IT departments have stepped up during lockdown and have shown what is possible. Conceptually, none of the flexible working technology is new or innovative, it has just been used differently and on a much wider scale. It has shown which teams can work effectively without being in the same office, what functions can be carried out from home and conversely which can’t. After 4 months of seeing what change could be like there are 3 questions that need to be asked again to shape the future:
- Do you need to be in an office with other team members?
- Do you have any practical problems with working at home?
- Is IT the issue if you have answered yes to either of the above?
These are questions that flexible and mobile working change programmes have been asking for the past 10 years or more. The benefits to individuals and their organisation have been well rehearsed over that time and while some have embraced mobile and flexible working, others have resisted – people not wanting to be isolated, managers uncomfortable not having their team where they can see them etc. Lockdown has forced people to adopt new ways of working and having experienced it in practice the answers to the questions will be different now from what they would have been pre lockdown.
Most councils already have flexible and mobile working policies many of which have been used and refined over several years. So now may be a good opportunity to review them to see if they will be fit for purpose and ready to be applied more widely. With policies and IT ready to go what could the post lockdown world look like?
There is no one solution that will fit every role but a default that many companies have adopted is providing every employee with a secure laptop that can be used to access information and systems wherever there is WiFi. From the user’s perspective they open their laptop, connect to the WiFi and get the same service whether they are in an office, at home or (with some limitations) in a café.
Lockdown has given an opportunity for more people to recognise the benefits and embed flexible and mobile working as the norm. Followed through to the full, it will deliver the work/life benefits to employees and efficiency savings on property, travel and IT that it has always promised.
by Ian Wilcox, Public Sector Strategist.