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Future plans for agile and blended working

Thomas provides an update on future plans for agile and blended working.

Thomas Reaney, Head of Service (Recovery and Renewal), answers our questions on how working life may look over the coming months and years.

What steps have been taken following the survey that over 1000 employees completed last year?

A Project Board, including representation from the Trade Unions, is in place to take this initiative forward under the Project title of ‘Our Future Working Environment’ and this is supplemented with a cross service, multi-disciplined Project Team.

The plan is to supplement this with further engagement at a service level with staff on what we’ve learned from the project so far, discuss the developing principles and how they can be refined

through to potential implementation.  This will cover topics such as work styles, equipment, IT needs and any service specific issues. Once we’ve agreed the principles of a new way of working it will be rolled out across service teams. It’s clear from the results of the staff survey that the overwhelming majority of staff prefer a flexible, blended approach to future working with their time split between the office and working remotely, where it is possible to do so.


What do we need to consider going forward?

Whilst it is important to take into account individual staff wishes regarding their working arrangements, customer and service needs also need to be considered. Some posts can work easily remotely, however there are others that, due to the nature of their role, require to be present in the workplace.

Our current Agile Working Guide provides information on categories of work styles. This guide and the work styles are being reviewed and updated to reflect our current situation and further discussions will take place with each Head of Service and their Senior Management Teams.

It’s also really important to consider issues such as having a suitable workstation and equipment for remote working. At the onset of the lockdown staff were encouraged to take home the equipment they needed to work remotely and during the pandemic we have introduced other initiatives such as a ‘free desk’ delivered to your home. If remote and blended working is to become the norm as we emerge from the pandemic we have to ensure staff have suitable equipment/workspace. We’re working on developing a recommended list of equipment to support the way that we will work.

New guidance on the use of printers in the workplace will also be created to ensure we don’t fall back into the bad habit of unnecessarily printing documents we perhaps don’t need to print. Lets keep those good environmental practices going.


What do you see as the main benefits of developing new ways of working?

There are many benefits of this and we need to reflect and learn from the pandemic and take into account the views expressed through the Staff Survey. Working differently and with more flexibility will help the environment with less travelling to the office and/or meetings and it will also help staff with their work/life balance. We’ve done a remarkable job this past year delivering public services remotely throughout the pandemic and we shouldn’t lose sight of this achievement. If we’ve made improvements to working practices or processes through the pandemic we should continue with them post Covid.


How will the project evolve?

In-depth analysis of each Service teams requirement is being formulated and will result in a plan for the transition to a new way of working. As I said earlier, further engagement will take place with staff as we move through this journey. It’s so important we do this together and listen and learn.


When are we likely to be back in the office?

We are still dealing with the pandemic and the Scottish Government expect an easing of restrictions from April through to late June 2021. At this stage it’s too early to forecast when we can return to the office in a post-Covid world.  The Scottish Government have suggested an indicative date of the end of June 2021 for a phased return of some office staff but we don’t know if this will include additional measures or if capacity will be limited. The decision on this is likely to be taken at very short notice to give the Government time to review the latest scientific advice about the virus.

What we don’t want to do is rush back into the office until we are absolutely sure the virus is receding and its safe to do so. We all recognise the need to move carefully so that we don’t require a further lockdown in the future. I don’t think anyone would welcome short notice either, so whilst the Government may ease some of the restrictions in respect of returning to the office, we will develop a plan that enables a phased return over a period of months from any Government announcement. The plan will ensure service provision is maintained whilst embracing the opportunities afforded by remote and blended working in a way that is best for our staff and residents.


How can I find out more about progress with the Project?

Heads of Service and Managers will be in regular discussion with their teams to find a way that works best in the provision of services and, where possible, provides flexibility for staff. Regular communication will also be posted through Staff Talk and News in Brief. It is planned to issue a monthly update on this subject as we know staff are interested in this work and want to be involved in shaping how we work in the future. The Project Team have even developed new branding for the project, see below, so when you see this you’ll know its an update on this project.

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