Hull City Council

WorkSmart Programme

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

The WorkSmart Programme was established to create a modern, comfortable and less costly environment and to change the underlying culture so that it can succeed. WorkSmart is about using technology and office design to ultimately reduce our building needs through better use of space, but it is also very much about promoting, productivity, value for money and an excellent work-life balance for staff. The WorkSmart Programme is an innovative programme which sets a great example of what a council-wide change programme can achieve when internal delivery partners come together to create a transformed, flexible and can-do culture .The membership includes representatives from across the council.

This programme has enabled staff to work smartly seizing on the latest developments within technology, people and place.
– Place – Redefining the workplace to enable more collaborative approach, enhance flexibility and provide greater choice.
– Technology – Introducing technology and hardware to support staff to work more productively and dynamically.
– People – Supporting new working culture by engaging with staff, gathering intelligence and updating policies and procedures.

The local government workforce is changing. We want staff to be motivated and engaged, who have the right attitude and skills, to deliver customer focused, flexible services. Councils need to manage and motivate their workforce to increase productivity and transform local public services, this programme is driving this forward.
Key principles and benefits:
– Enable work to take place at the most effective times, at the most effective locations.
– Staff will be trusted and have more choice about how they work as long as this meets the need of the service.
– We should encourage staff to have an optimum work-life balance.
–  New collaboration technology will reduce the need to always have physical meetings.
–  Designing our workspaces to facilitate choice and flexibility.
–  Having the flexibility to work within our communities, where the people who need us live.
–  Workplaces enabled for sustainable travel, encouraging active travel and an environment that supports the green agenda.

The local government workforce is changing. We want staff to be motivated and engaged, who have the right attitude and skills, to deliver customer focused, flexible services. Councils need to manage and motivate their workforce to increase productivity and transform local public services, this programme is driving this forward.

What are the key achievements?

This programme will bring tangible benefits which are still in the process of being realised, these include reduction in building costs, capital receipts, mileage payments and paper. There are also the intangible benefits that this programme contributes to which includes an increase in job satisfaction, positive recruitment, customer satisfaction,  skills and productivity. Also, seeing a reduction in sickness rates, staff turnover and stress risk within the workplace. To embed culture and behavioral change the programme has successfully:

People –
– Delivered 19 Role of the Manager sessions with 150 attendees supporting managers to manage staff working remotely.
– Development of WorkSmart Protocols and Principles, and Team protocols.
– Creation of guidance and tools to support staff with regular communications being issued via Hull Talk and Managers Hub newsletters.
– Delivered nine WorkSmart engagement sessions to managers and staff in 2021 with 490 attendees. The feedback from these sessions is being used to continue to support staff and managers.
– Leading on the Future Work Design Project for Hull City Council ‘LGC award winners 2021’ under the digital impact category.

Technology –
– 2,200 laptops and flexible desk set ups deployed between July 2018 and February 2020. This included comprehensive on-site one to one.
– Handovers and dedicated team to support the transition to new equipment.
– Pre-WorkSmart, less than 20% of ICT users had access to a laptop (includes shared and pooled) Post-rollout, over 75% of ICT users now have their own laptop.
– Teams rolled out to over 1’500 ICT users as part of the response to the pandemic.
– Creation of training materials, intranet pages, self-service learning, virtual classroom sessions and one to one support for the organisation to support transition to virtual workplace.
– Over 100 dedicated training sessions with teams across the organisation and countless ad-hoc responses to queries.
– Engaged with the organisation to understand and determine the priority requirements from M365 to support business processes, communication and training.
– More than 3,500 ICT users have transitioned to M365 in the second half of 2021.
– Recruitment, training and management of over 160 M365 champions to support their services with adoption, training, support and communications.

Place –
– Development of satellite locations across the city for staff to drop in.
– Relocation of staff to new buildings under the WorkSmart Principles.
– Re-designing office space to introduce collaboration space to support staff with choice and flexibility.
– Development of a ‘Future Office Space Strategy’ to review and make better use of our office estate.
– 13 property projects involving 1,617 staff this involves engagement sessions, business cases and development of guidance under the WorkSmart principles.

Due to the WorkSmart Programme enabling over 2,500 employees, we were quickly able to shift to new working practices when the pandemic began. The roll-out of M365 meant that staff were able to continue to engage with colleagues, partners and customers. The Future Work Design Project looked at the challenges and benefits of working from home, the outcomes of this work was fed into the WorkSmart programme which resulted in etiquette documents, health and well-being guidance being produced and shared across the authority.

How innovative is your initiative?

Collaboration, joint working, innovation and commitment from all of the team has allowed us to develop the tools and guidance to support staff to work flexibly. This has put us in an excellent position to not only rationalise our estate, but also fundamentally improve our processes because we’ve enabled and supported a change in culture first which has created excitement and motivation to maximise the tools and bring about transformation within the workforce. In 2020, the WorkSmart Programme enabled the council to react very quickly to a shift to home working due to the pandemic. Further support was provided to staff working from home including the roll out of Microsoft Teams, technical support and guidance. Health and safety guidance was provided to support staff working from home to make them aware of the importance of taking breaks, posture and staying in touch with colleagues. The pandemic brought benefits for the programme as it pushed us a lot further forward than we expected. An important part of culture change is engagement and embedding new behaviors. Throughout 2021 extensive engagement has been carried out with both managers and staff to re-inform them about the WorkSmart principles, the tools available and listen to new ideas and barriers. This informed us that staff want to sustain a hybrid model of working. To deliver this during the pandemic it had to be delivered virtually. To do this successfully we had to come up with innovative ways to ensure that staff were engaged, this included fully utilising new Microsoft tools including Forms and Polls. This was well received. Although, we have seen benefits from staff working from home we also know that this comes with challenges with staff reporting concerns about back-to-back meetings, not switching off from work and the expectation to be available at all times.

To sustain these ways of working we need to look at how we can address these challenges. The Future Work Design Project(LGC Award Winner Digital Impact category 2021) is identifying these challenges and looking at how we can support staff’s health and wellbeing to retain a hybrid model of working. We recognise that due to a cultural-shift in the way staff foresee their working arrangements, along with insight gained through our response to covid-19, bolstered by the introduction of new technology there will be a reduced amount of need for office space in the future. This supports the Corporate Estate Strategy to reduce our property portfolio. The WorkSmart Programme is creating a reduced estate that is fit for future purpose, which is attractive and more easily maintained. WorkSmart are continuously developing Satellite Locations and supporting the development of Community Hubs supporting place making and the Digital Inclusion Strategy. Staff being based or touching down to work within the community supporting the most vulnerable.

To support the workforce with more flexibility, we are transforming our office environment with the introduction of new, modern and interactive furniture. It is important as a culture that staff return to the office and that this supports both physical and digital needs. This will enable better collaboration between colleagues, and it will offer opportunities to share, create and communicate in a way accustomed to modern ways of working. We are working alongside our colleagues to support the green agenda by encouraging active travel, introducing better shower facilities, bike storage, reviewing our travel plans and working together to identify the locations that staff work to introduce electric points. The key for WorkSmart is that we create a can-do culture of flexibility and trust. As part of our engagement, we capture the barriers that are preventing staff working flexibly. Engagement is informing us that a high barrier is managers. Therefore, a key part of our current engagement plan is focused on managers, understanding what the barriers are and how we can support managers to optimize WorkSmart.

It is important that the work we are undertaking supports staff’s wellbeing, we are introducing safe and healthy environments that create a happy and productive culture. This includes introducing furniture that encourages staff to move and work at different workstations to help get blood moving and increases motivation.
Where appropriate, we are introducing new technology which allows us to collaborate better with colleagues, internal and external partners plus stakeholders. This has improved attendance from partners due to reduced or no travel time and enabled more meetings virtually to take place resulting in partnership work progressing.
Within Children and Young People Services the implementation phase of the Signs of Safety was able to progress with intense training during the pandemic due to staff having the technology to attend these remotely. This was important to help to improve practice and outcomes for children.

What are the key learning points?

The concepts and technicalities for both these example innovations can undoubtedly be replicated. The key perceived hearts and minds anxieties need to be managed, RPA innovation must always be considered as a method for appropriately refocusing existing skills to areas which require the attention of a skilled, experienced individual. The key pitfall from internal customers is always a failure to recognise the initial investment of time required to take existing processes to an automated outcome. Both knowledge of the business process and a handover of the technical ‘clicks’ is needed before the implementation team can create their product. Then time taken to test and iron out the glitches is critical to ongoing success.

During the summer months, the WorkSmart Project Team held 9 engagement sessions, 2 were specifically aimed at managers and 7 for all staff, overall attendance was 490. Throughout the sessions they were asked for feedback in relation to a number of questions related to smart working and in particular the organisations corporate WorkSmart programme. The sessions were broken down into 3 main categories, people, place, and technology. The key objectives from the engagement sessions were to gather useful information on the levels of understanding ofWorkSmart including some of the specifics related to each of the categories and, to understand any potential barriers impacting on staff and managers being able to work effectively under the remit of WorkSmart. It was also an opportunity for the WorkSmart project team to receive constructive feedback in relation to the programme, in order to support any future changes to implementation, guidance, training and policy.

The WorkSmart team have reviewed the results along with other feedback received from the engagement sessions to determine next steps and the areas of focus moving forward. One of the main lessons learnt for the programme and our engagement has shown us, is that we need to provide further support to managers to adopt and embrace smarter working. Some of the challenges have been not empowering staff, under utilising the technology and lack of trust in their staff. Our next stage is to carry out more targeted work with managers to maximise the benefits of smarter working by:
– Facilitating small engagement sessions on request with specific teams where the need has been identified.
– Refresh the E-learning content to support managers with implementation of policy and practice.
– Provide additional targeted support to managers where appropriate and how best to use the technology to manage more effectively.
– Link WorkSmart to the council’s Leadership and Management training.
– Include WorkSmart in the induction processes for new managers starting with the Council.
– Future links to incorporate WorkSmart practices within Future Work Design, Mental Health Initiative, and the Neuro DiversityGroup.

This learning has been shared with other local authorities ‘Future Ways of Working’ forum which is now opening up wider to include regional local authorities. As part of this group we have been sharing the challenges that we have faced as part of this programme, the lessons learnt and how we are overcoming these obstacles. The feedback about the programme has been very positive, with staff excited about the changes that the programme has brought opening up more opportunities to be flexible and offering a better service to our residents. The staff themselves are benefiting from improved work-life balance, with reduced commuting bringing increased productivity.
One of the challenges is staff understanding that the objective of WorkSmart is to enable staff to work more smartly, and that although the pandemic has shifted the programme a lot further forward then we expected, we do want staff to remain working at home 100% of the time. The office space is still very important and we want to encourage staff to return to the office place. However, to support this we are making the office space more attractive and enhancing collaboration by introducing collaborative furniture. Another challenge is staff adapting to desk sharing and clear desks to support flexible working this has taken culture change, we have had to ensure that the right equipment is available on the desks and introduced lockers and personal storage solutions. Producing team protocols and building protocols has supported staff with these new behaviors. A key learning from the virtual engagement sessions was that we had members of staff who attended required interpreters, a lessons learnt was that we need to think differently about how we conduct the sessions and tailor these to the needs of the audiences.