The role of tech in the government ‘future normal’ workplace

7th October 2020

Ian Holden, Managing Director for Digital at Civica, discusses what the future of work may look like for the UK’s government employees and the role technology will play.

The world of work has been shifting towards a more flexible culture for the past decade. But COVID-19 looks set to permanently shift working patterns as technology enables employees to work from home as efficiently as they do so in the office.

While councils are already embracing agile working practices and have developed digital services to deliver a faster and more efficient response, their service delivery will have to be re-evaluated in a post-COVID light for the revised needs of service users and employees. The big question for council leaders will be whether long-term technological developments can help them push towards a more flexible, working-from-home and serviced-at-home model?

Pivoting to a digital future

So, what does the local government workplace of the future look like? We will no doubt see office space reduced considerably, as councils seek further rent reductions on top of the savings already made. With 68% of British employees saying they are more productive working remotely, it’s also an opportunity to re-evaluate the importance of the office, with an eye on maximising productivity and staff satisfaction.

Nevertheless, an ageing population will mean that councils need to retain human connection and avoid complete automation. Soft skills - which are already fundamental to working in local government - will become even more important as staff spend more time engaging with older people, some of whom may be isolated. Our own research “A Word from the Wise” found that the over 70s are comfortable using technology, but as it advances, there must be a focus on educating the elderly and scaling up digital inclusion programmes to ensure all citizens are able to access government services online.

Digital skills and tools will be crucial

Efficient management of data will aid better workforce decision making, improving transparency between leaders and employees. By using a cloud-based people system, councils will better understand their employees. This true understanding and support of employees could ultimately lead to reduced employee churn and enhanced productivity. Better connected employees lead to a happier and more satisfied workforce, which results in a more efficient delivery of public services – an absolute necessity during these turbulent times.

Council leaders should also look to other public sector organisations to see how they’re adapting to the ‘new normal.’ For example, Southern Health & Social Care Trust has developed a communications app called Connect to distribute vital information to employees, some of whom do not always have access to corporate systems. Examples like this show how technology can help unite disparate teams and enable joined-up communications – particularly important for many local government organisations battling against a ‘siloed mentality’.

Tech as an enabler for real business change

Change will not happen overnight, but COVID-19 has certainly highlighted the importance of technology in connecting local and global communities. Using digital tools to collaborate and partner across local government, suppliers, voluntary organisations, and the community has proved an effective model in delivering services to those with the greatest need in times of crisis.

The challenge for us all is to maintain the digital progress we have made during this crisis and to take it one step further by moving all services online via interoperable cloud-based systems. This will enable employees and citizens to engage and communicate efficiently and securely wherever and whenever it suits.

A Word from the Wise

We believe that by working together, technology can improve public services for everyone. So we took the time to listen to the over 70s in our community. This is what they said...

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