Government lauds Whitehall smart-working pioneers

Written by Richard Johnstone on 28 February 2019 in News
News

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden praises projects he sees as ‘example to follow’ for others

Credit: PA

Five government bodies and one local authority have been named as the winners of fourth annual smarter working awards.

The awards event, held at BT Tower this week, recognised best practice in the civil service as part of its aim to create working environments that empower staff and make best use of workplaces and technology, while also realising savings for the taxpayer.

Winners at the event included the Defence Infrastructure Organisation in the corporate leadership category, which recognised the work of senior executives in the Ministry of Defence agency in actively adopted smarter working behaviours to leads the change across the organisation. This has helped catalyse reforms that have reduced the size of the DIO estate while also improving how it works with customers.

Members of DIO's executive committee are now more likely to be seen working at a breakout space than in a private office, and all senior managers in the organisation are mandated to set Smarter Working practices with their teams, giving their people the opportunity to work differently and from a location that suits the task. This had boosted the organisation’s efficiency, with staff reporting that they are 3% more productive per year.

The winner in the workplace category was the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for its Our Future Workplace programme, under which the department implemented a new approach to the department’s historic 100 Parliament Street headquarters to deal with the department’s fast-growing headcount as it took on new responsibilities. The scheme used innovative smart working design to find solutions to the capacity crunch, as well as working with staff to improve the use of smart working across the department.


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The technology award was won by the GCHQ for its work in developing a solution to implement smart working across the organisation while maintaining the security standards needed for an intelligence and security organisation.

GCHQ introduced a number of transformative technology changes in the department's history to allow for more collaborative and cloud-based working, with innovative technology used to support the principles of smarter working across the organisation.

The culture and people award was won by the Welsh Government’s Merthyr Tydfil pilot, which was set up to test flexible working approaches in the office. The award recognised that intensive staff engagement took place ahead of the pilot period, and the work that was undertaken with trade union representatives to create simplified HR policies, including the removal of core hours. The pilot has led to Merthyr Tydfil becoming the Welsh Government’s most engaged office, according to the Civil Service People Survey, with 92% reporting that they are able to effectively deliver their work whilst working flexibly and 68% reporting reduced sickness absence, creating a blueprint for similar approaches across the Welsh Government.

The smarter working together award was won by the Ministry of Justice for its work in supporting the implementation of policies across government. An early adopter of smarter working, the department has been involved in the Smart Working Delivery Board, Programme Board and Practitioner Group that has helped shape cross-government policy, while also helping in the Work Smart workshops at Civil Service Live 2018 and developing a smarter working 'playbook'.

"Smarter working has my support and support from the very top of government, and I want to stress my personal commitment to it."
Oliver Dowden, minister for implementation

The final judges award, which is given to the award nominee with the best overall performance against the principles of smart working, went to North Lincolnshire Council’s WorkWell scheme, which has changed entirely how the council uses office spaces in order to improve the local authority’s use of office space.

WorkWell has resulted in a number of council properties being released with significant cost savings, while over half (55%) of all staff now choose to work from non-council owned spaces regularly.

'An example to follow'
Speaking at the ceremony, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said that highlighting these examples of best practice was vital if the government is to meet the target in the Government Estate Strategy of ensuring that departments and executive agencies work in line with the British Standards Institute Smart Working code of practice by 2022, with 70% of organisations reaching that mark by 2020. To help deliver this change, we will establish a centre of excellence and develop common tools across all sectors to support implementation.

Smarter working is about “better work life balance and creating a better place to work”, he said. “Ultimately a more attractive civil service encourages more people to want to work with us in our business of government”.

He acknowledged that the targets to roll out smart working across the civil service would be difficult but added that he was personally committed to driving reform.

“I am here to reiterate that smarter working has my support and support from the very top of government, and I want to stress my personal commitment to it,” he said “To the finalists, I say congratulations on being nominated and thank you for the work you are doing. What you have achieved so far is very impressive, but please also take this opportunity to keep getting better. Keep networking across government – we need your example to follow as the smarter working programme moves into the implementation phase across the civil service. The drive enthusiasm and passion that you have demonstrated is exactly what we need across the government as a whole.”

 

About the author

Richard Johnstone is deputy and online editor of PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where this story first appeared. He tweets as @CSW_DepEd.

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