Over the past months we’ve seen millions of workers ditch the daily commute and 9-5 in the office to work from home. In his latest blog, C.Co’s John Knight looks at how the current context has necessitated a behaviour change and what this means for the future of the public service workforce.
All across the country millions of staff have had to work very differently overnight. And what’s more, managers had no choice but to trust them to do it. We’ve been speaking to local authority leaders across the country who had to change the behaviour of their nine to five, at-the-desk-and-visible staff into a flexible, empowered and digitally enabled workforce. And guess what, it’s going really well.
So why wasn’t this type of working happening more widely already? There are three key components to behaviour change:
- People need the opportunity – the physical infrastructure and permissions – to change.
- People need the capability – the skills and aptitude – to make the change.
- And people need motivation – they need to want to change and see what’s in it for them.
It’s only when you get all three elements in sync that the behaviour change happens.
In terms of the opportunity, the physical infrastructure – a half decent laptop and internet connection is something that most organisations have had in place for years now, so that is clearly not what has been stopping the change. The permission to work from home and to work differently has been missing in some authorities. Many senior managers, and local councillors, still operate in a presentee culture, where if you are not at your desk looking busy you are not ‘doing work’. Lockdown has forced that to shift, and according to many reports it’s working.
Motivation for individuals has sometimes been missing. Humans are creatures of habit and coming into the office has been something comfortable and difficult to imagine doing differently. But now it is happening people are finding they really rather like it. They can forget the commute and get straight to work, flex their time around other commitments and still get everything done. When it works well, it’s better for the organisation and better for the individual. One Chief Executive recently reported to me an interesting fact that staff sickness has dropped to virtually zero during this period.
The last factor is capability. Whilst Zoom, Teams, Skype and the like are all pretty straightforward to use and work well for team meetings and catch ups, there is an art to working from home. Although I have been working ‘en plein air’ (well without a head office) for about the last 15 years, I still remember having to learn the skill of working that way. It takes a different mindset and a different set of disciplines. It does not suit all of the people all of the time, and organisations should invest in understanding the requirements and ensuring they have the protocols and support in place to help staff.
So when we go back to what ever the new normal will be, organisations should learn from the best of what worked and make an honest appraisal of what could have worked better and why. They can end up with a happier, healthier workforce and a more efficient and effective organisation.
At C.Co, we help organisations transform workplaces, whether its exploring how clients use their assets (offices) to supporting workforces to adopt flexible and mobile working through policy, process, people and technology change. We help clients understand their vision for their workforce / workplace, engage staff and customers impacted by change and prioritise action to deliver change at scale and pace. Wherever you are in your change journey, we can support you to achieve.
To find out more, visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org