How to manage hybrid working within local authorities

At Matrix Booking, we have been holding regular sessions, both online and in-person, with central and local governments to discuss how they manage hybrid working within their workplace. The key takeaways from the Matrix Booking Hybrid and hubs panel discussions were:

  • Hybrid working is a moving target – it is an ongoing experiment that requires constant monitoring.

  • We are still in the process of adapting our buildings and processes to the way each person works.

  • There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to hybrid working. Different organisations require different solutions and policies.

  • We should be engaging with our employees and finding out what their requirements for the office are.

  • Employees are looking for a reason to come into the office. For example, this could be for training, team building, and collaboration.

  • The more data we have, the more informed we are to make key decisions about the future of our office spaces.

  • Make the office a magnet rather than a mandate. Making the office a hub of collaboration and a hive of activity encourages employees to come into the office.

Understanding hybrid working

What are the benefits of hybrid working?

Hybrid working provides the following benefits to employees and employers:

  1. Improved productivity: studies have shown that hybrid working can lead to increased productivity. Remote working allows employees to have more control over their work environment, reduces distractions, and eliminates commuting time, which can positively impact their focus and output.​

  2. Work-life fusion: say goodbye to the traditional work-life balance struggle. With hybrid working, seamlessly blend your personal and professional life, reclaim valuable time for family, hobbies, and self-care without sacrificing career growth.​

  3. Enhanced employee satisfaction and retention: hybrid working provides employees with flexibility and a better work-life balance, leading to increased job satisfaction. In turn, this can contribute to higher employee retention rates and improved overall wellbeing.​

  4. Cost savings: hybrid working models can result in cost savings for both employees and employers. Employees can save money on commuting expenses and office-related costs and use this money to cover the costs from working at home, while employers can reduce real estate expenses by optimising office spaces or adopting remote-first approaches.​

  5. Reduced carbon footprint: by decreasing commuting and office-related energy consumption, hybrid working can contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions, supporting environmental sustainability goals.

How do we get a good balance between home and office work?

Hybrid working can work well if there is a good balance between home and office work. Where the office is used to create relationships that can be sustained online, this is where organisations can start to have that balance between home and office working.

When employees are using the office, it is important to consider what type of activities need to be supported by the organisation. The key is to avoid the concept of commuter regret, where employees come into the office and found no one is there. This can make it challenging to encourage employees to return.

Organisations need to think ahead and be more proactive about what their employees want the office to be used for and what behaviours they want to encourage within the office. This provides a fulfilling experience for employees whilst in the office.

What value do employees get from the office?

Employees get the following values from the office:

  • Water cooler moments” – where post-meeting discussions can be held.

  • Having one-to-ones with managers and or team members.

  • Spending time with new team members.

  • Taking part in large meetings with multiple participants.

  • Joining workshops or training sessions.

  • Post-work socialisation.

In 2020, the Government Property Agency (GPA) asked Leesman to assess the home working experience of Civil Service employees from a group of departments and agencies that had volunteered to participate in the study. The data the GPA now has on employees’ home working experience form a baseline from which they can accurately start to visualise what the future modernised Civil Service workplace estate could look like and how it could support innovation, enhance cross-departmental collaboration, and promote learning.

The report gave a clear picture of which work activities can be well supported if undertaken at home and which activities are best experienced in an office setting. By unpacking what the office is being used for, organisations can plan more space around this. For example, the Leesman survey showed offices are best used for collaboration, learning from others, social interactions, and hosting clients and visitors. Therefore, the focus should be on increasing space for collaboration and meetings.

Hybrid working in the public sector

Commuter Hubs – Ministry of Justice (MOJ)

One of the early projects before flexible working reached its peak is the The Way We Work Programme lead by the MOJ:

  • A groundbreaking project was launched in 2014 that developed the Commuter Hubs concept. The project would unlock employees from being able to only work from a fixed location and allow booking of desks across a wide range of locations.

  • All assets within the MOJ portfolio were optimised for usage across the country, unlocking workspace closer to people’s homes.

  • A celebrated success story with multiple awards, truly revolutionised what public sector workplace could achieve.

  • Whilst working from a hub isn’t compulsory, they have provided benefits for the MOJ and their employees. It means less time is spent commuting and more time for their families. It also means that their regional properties are used more efficiently.

Find out more about how Matrix Booking supports the MOJ Commuter Hubs

Regional hubs – HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

HMRC had a similar proramme to MOJ:

  • HMRC had a large estate and wanted to consolidate their portfolio from more than 130 buildings across the UK down to 13 regional hubs within city centres.

  • This is one of the largest transformation projects across Europe, involving 60,000 employees. The project is on track to deliver over £300m of savings by 2025.

  • The project hasn’t just had a significant cost saving – it has improved the experience of colleagues within the HMRC.

  • People want to come in and collaborate after collaboration centres were provided with new equipment, leading to high levels of staff engagement.

Find out more about how HMRC are making it easier for employees to collaborate and work flexibly

UK Government hubs network – GPA

Another example of hybrid working in the public sector is the UK government hubs network:

  • The GPA is leading with the UK-wide Government Hubs Network initiative that’s open to all public sector departments​.

  • These Government Hubs are delivering modern, interoperable estates with shared services across all tenants. ​

  • They are vibrant workplaces that have become centres for cross-departmental collaboration.

Download the Government Hub Network brochure to find out more

Staffordshire County Council

Prior to the pandemic:

  • Staffordshire County Council established the Castle House Hub to support its Smart Working initiative​.

  • Castle House Hub was designed to host Newcastle-under-Lyme Local Policing Team and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council staff as tenants​.

  • In under one month after the successful trial with very positive feedback from staff, 1,000 desks were added across four floors at their head office to the Matrix Booking solution​.

  • Kiosks on every floor are used to locate where people are working and book desks immediately.

Find out more how Staffordshire County Council increased employee satisfaction and made cost savings using the Matrix Bookings desk booking system

One Public Estate (OPE) and hybrid working

One Public Estate (OPE) is a UK government programme that aims to encourage collaboration and efficiency within the public sector by optimising the use of public sector land and property. Launched in 2013, it brings together central government departments, local authorities, and other public sector organisations to identify and deliver strategic estate projects that benefit their communities.​

This programme offers several benefits to local authorities:

  • It promotes effective land and property management and helps local authorities identify surplus or underutilised assets that can be repurposed or sold, resulting in cost savings and generating revenue.

  • The programme encourages collaboration between different public sector organisations, enabling shared services and joint initiatives that can lead to improved efficiency. This is done by eliminating underutilised buildings, optimising the use of space and resources, supporting better public service delivery, and reduced duplication of resources.

  • By working together, local authorities can use the collective expertise and resources of the public sector to address local needs and achieve common goals.​

Considering the rise of hybrid working, the One Public Estate programme can have significant impacts:

  • The shift towards hybrid working means that the demands of office space need to be reevaluated as organisations may require fewer traditional office spaces and more flexible working arrangements.

  • Local authorities participating in the programme can use this opportunity to review their estate strategies and optimise their use of physical assets. This may involve repurposing office spaces into hybrid work environments, coworking spaces, or community hubs that support collaborative work and flexible working arrangements.

  • By embracing hybrid working and adapting their estates accordingly, local authorities can unlock the potential for cost savings, increased employee satisfaction, and improved service delivery to the public.

Creating a local authority hub

The One Public Estate programme can encourage these transformations by providing guidance, support, and funding to help local authorities navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by hybrid working.​

Inspired by the idea of the GPA Government Hubs and the Commuter Hubs at MOJ is the example of sharing space with other partner organisations to bring together resources that you have (for example, desks, meeting rooms, floors, or buildings) to reduce cost, improve revenue, and improve workplace choices. At Matrix Booking, we are seeing this trend become successful across the NHS as sharing between trusts, local authorities, and district councils continues to grow.

Multiple tenant organisations sharing one building, its resources, its costs of the lease, and its ongoing operational costs is unlocking potential to further optimise the building portfolio across the public sector. The hub concept provides more employee choice and reduces costs for the local authorities.

The importance of occupancy and utilisation data

Occupancy and utilisation data refers to the information and statistics that measure the usage and effectiveness of a particular space, such as a desk, a desk bank, or an entire office. These metrics are commonly used to assess how a space is being used and to make informed decisions regarding resource allocation, space planning, and operational efficiency.

Desk sharing ratio

One desk per person should be a thing of the past. If organisations don’t factor in utilisation, they will be locked to this ratio of one to one. However, if organisations increase the number of employees that can use one desk, they can reduce the number of desks required.

If an organisation uses a desk booking system, it can promote a hot desking scenario that will optimise their resource portfolio by reducing the number of desks you need. The space that was taken up by the desks can be used for something more useful for their employees. By understanding utilisation rates, organisations can benchmark, forecast, and remodel how much space is needed going forward and what changes can be made to their workplace strategy.

Unlocking the potential for local authorities

In summary:

  • Hybrid working represents a significant opportunity for local authorities to radically rethink how workspace is used​.

  • Public sector hubs can enable local authorities to share space with other public sector tenants, leading to a cost reduction and possible revenue streams.

  • One Public Estate programme can complement both hybrid working and hubs that can deliver real value to staff and communities.

Explore how else Matrix Booking can help you

Employees can search for desks in any of your buildings or shared hubs, find colleagues, make bookings for their team, and more.

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People can find rooms that meet their needs, including location, facilities, capacity, and accessibility. Add equipment, catering, and other essentials. 

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Efficiently manage visitor sign in systems across your sites, ensuring a secure welcome and clear communication of health and safety procedures.

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Powerful reports help you keep track of occupancy levels, usage trends, and more, so that you can continually optimise your estates. 

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