Local Authority Property and Estates 2023
Local Authority Property and Estates 2023: Hybrid and hubs panel
Matrix Booking had the pleasure of running another Hybrid and hubs panel discussion at the Local Authority Property and Estates event run by Public Sector Connect on Wednesday 19th April. The event brought together professionals from local authorities to network with their peers and a wide range of public sector advisors and practitioners.
Our panel was hosted by Joe Harris (Enterprise Sales Director) and consisted of the following members:
Andrew Stirling – Head of Property, Essex County Council
Michael Hardman – Property and Development Manager, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
Ruth Smethurst – Customer Experience Lead, Workplace Services, Government Property Agency
Ade Alao – Head of Major Projects, Department for Work and Pensions
Matthew Saunders – Director of Estates and Business Services, West Yorkshire Police
The following questions were asked during our panel discussions:
How has hybrid working and the past three years changed the way you work at your department?
One panel member recalls there being a quick shift into working from home as a result of the Covid restrictions. After this, not only were employees worried about working in the office because of the pandemic, but also faced the anxiety of going back to work in an office five days a week as they were starting to enjoy working from home. Employees found real benefits from the flexibility as it lead to improvements in wellness and happiness in the form on work life balance as well as reduction in their carbon footprint.
This led our panel to ask the question: “where do we go next?” There has been a surge in companies trialing four-day weeks. As a result, we need to consider what properties and estates that were developed to work 9:00am to 5:00pm five days a week will look like.
Our panel moved on to discuss the quality of experience. The focus has now shifted to review how the office space is allocated as it is being used less by employees. More value is required for them to attend the office as the requirement now leans towards more collaborative work than individual tasks. The change in space required has moved from individual desks to:
break out spaces
areas for private calls
What lessons can be learned from the use of Government Hubs and shared spaces?
One of our panel members highlighted that learned behaviours are hard to change. Before Covid, workers located in an office had been either allocated a desk or their own office. Office workers could control their own space.
However, this is no longer the case with shared spaces. Shared spaces require a new behaviour where individuals are less attached to property or space. Our panel found that this has been an easy change to adapt to for some workers; others have needed more time to adapt and better understand the environment in which they work best. The panel discussed how building a sense of community within shared hubs is key to being open with peers about how the office space can be used to help deliver the best work in these spaces.
Our panel turned to look at how you can use change management to win the hearts and minds of office workers. Change management involves the planning and introduction of new processes and new methods of working. With effective change management, changes are handled quickly and have the lowest possible impact on the quality of services being delivered. Finding a Change Champion (someone who can see the benefits of shared spaces in working together) to build one public estate can help drive forward the change to a shared space. This is something our panel felt needed time and attention to ensure the mental wellbeing and welfare of employees are catered for. Within a shared space, there will be different needs that the space must cater for (for example, one-to-ones and group meetings).
How do you train graduates and apprentices from home?
During the panel, we took a question from our audience about the challenges of training graduates and apprentices when they are working from home. Our panellists suggested the following approaches:
Ensure you block out time in your diary to mentor graduates and apprentices, whether in-person or virtually.
Find someone who can mentor and support the graduate or apprentice face-to-face – provide them with an opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues directly if you can’t.
Provide introductions to various departments during their first three to six months – building these relationships is key as the graduate or apprentice will learn when and how they can reach out for help.
Set a clear plan of what you want them to achieve when working from home.
How do you allow for those that struggle with hybrid working to work effectively?
One of our audience members mentioned that they struggled with working from home due to being in a shared house and not having the space required to take private calls whilst also battling with internet connectivity issues. They pointed out that hybrid working doesn’t work for everyone. Our panel members suggested to:
Ensure there is a strategy for each member of the team – some will decide they want to be in the office more than others.
Ensure those working from home have regular visits to an office or site – recognise that soft skills are often developed through face-to-face interactions (for example, team working and communication).
Matrix Booking at Local Authority Property and Estates
At Matrix Booking, we have supported innovative and forward-thinking workplace management projects in the public sector throughout the past decade, including the introduction and continued expansion of the Government Hub Network. In addition to the hybrid and hubs panel, we are looking forward to exhibiting at this event to demonstrate how our resource booking platform is helping local authority professionals to maximise the use of their properties and estates. Our experts will be on hand to discuss your resource management needs and ambitions.
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