21st Century Office & Worksmart

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Last week saw the delivery of our Public Sector Nomads 21st Century Office event, showcasing Rotherham MBC’s flagship building.

Rotherham staff gave a frank and honest account of their WorkSmart Strategy implementation and delegate feedback was extremely positive.

I always feel quite privileged to be sitting in on these events where I can pick up great snippets of learning to share with others.

The presentations are available on the website, which give the technical details etc. but the main points I noted during the presentations were:-

The Building / Assets

From Paul Smith, Estates and WorkSmart Manager

  • It is first and foremost a change project – Rotherham quickly became aware that this was actually a change project, not an accommodation project, with accommodation being just one element of it.
  • What will the public think? – Combining a customer service centre with the public library in one building was viewed favorably by the Rotherham public,  and this helped justify the initial spending.
  • Think about ‘designing in’ behaviours – for example, Rotherham designed their private non-bookable meeting rooms not to be suitable for more than an hour (they are small with no windows).
  • If possible, have a goods lift! – It may seem like a simple thing, but we have seen how decanting staff into buildings where work is ongoing on other floors can create havoc with people just trying to get to their floor for work. A goods lift would have really helped!
  • Decant is a major project in its own right, so treat it as such – As far as possible get people working in the new ways before moving. Rotherham worked on one move per week, providing a chance to learn at each decant and implement improvements for the next.
  • Don’t forget work and costs to decommission and hold vacated buildings – whoever is in charge of budgeting MUST factor this in.

Once you get the building right, if there is a need to move people around within it, as stated by Paul: “Now we move people, not the furniture”. Now that has to be less hassle!

From Richard Copley – ICT Manager

I got a real sense of pragmatism from Richard. No complicated hang-ups regarding whether things could be possible from a data security issue.  That’s not to say that he doesn’t take data security seriously though.

  • Devices should be enabling and what people want, not restricted“BYOD is brilliant from my perspective you just need good policies and the right technology”.
  • Knowing where your staff are – Everyone from the Chief Exec down have open MS Outlook calendars.  Change practices around what people type in the meeting entries, to support the privacy requirements so that everyone CAN implement this policy.
  • But… do clients need to know where they are? – When dealing with calls, people don’t actually need to know where you are working from, just that you are dealing with their needs. You just need the right telephony!
  • Pay attention to the small stuff – Ensure staff remember to use the mute button when not talking but listening on a conference call (a very small, but not insignificant point!); Locate desk power points actually on the desks, not underneath, so people don’t have to crawl about under the desks. Remember, power cables change with devices, so you can’t get around this by having the power cable always available on a desk.
  • Printing costs will reduce through transparency of printer info – Rotherham saw a 45% reduction in print volumes through implementing new working and having granular print billing details.
  • Free WiFi is a win/win – Free citizen WiFi draws citizens in and also supports staff and partners or suppliers visiting the building.
  • Remote access technology increases organizational resilience – As Richard stated: “The fact that people don’t need to come to the building to work makes us incredibly resilient”. The flooding in Rotherham certainly makes this a poignant note.

The People

From Theresa Caswell – HR Programme Manager

  • Make sure you know what success will look like – Quote from Theresa: “We didn’t want a ‘lift and shift’ exercise, we wanted tangible benefits”
  • Give everyone the facts – Produce a ‘myth buster’ guide to ensure everyone was in receipt of the right facts.
  • Empower staff – by involving them in decisions which they are able to influence.  For example, it was the staff who determined the final colours.
  • Really get to know what their roles involve – Creating a diary analysis/Day In the Life Of for specific job roles is extremely useful.
  • Set targets that are owned – If teams can’t make the reduction targets, escalate the targets up to the department, and if necessary up to the directorate. That way, managers have individual and collective ownership of the delivery.
  • Travelling expenses is a big FAQ area – Deal with car parking and travel issues and support staff in them where necessary.
  • Ensure the PDR system is fit for purpose – so you can ensure staff performance can be monitored effectively when working to the new ways.
  • Have a dedicated communications manager – if possible, for external and internal communications.
  • Trade unions are really important – Make sure they have the right information at the right time, as they can help dispel the myths directly for staff.

When talking about the worksmart policies, Theresa said: “A lot of the time it is just formalizing current ways of working”. You may find that many of your staff are already unofficially working in new ways, but not admitting to it!

An employee perspective – From Nigel Hancock, Development Manager

In the ‘new ways of working’ areas we have looked at, Planning Services tend to have a reputation for being the least likely to jump on board with electronic ways of working. They are traditionally used to dealing with paper files, and large scale maps, diagrams etc.  A walk around Rotherham’s building would leave you puzzled as to where the planners are sitting. Their area looks no different to any of the others.

So how was this achieved?  According to Nigel the key was dealing with the workflow, and getting people working in the new ways prior to moving.

They reduced the workflow before they made it electronic.  Classic BPR practice, but nevertheless most important.  Once the workflow is reduced and electronic, this paves the way for ‘anywhere working’.

Rotherham recognized that there are actually benefits to being electronic, for example, electronic plans can be ‘zoomed in’, and QR codes can be used to engage public re: viewing applications.

The rate of success is impressive.  According to Nigel all case workers accepted the new ways of working, and planners can now work from anywhere.

They are not afraid of trying new things, but accepting where the ‘old’ style still has a place.  Currently they are trialling tablets on site instead of plans, but still use plans where necessary.

To quote Nigel, they are, “Not totally paperless but more like a ‘normal’ office”.

In the Q&A session, Nigel was asked, “Are you a typical representative service”. This was a very good question.  They certainly seem like one of the more ‘up for it’ services, and Rotherham realized this and ensured they were able to demonstrate that it CAN work for one of the (arguably) hardest areas to make electronic to fit new ways of working.  This leaves me with the last piece of advice…

Find your ‘up for it’ services and support them working in new ways as soon as possible.  Let them trail blaze for you.

Thanks go to Rotherham MBC and in particular Paul and Theresa.  I should also mention that the New York Stadium proved to be a fantastic venue.


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