What does flexible working mean for local government? The obvious benefit during this era of austerity is fiscal. The financial savings being achieved in local government are significant and help to protect frontline service delivery.
Some advantages are overlooked: During snow, flooding and at other times where resilience is needed the ability to work flexibly can keep services running.
Work is an activity, not a place: This has always been our philosophy. It has helped us reduce our office space considerably, but more importantly it has enabled us to offer better services to our customers through more flexible opening times.
Nicola McLaughlin is marketing manager for Vodafone UK
Can technology be an aid to flexible working? We worked with Fife council which equipped its building services teams with smart devices to manage their maintenance work loads. It reviewed its processes, which are now extremely lean, and instantly saw a 20% increase in productivity.
Bibian McRoy is human resources manager at Eden district council
Flexibility at work could help with future challenges: Flexible working will be hugely important in supporting employees in an ever-changing environment. With an ageing population more employees will have responsibilities as carers or will want to work on beyond the standard retirement age, with many wishing to work fewer hours.
We need to set out a vision for the future: In any change programme you must link this change to a broader narrative about the future: outline the benefits, but be honest about the challenges.
Don't underestimate the usefulness of social media: It can keep employees in touch with each other and the council. I know many councils lock down social media use but at Monmouthshire county council we actively encourage it for work purposes.
Making changes can be tough: In the early days of our agile working programme it was really hard. People were cynical and resisted it. The expression we heard was: "It's ok for other teams, but it wouldn't work for us." I had gathered loads of evidence that it would work and was absolutely committed to it.
Theresa Caswell is 'WorkSmart' human resources programme manager at Rotherham council
Sharing services is beneficial: We are just completing the first year of a successful shared service arrangement with Doncaster council for human resources and payroll transactional services, which are now provided from the Rotherham human resources service centre. The arrangement is benefitting both councils with shared personnel and human resources systems as well as accommodation.
Change doesn't just happen, you need a planned approach: Have clear objectives, senior management support and highlight the benefits of flexible working to all stakeholders. Human resources, asset management and IT need to work as an integrated team as they are the cornerstones for change and can identify the tools and solutions to transform working environment and styles.
Daniel Hardy is a policy and performance officer at Leeds city council
Training courses can support agile working: We run a very thorough training course which helps people understand what they need to know about the human resources and the information governance implications of working from other locations. We run this for managers and other staff separately – we go over extra stuff about moving to managing by outcomes and motivating dispersed teams in the manager session.
The focus needs to be on outcomes: We spend a lot of time with managers getting them to understand that they need to begin managing by outcomes, as opposed to assuming that because a member of staff is in the office they are performing.
Managers need to build trust: We encourage managers to realise what level of trust exists already. We get them to recognise that they are not in the office 100% of the time currently, and so they need to build on this inherent trust.
Cara Davani is interim assistant director for people and development at Brent council
It is already working in Brent: We have long supported flexible working arrangements but we have recently refreshed our approach. This was motivated by flexible working becoming the norm for our staff, our move to the new civic centre later this year, becoming a modern organisation and delivering great value for money services. We have taken the bold decision to move away from time recording systems and place greater emphasis on performance outcomes, which we consider to be a far more innovative approach to managing our workforce.