start by discussing some of the new-found challenges HR, IT & FM departments now find themselves with.
First up: facility managers
Hybrid work has added an additional layer of complexity to the FM role.
Not only do facility managers need to carry out traditional duties like maintenance, disposal, security, safety & procurement — they are also now tasked with implementing new productivity-enhancing measures like activity-based workspaces, agile workspaces & office neighbourhoods.
And that's not all.
In a hybrid work environment, facility managers also play a crucial role in helping IT & HR to:
- Monitor occupancy data & reduce or re-purpose office space based on new usage trends.
- Implement the processes required to make booking & accessing rooms & hot desks a seamless process.
- Implement & maintain new technologies that provide council staff with the tools they need to work & collaborate both virtually & in person.
- Develop & implement flexible new working policies that support council staff & continually improve their on-site experience.
- Develop & implement new safety policies that take into account this new way of working.
Based on the above, it's clear to see why data has become an invaluable commodity for facility managers.
So, it is perhaps unsurprising that the FM role has evolved to become far more data-based, technical & strategic in its approach to space management.
In this section, we'll discuss the challenges that hybrid work creates for HR departments
But before we do — we'd just like to re-emphasise how intertwined these challenges are & the importance of having a centralised system in place that works across all of the above-mentioned functions.
Anyway, back to it.
First and foremost, council HR teams must review relevant policies, procedures & systems to ensure that they are ready for hybrid work & identify where changes need to be made.
As part of this process, they'll need to clearly set out responsibilities & expectations, determine an eligibility & success criteria & provide clear guidance on:
- How to create & manage an activity-based, agile workspace
- Which tasks should be completed remotely & which require an in-person presence
- How to fairly manage hot-desking, room access & equipment availability
- Ways to support effective team building, cohesion & employee well-being
- Potential equality implications to ensure fair access to both office-based & virtual resources
- Providing managers with the tools they need to effectively manage, work, & collaborate with their team both in-person & virtually
- The tools & processes required to establish hybrid-ready communication channels
That sounds like a lot, right? But again, this list is far from exhaustive.
But fear not — we'll offer you three proven solutions to these challenges in the section below.
And If you'd like a more elaborate synopsis of the challenges facing council HR departments — check out this document.
Now, let's discuss the challenges for council IT departments.
In a hybrid environment, council IT teams are faced with the need to manage hundreds of remote workers operating in different environments.
So, as the first port of call — IT must look to standardise council systems to ensure better management, governance, usage, and security.
In keeping with this, IT teams must also now find & implement robust, cloud-based tools that connect & streamline council workflows, automate tedious manual processes & equip staff with the tools they need to thrive in the new world of work.
This includes tools that:
- Provide full visibility of when & where different teams are working.
- Collect actionable utilisation data.
- Make finding, booking & accessing rooms & hot desks a pain-free process.
- Make it easy to plan, implement & manage dedicated areas for teams, projects or hot desks.
- Make it easy for staff to plan their entire workday.
- Keep everyone in the loop with real-time, automated communication flows.
- Make it easy for remote & in-person teams to collaborate simultaneously.
- Enable staff to find & book the right spaces — at the right time — with the right people.
- Ensure fair (regulated) access to council space & equipment.
- Cater to staff with particular ergonomic or accessibility requirements.
Right — now, we've highlighted some of the challenges that councils face, let's take a look at three tips & tricks we've picked up from working with over 40 local authorities.
3 ways you can make hybrid working work for you local authority:
Tip 1: Learn How Your Office Works.
The first (and perhaps most important) recommendation we can offer you is to start collecting as much data as practically possible to better understand how your office works.
Put simply — in a hybrid work environment, you HAVE to take note of how, when & why your team is using your office space.
Why? It's simple. Armed with this data, you'll be able to:
- Identify assets that are under-utilised, reduce wasted capacity & cut office-related costs.
- Better understand employee needs, optimise your workspace & improve the staff experience.
- Identify possible opportunities to reduce, re-purpose, or rent out unused space & equipment.
- Get the feedback you need to create effective long-term working policies.
- Make sure your team always has access to the right space — at the right time — with the right people.
To start — here are eight things you could look to analyse:
- The maximum number of people using a particular space or asset on a day-to-day basis
- The average maximum usage of a space or asset over a specified period of time
- The maximum number of people from a specific department who are using a particular space or asset over 'x' amount of time
- How many times you reach your peak utilisation over a week or month
- The average percentage of utilised office space over a week or month
- The average space density over a week or a month (this helps to identify high & low traffic areas).
- Average meeting time, size & duration (this helps to optimise asset availability).
- Why your team are using your office space (is it to collaborate, is it for deep work or a mix of both?) (This is a little harder to measure, but it's super useful to know).
Tip: a great way to track all of this and more (with next to no effort) is by implementing a Room and Desk Booking System purpose-built for local government.
Anyway — before moving on, we should make clear that we are not suggesting that you should start tracking granular, individual-level behaviour stats.
Instead, you should look to collect more holistic, generalised data on your overall space usage.
Tip 2: Strike The Right Balance Between In-person & Virtual Collaboration.
For your team to thrive in a hybrid environment, you need to make it easy for them to collaborate both in person & virtually.
Interestingly, 67% of people state that collaboration is the main reason they want to go into the office post-pandemic (The WTIS, 2021).
As such, it's becoming increasingly clear that the way we view the office has changed — workspaces are no longer seen as productivity centres but rather hubs for collaboration.
With this in mind, here are a few things councils should consider:
- Re-imagining the workspace — this means introducing new ways to collaborate like activity-based workspaces, office neighbourhoods, hot desks & more.
- Establishing policies to balance both synchronous & asynchronous communication — i.e. defining what requires an on-site meeting and what can be communicated virtually.
- Eliminating time-consuming meeting coordination by introducing shared calendars, interactive floorplans, real-time availability updates & the ability to book on behalf of others.
- Implementing systems based on functionality AND the ease of integration with enterprise apps, building access technology, on-site hardware & collaboration software.
- Setting up feedback loops to continually improve the on-site (and virtual) staff experience.
Now, onto our third & final tip.
Note: you'll probably notice some cross-overs here — again, this only acts to re-emphasise the importance of a centralised, cross-department approach to hybrid work.
But anyway, let's get into it.
In order for your team to get the most out of hybrid working, they need an easy way to organise, plan & optimise their time.
Here's how you can help them do it:
- Integrate your tech-stack to simplify access — for example, using your organisation's Active Directory solution to securely access apps from anywhere.
- Make it easy to find & book the right space & equipment with criteria-based search functionality.
- Set up (automated) real-time communication flows to inform staff of arrangements & updates.
- Make it quick & easy to schedule & re-schedule room, desk & meeting bookings (on any device).
- Give your team access to a centralised calendar from which they can quickly book time & space for themselves & others.
- Configure tech-enforced rules to ensure fair access to all council resources.
It all seems a little daunting, right?
But don't panic!
Find out how you can do all of this & more here