There’s plenty public sector leaders can do to keep employees healthy and productive – on-site and off, John Asquith writes.
Much like their private-sector counterparts, governments are eager to get employees safely back into the office as soon as possible. But just like the private sector, public employees don’t necessarily share their enthusiasm for a workplace return.
Office-based employees have grown accustomed to working from home and want to continue to do so – at least part-time – regardless of what’s happening with Covid-19.
A recent Deloitte survey of public sector employees around the globe found 74 per cent believe virtual work has had a positive impact on their well-being.
Fifty-two per cent said that they could better integrate the demands of their personal and professional lives because of changes their organisation put into place during the pandemic.
The shift to a hybrid workforce in which employees have the flexibility to work from home or an onsite office has been underway for years, but government has generally adapted more slowly than the private sector. That changed when virtual work was thrust upon us during the pandemic. Now it’s clear that the hybrid model is the way of the future.
Creating more adaptable work environments and empowering employees to work productively and securely, no matter where they sit, is a top digital transformation priority. To successfully support hybrid work, government leaders will need to address these three imperatives.
1.Give employees tools that make it easier to collaborate without adding complexity
The way information flows between colleagues and agencies has been in desperate need of improvement for some time. These issues were only exacerbated when people began working virtually.
One of the biggest frustrations in the world of work is having to waste time chasing down people for answers and providing status updates. That’s because emails, spreadsheets, and reports are normal communication methods around projects. When someone is out of the office or drops the ball, it can bring everything to a halt. With major projects, it’s hard to get a real-time view of the big picture. And many times in government, important decisions must be made based on trailing data. It’s incredibly inefficient.
That’s why “collaborative work” is one of the biggest focus areas for digitisation over the next two years among public sector organisations, according to research by ESI ThoughtLab and ServiceNow.
Nearly every government body is asking: What work processes can we digitise – and what needs to stay on-site?
Many digital initiatives have failed because they were point solutions that provided limited value to a small group of employees while adding to the complex web – and costs – of operating systems. By contrast, the best technology solutions bring people, data, and systems together.
2. Enable secure work from anywhere
For employees to work remotely, governments must move more work to cloud environments.
Existing IT infrastructure wasn’t designed to support work outside office walls. Cloud-first policies in countries such as the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, and Singapore have encouraged government organisations to shift more workloads to the cloud, but hesitations persist.
Data security is paramount. More people off-site means more potential points of entry for hackers. How do you ensure the right employees have access to the right data in a secure way, while keeping other areas restricted?
Commercial cloud environments have become increasingly sophisticated – in many cases providing a more secure environment for a hybrid workforce, compared to legacy systems that are geared toward protecting on-site access.
A cloud platform that is integrated with existing legacy systems but doesn’t require each user to log in separately to those systems can provide greater control over security and access permissions. In addition, it mitigates employee use of unsecured apps and improperly secured devices that provide an open door for hackers.
3.Create more flexible, healthy office spaces
The health and safety of the workforce is the number one priority as government employees return to on-site workspaces in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.
But how do you manage and monitor office interactions when the workforce is more fluid, with different people onsite at different times and days? A vast amount of detail must be collected and managed—from health and vaccination status to workspace assignments and capacity levels.
This is where smart workplace apps and other technologies can be used to let employees take care of everyday issues, like reserving a specific workstation or providing details about their health status. This data can be automatically rolled into dashboards used by department heads, HR, and facilities teams, among others, to ensure there are no mistakes.
Technology can even help manage capacity levels and map floor layouts. When all this data lives on a single cloud-based platform, cross-functional teams can work together more easily to make fast decisions.
Regardless of where employees sit, digital workflows are essential to helping governments boost productivity and efficiency. And when public sector employees can work more efficiently, citizens get better service.
* John Asquith is head of innovation for government at ServiceNow Australia
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