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Leading flexible working in the state sector

State Services Commission (SSC) is tasked with leading the public sector in the service of New Zealand, and they are also leading the way when it comes to adopting and modelling new flexible ways of working.

Moving to a new flexible working model was a deliberate strategy for SSC after a major reset of the organisation’s mission, values and strategy. The way SSC needed to work to truly take on the leadership role of the Public Service meant that the workplace also had to make it possible for staff to share information, collaborate on cross Commission work and implement a flexible-by-default policy.

To support the ability to work anywhere, the office space was designed with a range of options to suit the work requirements, interaction, formality or level of privacy that staff need.

In December 2017 the refurbished workplace was opened. Since that time SSC had to move from the building due to remedial work by the landlord. Already being in a flexible working environment meant that SSC was able to easily transition to temporary accommodation and back again when the work was completed.

Aligning leadership, technology and space

Rachel Bruce, Deputy Commissioner of Corporate Services, said the change was relatively smooth.

We’d undergone an organisational realignment and wanted to work differently, so it made sense to implement flexible working.

Rachel Bruce  Deputy Commissioner of Corporate Services

The support of top notch IT solutions, and smart design and fit-out, supports the new ways of working and flexible work behaviours that are needed to make the change a success. Utilising tablets and mobile phones means staff remain connected and don’t have to be tethered physically to one place to carry out work tasks. Working with mobile IT solutions and flexible work spaces means staff can dock anywhere inside or outside the office, and work.

“The idea (of flexible working) is that you take the activity to the most effective place for that work and you work in the best way for you,” said Rachel. “Neighbourhood areas provide home bases for teams, there are also areas for quieter conversations or focussed work, workstations for desk based work as well as open areas for collaborative engagement and breakout areas away from the main working areas.”

Attention to elements of workplace, people, space, and technology enabled SSC to successfully transition to a new way of working. The design of the workspace supports the culture that the State Services Commission is encouraging.

Working collaboratively to improve public services

State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes, said “SSC’s refurbished office supports a more agile and collaborative way of working.

I’ve seen first-hand that it works. People are working a lot more collaboratively and are utilising the meeting areas and breakout spaces as they need. I’ve no doubt our refurbished office is a more effective way of working.

Peter Hughes  State Services Commissioner

Flexibility also has other knock on results

There are broad benefits to having a flexible working environment and office behaviours.

Using tablets and phones supports a low paper environment and reduces the need for physical filing and storage space. It also means that all paperwork is locked away in lockers at the end of the day, so a clear desk policy is implemented by default and security policies are more effective.

The transition to flexible working also requires new and different approaches to managing staff, based on deliverables, with staff being empowered to self-manage their time and activity location when at work.

These new ways of working have been well received at the SSC. While flexible working may not always work for every role-function in an organisation, moving to a more agile working environment brings with it many benefits.