23rd Mar 2012
A flexible working project at Wakefield Council has slashed costs and significantly boosted staff productivity since the first phase was introduced two years ago.
The Council’s 'Worksmart' transformation programme is based on a property rationalisation initiative, introducing citizen-focused service guidelines and enabling all 2,500 employees to work more flexibly.
Rationalising office space has saved the local authority £1.4m, while more effective ways of working have resulted in £200,000 of efficiency savings. Wakefield has also saved £100,000 by reducing the number of telephone land lines by 60%, but the introduction of flexible working practices has saved a huge 225,000 commuter miles per year, the equivalent of 65 tons of CO2.
The second phase of the programme, which is scheduled to start this summer, will see the Council opening a new facility, dubbed Wakefield One, which will become its primary customer contact centre. The facility will provide a hot-desking environment for up to 850 staff, including well-equipped touchdown rooms (drop-in rooms) in an attempt to boost flexible working take-up and productivity further.
Alan Kirkham, the Council's service director for ICT & procurement, said that certain factors were key to making flexible working programmes successful:
1. Get rid of paper and fixed telephone lines
“These are the two things that tie people to a desk. We don’t ban paper, but we don’t provide much of a paper storage facility. And we have rationalised the number of printing devices – it makes people think before they print."
2. Take an holistic approach
“It has to be a corporate project, whereby finance, HR, property management and facilities management all work together. Everything is captured in terms of policies and savings. You have to look at how people work and don’t treat it as a technology project."
3. Get buy-in
“Make sure you have senior management and elective member support, which we did from the outset. A highly robust business case encompassing all business and financial benefits helps hugely to make members supportive."
4. Get employees engaged
“We had a big programme with staff which included news, workshops, team meetings. We have a structured training and support plan that starts four weeks before they go onto the new technology. Try to match the flexible working offering to the working style of the employee."
5. Make sure the infrastructure is sound
“You must have the technology infrastructure in place to support a large number of flexible workers.”