A mobile workforce can transform your council. Here’s how mobile is enabling public sector innovation and improved services.
A new local authority workforce
Austerity and cutbacks are putting services at risk – everything from provision for children and vulnerable people to health and social care is under threat. But heads of services can see off the effects of the cuts and improve services if they look at creating a more effective workforce.
Mobile flexible staff can save on costs and free up more people to work in the community, with a positive impact on services. As flexible working becomes standard practice in modern workplaces – with nearly all employers offering staff at least one flexible working option and seven in 10 offering more than three – local authorities will win out, particularly when technology makes it all that much easier.
And, as more jobs are computerised (some 35% of current jobs are likely to fall into this category over the next 20 years) digital technology will mean that more and more people will be working virtually.
What can a mobile workforce do for you?
A more mobile workforce can help you cut down on office costs and staff travel time and expenses by getting people to work from home or in the local community where they are based.
It can mean having a more productive workforce as staff spend more time in the community rather than in the office, getting rid of the need for paperwork and making a difference to the services you provide. You can get other benefits like a reduction in staff costs as employees’ productivity increases, making merging your services with other local authorities a good option.
And if you have the right technology, you’ll find that having a mobile workforce is easy. For example, mobile devices like laptops and smartphones as well as apps and cloud-based computing, offering shared calendars, service directories and address books, can give staff access to services remotely and instantly providing them with all the information and data they need so they can do their jobs better. Shared data can be particularly important, for example, when heads of services are looking to integrate health and care.
Are you ready to change the way you work?
Many local councils have been moving away from traditional office-based working and getting staff to work while they’re on the move. Social workers and occupational therapists from Southend-on-Sea’s adult social services department, for example, were given laptops so they could carry out support assessments with their clients in their homes.
They had an online link to the council so that the information could be entered into the local authority’s care management system. Through an online calculator staff could work out a personal budget score. Having the laptop meant that the social workers and occupational therapists did not have to travel back to the office to deal with paperwork or put information into a computer.
A similar way of working helped the London Borough of Sutton make efficiency savings of up to 47%: it provided staff with tablets so they could make a note of information while they were carrying out their work. This also led to a 30% increase in productivity among staff. Apps, cloud-based computing and video-conferencing also made them a more effective workforce. The council has also merged 15 services with other councils saving £8 million.
Meanwhile, Moray Council in Scotland set up mobile working for its housing repairs staff, despite a poor mobile signal in most of the area. To tackle the signal problem, the council introduced a system that allowed them to do their work even when they had no connection. Staff could get details of jobs and input information once a job had been completed while they were out and about, which reduced their travelling time. The team could also make sure its stock was up to date by ordering it remotely, which meant they always had the parts they needed on their vans.
At Wakefield Council, a Worksmart programme meant more than 2,500 employees moved over to flexible working by using solutions that allowed the council to deal more efficiently with around 300,000 queries every year. The centralised phone service saved the local authority £100,000 as it could cut the number of landline phones by 60%. The system also allowed more staff to work from home or out in the community, which helped make them more productive.
Wakefield is also planning a new primary customer contact centre as well as ‘hot-desking’ facilities and ‘touchdown’ rooms designed to enable staff to work while they’re away from their usual base.
The voice infrastructure gave staff more control over calls, as they could manage them wherever they were. As a result of the changes, the local authority’s housing benefits department had an increase in productivity of 20% through flexible working, 225,000 fewer commuter miles per year were travelled in one council service and £1.6 million was saved by rationalising property.
Aberdeenshire Council has also developed a Worksmart programme to cut costs in office space from 98 facilities to 54 by 2017/18, which it expects will save £920,000 a year – and to make its services more efficient. The council can do this by having more flexible staff working mainly in the community who between them do not need as much office space as fixed staff, providing them with ‘hot-desking’ space when they need it. Through telephony and web-based technology staff can connect to the council network through Wifi across Aberdeenshire. Video-conferencing and a single access point will mean the public will have their questions answered at their first point of contact.
Jim Savege, the council’s chief executive, said: “I’m keen to encourage managers and teams to think differently about innovative ways of working together, using a combination of face-to-face catch ups, online discussions and innovative collaboration tools.
“Worksmart enables staff to work more flexibly, and has already brought tangible benefits for the organisation (reduced business mileage and reduced office space), employees (improved work-life balance and increased productivity) and customers (improved service delivery). All managers are now expected to lead their teams to work smartly. This means a shift in thinking from ‘my desk’ to ‘my work space’, it means looking at how you access business information, improving processes and fostering trust.”