A report published this week has said that smarter working in the public sector through the use of technology such as videoconferencing and tablets is creating increased autonomy among staff.
The report, published by think-tank Reform, focuses on the achievements of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) smart working programme, which is increasing remote working and the use of mobile technology, as well as reducing its estate.
Smarter working practices are "unleashing an autonomy revolution, empowering staff to choose when and how to work,” wrote co-author Daniel El-Gamry (pictured), Reform researcher, in a blog post.
HMRC has provided 25,000 tablets to its 70,000 strong workforce, “giving them a say over the technology they use to ensure it responds to the everyday demands,” according to the report. In this way, staff have more flexibility and autonomy that “challenges traditional ways of working, for example, by giving them tablets to chose how when and where to work," said the report.
“Daniel Pink’s research has found that autonomy motivates employees to think creatively once they are no longer restrained by traditional workplace controls, such as presenteeism. This helps the public sector compete with the private sector because, although it is often unable to offer equivalent pay, autonomy creates a sense of empowerment that can attract the best talent,” wrote El-Gamry.
The report also said that smarter working “represents a culture of collaboration” between teams, gives staff increased flexibility and can boost public sector productivity.
One example is the use of videoconferencing, which HMRC uses to bring together colleagues from different teams and departments across the country, since the department reduced its offices from 600 to 140 nationwide. Over the next decade, this will shrink to just 13 hubs across the country, part of broader government plans to reduce its estate.
“These innovations represent the ability to overcome one of biggest barriers to reform which is the silos between different departments,” said El-Gamry in a video presentation. “And ultimately deliver value for money.”
He added: “Smarter working could help to break down the traditional silos of government, improve public-service delivery and help ensure that the civil service achieves maximum value for every pound spent.”
The report also explains what steps public sector organisations can take to put smarter working into practice and calls for smarter working to prompt a shift in Whitehall leadership, “away from a hierarchical, top-down structure to culture of collaboration, staff empowerment and flexibility.”