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Civil Service

Where do I put my cornflakes?

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Smarter working
Close-up of a bowl of cornflakes
Picture credit: Justin Pinkney under Creative Commons

People think smarter working is all about hot-desking and wonder where they'll keep their morning cornflakes, but it’s not really about that.

Or they think its about working from home and look forward to not having to commute every day, but it’s not really about that either.

Or they say it’s all about the IT. It’s not. It’s actually about changing how we think about work.

The best employers equip and empower the individual, who then decides how, where and when to work. We, by contrast, used to equip the building, empower the hierarchy (not the individual) and, at some point in history managers decided to trust people only when they could see them.

Evidence from around the world shows that smarter working does 3 things really well:

  • it boosts productivity
  • it gives you a better designed and better value workplace
  • it makes you happier.

What you need to make this work, more than anything, is trust. Once you feel trusted, it helps you do your job better. You feel empowered, which gives you credibility. And that makes you more effective.

That trust is then underpinned by measuring performance by outcomes, not by process or attendance.

Where do you think you are on the spectrum of trust? In September 2014 Richard Branson abolished limits on annual leave at Virgin head office. He trusts people to take leave when it is sensible and to manage their own work.  How good it must feel to work for an organisation like that!


Teams still need to come together sometimes. But many of us still all come together at the same time every day, to exactly the same place.  Yet the reason for working in that way – because that that was where the technology was – has gone.

The evidence is good:

In 2013 McKinsey studied 20 companies and found that the uplift in productivity from smarter working was equivalent to between 3 and 13 percent of workforce costs.

In China a NASDAQ-listed travel agency called CTrip that runs call centres carried out a randomised controlled trial where half of their staff worked from home for a year. The home workers were 13 percent more productive. They did more calls per hour, took fewer breaks, took less sick leave and made more bookings. And the homeworkers felt more engaged with their employer.

Effective workplaces

And better-designed workplaces save money. We use less space if we all don’t turn up to the same place every day. Whitehall is expensive.

We need different types of space to reflect the diverse nature of what we do. We have to move away from ubiquitous hot-desking open plan environments. We need buildings that people can touch down in and meet, and with different zones for different types of work.


People are happiest in modern, dynamic, trusting environments. Smarter working improves how people feel about their work and their lives. And the more we can flex the employment offer the wider the talent pool in which we will be fishing.


It helps the sustainability agenda too – more people working locally will reduce our carbon footprint and pressure on the transport network. This is how we are all going to work in this Internet Century.

..And if you’re wondering where people put their cornflakes? Most people have a locker. Other people decide they prefer to eat breakfast at home.

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  1. Comment by David posted on

    It sounds good but it may not be applicable to all departments. We can't have people in sensitive roles accessing personal and confidential material on unsecured computers in unsecured environments. I'm sure no one wants their tax records available for all to read on the wifi network in Starbucks!

  2. Comment by Nigel Whitfield posted on

    There are many positive aspects to working in the Civil Service and these should not be forgotten but actively promoted. To generate engagement requires a process that will result in cultural change, the hardest change to make. However if leaders are prepared to 'walk the talk' and commit resource then it is achievable. There are examples where this happens and the results are measurable improvements in employee satisfaction and engagement. It is not a 'one off' process but needs to be built in as a business as usual process and that takes leadership commitment. It also requires members at all levels of the organisation to participate and drive the program. To make the change we must be the change we want see.

  3. Comment by Graham Cook posted on

    What isnt "smarter working" is "Forced Ranking" or Stacking ,taking up lots of time better spent actually working, or poor IT.

    However the Civil Service is still perceived by many as a single entity,with all Departments exactly the same (as beloved by cartoonists), taking sick days as holiday and tea flowing like the Rhine, only here as we couldnt get a "real job". No time for spoiling this image with reality.
    Why waste time in questioning a cosy image and asking people what they think or what they do? No time for any of that W Edwards Deming nonsense!

  4. Comment by Andy S. posted on

    Technology tends to advance in leaps & bounds. However, no matter how much money you put into new Roads, Rail etc. the fact remains that vast amounts of money can be saved by working from home. The Government should for once take the lead rather than following commercial standards 10 years + after, as is the norm! Oh, wait a minute perhaps my fuel-tax costs are subsidising the buildings costs?

  5. Comment by Peter Ferry posted on

    Sounds exciting - bring it on! There's a truly inspirational video on this very theme on the RSA Animate website called re-imagining work - Check it out. Unfortunately it's probably blocked on most Government IT systems ... but that's another story ... or is it?

  6. Comment by Ian posted on

    The problem will be because Management have bought buzzwords without understanding the foundations that makes those ideas work. Example - HM Prison Service and 'Benchmarking'

    92-2008 I worked HMIT/Collection/HMRC. 2002-5 it was at the peak of my experience there. We had IDMS computer system, work control was easier than the old blue screen system, Lidbury Techniques meant we had the tools to pin down non-payers, etc. This was when we in the local offices had a target to answer the phone within 7 rings - and we did (I'm embarressed when friends now complain how long it takes to get through and get someone to sort something, including my wife, who was at one point the Senior Office Manager for all of Beds, Bucks and Oxon, and now does payroll for a local organisation. A problem with PAYE that I would have sorted in 5 minutes over the phone took a 40 minute phone call, plus 2 days for the paperwork- I feel sorry for my former colleagues who are wrongly assumed by public and government to be the culprits)

    When I joined the Prison Service in 08, I was horrified to find they were 15 years behind, tech wise. The people I worked with 10 years ago would be shocked how much pointless paperwork MoJ produces, and how each prison seems to have its own rules and requirements.

    One would have thought benchmarking was to solve that. Of course it was just a job cutting exercise. Very little of the multitude of audit requirements have been removed. No one has asked us how we do the job here, nor has there been any nationwide roll out of techniques and best practice - WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT OF BENCHMARKING. I did write and tell them- never got a response. I will happily say this all face to face to the HMPS Board.

    It seems the Civil Service are too enamoured of commercial practices in an environment that is non-profit, or fixed profit (Can you imagine a campaign to try and get more people applying for a passport?)

  7. Comment by K Marshall posted on

    Smarter working would mean not having to spend 20 minutes trying to find a pen that works because we now buy such cheap, nasty stationery that we go through twice as much in half the time. Still, it's cheap......

  8. Comment by Kevin posted on

    It would be fantastic to work from home - for me personally it would save at least 4 hours a day on travel and give me less stress.I had an occupational health report who confirmed to my employer this would help support me due to health issues however I feel that management in HMRC dont trust staff to work from home. It should be an option that all staff can opt to do and allowed without issues but that would be in an ideal world! HMRC should be supporting staff in areas such as working from home but the support isnt there! If any senior managers in HMRC could support me on home working please feel free to get in touch with me!

  9. Comment by Changing Man posted on

    I'll tell you where to leave your cornflakes...put them in a place that you will easily remember, so you know where they are without having to think about it. Then, on a weekly basis, move them to a different place, and while you're at it, move the bowl to a different place to the cornflakes too, then the same with the spoon, and with the milk , keep moving them at the start of each week ...Spend the first weekday discussing the merits of that change , then whatever your findings, accept that it will enable you to undertake the breakfast task quicker .

  10. Comment by Ann onymous posted on

    I've been working from home 3 days a week using a laptop via home broadband for the last 5 years since my post was moved from a mile from my home to 75 miles away in Bristol. I am far more productive @ home with no distractions from the noisy open plan office where I have to book a desk 8 weeks in advance to ensure I have one and that's if I can find a parking space after driving 1.5 to 2 hours to get there. Now senior line management want me in the office 5 days a week because suddenly the job needs me to be, complete and utter rubbish, it's because line management don't trust us and are control freaks and with that kind of mentality this is just pie in the sky.

  11. Comment by Val Hollylee posted on

    I'm a Listcaller in a Magistrates' Court. How does any of this apply to me??

  12. Comment by Mr Grumpy Real World posted on

    I love this pie in the sky thinking which has absolutely no link to the real world of day to day civil service work. My partner worked out of a Jobcentre but was part of a national team. She scored in the top 10% 6 years in a row. New manager came in and insisted that all his staff had to work out of 3 hub offices - London, Sheffield or Leeds. After over 20 years of loyal service her job was re-organised from under her. When she started handing over the work it ended up being split between 2 grade 7 staff when they realised how much she actually did. (She was not a Grade 7.)
    In my job all we do is count things and numbers drive the work. Forget all the talk about empowering people. You do not innovate here because if it goes wrong you will pay for it for a very long time. Also everything is driven by an IT system that is not fit for purpose but we no longer have the funds available to pay for badly needed changes. Small numbers of staff were given laptops as they work remotely. A decision was then taken that all staff should go to their base office and if they want to work from home they have to ask for permission to do so and produce an item of work to show they weren't skiving. (Civil Service Empowerment in action.)
    If senior management believe this guff they really need to go undercover and learn the truth of the organisations they "manage". Spend 12 weeks trying to get some stationery ordered because they split your team but never gave you a budget. Spend 9 months trying to get a special chair for someone with a back problem. Staff marked down at the end of the year because 10% have to be in the bottom.
    Welcome to the majority civil service experience.

  13. Comment by Jebediah Springfield posted on

    Yes, most embiggening!

  14. Comment by Dee posted on

    Nigel - you are of course correct when you say "The organisation does not exist for the people who work in it, it exists to perform a function and the people are only thier to enable that function to be performed."

    However I suspect an fully engaged and contented workforce will perform and function better than one that is not!

    Many of us would like to work elsewhere but many of us have a huge investment in our current employment.

    As for wrking 'here' for decades....some of us like to fed our families and pay the mortgage!

    • Replies to Dee>

      Comment by anon posted on

      Dee- exactly.

    • Replies to Dee>

      Comment by Nigel Whitfield posted on

      The idea of having people take time off when they feel the organisation allows is dependant on having an engaged workforce. That's a big thing to achieve in any orgnaisation. The Civil Service is a quirky and interesting place to work and the people make it that way. My comments about people working here for decades and complaining still stands. If you don't like the organisation then work elsewhere. It's a big world full of opportunity. Millions of people don't work in the Civil Service and they still manage to pay the mortgage and have a good life. Are they so different?

      • Replies to Nigel Whitfield>

        Comment by Another one posted on

        Complaints are indications that things could be improved. Saying work elsewhere if you don't like it is poor management. Addressing the problems would be better.
        Why people don't move, there are many good reasons a lot finacial. Moving a Job is not that stressless. Many would move when they were younger given the current conditions, now decades on they are much less able. That will eventaully be solved \s people 'fall off the edge' and recuitment becomes progressively harder - not really very SMART.

  15. Comment by sarahsusie posted on

    I would love to be able to work from home and due to 3 chronic medical conditions it has been recommended on 2 separate occasions that I be allowed to work from home at least 1 day a week but I have been told I cannot do so - the nature of my work means I would be able to do lots of things at home and I would definitely take a lot less sick days if I could work from home so my productivity would be greatly improved. Contrast this with my husband who works for an agency of the MoD - they all have laptops and are encouraged to work from home - they actually have a great system where they can access all their systems by using our home wifi. I am actively seeking to move out of main MoD for this reason as I am the main breadwinner and I need to be able to work more flexibly as my health is not improving.

  16. Comment by John Peterken posted on

    At least I have discovered the word cromulent. This is a day making moment.
    In the MoJ there is little evidence of anything other than reactive, shortterm planning at the higher levels. This is very worrying for those of us who, despite having enormous respect for our local managers, now face the future with trepidation.

  17. Comment by Anon posted on

    Another Anon (notice the theme-fear)
    Am told there is a blanket bank on early partial retirement (when you get to receive part pension /part pay) management are unable to be flexible on our rights as in guidance using the old 'business need' chestnut how can we expect these useless people to be flexible on new fresh ideas that could revolutionise both the workplace and the way we all work.

  18. Comment by JoanneHK posted on

    Sounds amazing, but when the reality of your day to day work is managing a team processing paper forms and letters from the public, how does this work?
    We have a 2 tier civil service- ambitious, mobile professionals carrying laptops and travelling around, working on projects at various locations, and those of us battling on the front line with half digital half paper systems.
    In every department the reality of day to day working seems to be regional processing centres- great if you happen to live in the right location, otherwise a horrendous commute, eventually at your own expense.

  19. Comment by Nigel Whitfield posted on

    So much negativity. The advantages of having a policy that allows people to take time off when they need to far outweigh the disadvantages. Nothing is perfect. Sometimes you just have to try new things, live a little dangerously. The fact that this idea is being dicussed is interesting and progressive. I'm sure we are not the only organisation watching Netflix and Virgin. This proposal will not fit all organisations and ultimately the organisation's needs will dictate the policy. The organisation does not exist for the people who work in it, it exists to perform a function and the people are only thier to enable that function to be performed. Some people should remember that. If you dont like the organisation then work elsewhere. The trouble with civil service is that there are too many people who complain about it but strangely have worked here for decades.

  20. Comment by Name posted on

    Well that's a tasty carrot on a stick the civil service will never get it's teeth into.

  21. Comment by Paul Murgatroyd posted on

    Richard Branson exploited his co-university students when he started his business and was taken to court for VAT fraud. For HMRC to talk about trust as an employer is laughable. As an employer they are spreadsheet and statistics mad. They have no concern for the working society which we try to create within the offices, and the league table PMR process is victorian in its very conception and process.
    How about talking to staff and listening, or maybe just read the community forum pages on engagement.

  22. Comment by Sally Cynical posted on

    In a parallel universe someone seems to be looking out at the stars and believing them to be diamonds. "used to equip the building, empower the hierarchy (not the individual)" and "trust people only when they could see them". The reality is in this Department, in this Civil Service we DO equip the building, we DO empower the hierarchy, we DON'T trust, we DON'T measure performance by outcomes, we measure with a flawed PMR process which we tinker with to make (FORCE) it to fit distribution. Sometimes it would be nice to believe in fairy stories and imagine what it would be like to go back to having a Civil Service that treats it's staff with respect and remembers that it is here to serve the public instead of pandering to those who serve themselves.

  23. Comment by AnotherAnon posted on

    It's all very well saying that fewer people in Whitehall (or other buildings) means lower costs. It may well mean higher costs for the employee who now has to heat their home by day, and impossible for those who have an unsuitable or unproductive home-working environment (e.g. in a noisy shared house). Humans are also sociable beings by nature, not designed to work in isolation so whilst limited remote working may work for some, it will not for all.

  24. Comment by Anon. posted on

    It seems a dream compared to what we actually have to work to at the moment. A PMR that doesn't value what a competent member of staff you are in terms of quality and productivity -it instead looks at how many days sick you have had, regardless of ongoing medical condidtions that affect you regularly. It's awful because you feel stressed to take time off for sickness, which in turn makes you more unwell so eventually you will have to take time off sick but then while you're off recovering there's the constant pressure of "well do you think you will be well enough to come in later today?!" etc. it's a vicious circle and such an innapropriate way of managing staff. it does not make for a happy workforce - this is my opinion, speaking from the point of view of someone who has been on the recieving end of bad management for about 4 years. There is A LOT of change needed in Civil Service and it doesn't happen fast enough if i'm honest.

  25. Comment by Irene posted on

    I'm all for the changes and understand why these are needed but: "Whitehall is expensive". There's a phrase we've heard before. We had "Exit London" some 10 or so years ago and senior people were given exit packages or relocation expenses to leave their Whitehall jobs. Then we had a change at the top and guess what, every job advertised was in London!

  26. Comment by Barry Owen posted on

    Had to look at my calendar to check it wasn't April 1st already.

  27. Comment by no posted on

    I agree, working locally will benefit HMRC, its workers and its customers alike.
    But Building Our Future's proposals so far rubbishes that theory. So, this article is nonsense because it will never be a reality for 90% of current staff.
    Do you know who would benefit the most from local HMRC presence? The public. Make them aware of your plans to strip away staff en masse and shovel those that remain into remote concentrations, thus making the department nigh-on impossible to contact and leaving the onus squarely on the "customer" to sort their own tax affairs out. Then watch them kick off.
    Customer service in the department is horrific already. Ask any contact centre employee and you'll realise that (don't ask the managers or Business Unit Heads, because they will lieto meet markings). It will get a lot worse when BoF comes into effect.
    So, no, this "smarter working" thing doesn't ring true because it contradicts the plans that the people at the top of the tree have planned, with no experience of how the job is worked and no forethought to how the department and public alike will be affected.
    Oh, and what's with the spin that we all received at the last BoF event? Feedback from the 1st event was "positive"?! Er, perhaps you don't realise it but we all speak to one another, across business streams, across offices and across the country. So I can say with 100% accuracy that feedback is nothing but negative. Again, stop asking BUH's or managers - if you want true answers, take the extra time to speak to staff.

  28. Comment by James Clancy posted on

    An interesting article, but I thnik it ignores some of the harsh realities of smarter working.

    I've seen people barked at as they've had the temerity to sit at a desk that was assumed to be free. I've seen people wander around for 30 minutes frantically searching for a spare desk that isn't half a mile away. I've seen some people tearing their hair out as they need a desktop that has specific software on it, and none are available. Not to mention the feeling of dread when its you that has lost out on the musical chairs dance, and now face spending the best part of 8 hours sat elsewhere with no one you know, or with no one to talk to.

    Smarter working will only truly work once we have the policy rigourously, and consistently, applied throughout the depertment, plus the IT to cope with it, and the estate infrastructure capacity-not to mention a change in culture at the way working "away from the office" is perceived by some.

    I'd truly love to see it work as I really do think it can result in improved performance and output, but it needs to be applied sensibly, and without shying away from the difficult issues that can, and do, arise from it.

  29. Comment by N Page posted on

    Not at all convinced. Creative, collaborative interaction in a shared office is vital in some situations. As a travelling officer, I am content with the status quo. Although I am free to work at home when it suits, even so, home is home - not the province of my employer!

  30. Comment by Gerry Dowds posted on

    I recently attended a Building Our Future II event and this article completely and utterly contradicts everything that was discussed during what was a waste of two hours......when I could have been working instead, giving taxpayers value for money and the efective service they expect and deserve. Please bear in mind that BOF's tagline is "a national conversation" - notice it deosn't say consultation - because we all know the decisions have already been made.
    We were told in no uncertain terms that the future is regional centres, specialist sites and touchdown (no nothing to do with last night's Super bowl) sites. It was emphasised that whilst sites hadn't been identified and nothing said at BOF II amounted to announcements of office closures, there would be two regional centres in Scotland - one in or around Glasgow and another in or around Edinburgh. The increase travel to such sites and the increase in carbon footprint will be enormous.
    What I don't understand is why an article such as this would be published at the same time as BOF II is being rolled out. So much for "smarter working".

  31. Comment by sharon chesney posted on

    I hope im still here to experience this sounds great and the way foward

  32. Comment by Graham Cook posted on

    "We, by contrast, used " Used?????
    " empower the hierarchy (not the individual)" In the past the "hierarchy" were part of the team as a whole with daily involvement and so had an awareness of what was happening at the sharp end, and an idea of problems coming.They "lead" and trusted people as they could see them and what they were doing.It was part of the job....but new ideas get imposed.

    A few years, and "trusting the man or woman who does the job" and "instead of managing from miles away, why not have people who know what the staff are doing actually on site?" will be a new idea. We may even get Computer systems built to meet our standards.

    Horses for courses .You cant efficiently run Government Departments as if selling Chevrolets or Double Glazing.The world of Private Enterprise is not the same.

  33. Comment by David C posted on

    Another SMART way to demoralise the workforce.

  34. Comment by Anon posted on

    All this assumes that you are allowed to work flexibly from home which I am not, although most of my department do. There are times when I could be much more productive at home and could do extra hours if I were able to work from home; it would also free up a desk once a week, but I have been told I cannot do so. We are all told we should be working more flexibly, etc, etc, and I am willing to, but am not able to.

  35. Comment by Invinoveritas posted on

    Great, the ability to do drudgery in the comfort of your own home.

  36. Comment by Antony Coulthard posted on

    Home working? Not for me, thanks. Home is home, work is work, and never the twain shall meet.

  37. Comment by Daniel posted on

    This was a very cromulent article, well done.

  38. Comment by Amy Farrah-Fowler posted on

    I wouldn't mind working from home occasionally - but London's housing crisis of the past quarter century means that I can't afford to move to a home where that might be possible - unless I tell my spouse (whose working patterns don't match) that half the flat is off limits when I want to work (and please don't make lots of noise in the other room). My half-a-Victorian-terraced-house - that I bought on a very junior salary but couldn't now afford two promotions later - doesn't support such a lifestyle,

  39. Comment by Blog reader posted on

    All we need for this to become reality is a modern, dynamic, trusting Civil Service then. Sorted.

    • Replies to Blog reader>

      Comment by A. Nonymouse posted on

      Which will require modern, dynamic, trusting managers and execs....... Oh dear

  40. Comment by Anon posted on

    This is an interesting article. I've always found it frustrating to be tied to an office for certain hours when I know I would be more productive working flexibly. I try to be good in managing my limited flexible working - when I feel I'm not being productive I tend to leave early but often feel this is frowned upon and I am still constrained by core hours. However, in my eyes this makes more sense than sitting there clock watching, producing nothing. I compensate by working longer on other days. I am interested this is being applied in the civil service, but am sadly sceptical it will ever reach my department.

    • Replies to Anon>

      Comment by Malcolm Symon posted on

      Defence Equipment and Support removed Core hours 4 years ago. But Abbey wood only has enough PCs for 80% of staff.

  41. Comment by Anon posted on

    The idea seems wonderful. The private sector have been working this way for years, but I do worry that this is just another way of justifying staff cuts and office closures. If it meant keeping my job i'd happily work from home, but that option just isn't being considered for many of us. Centralisation and digitalisation is what we are getting. It appears that not everyone shares the whole vision that is smarter working.

  42. Comment by DD posted on

    anon - 02/02/2015

    I wonder if Richard Branson had any good policy on Sickness leaves for his employees. The Civil Service has such policy which only counts days off sick rather than any supping evidence from the authorise and reliable source such as doctor’s certificate before start to proceed with written warning.
    Current practice demonstrates the Sickness absence policy is created to ensure when loyal employees are down and out with sickness, on their return to work they are to receive written warning once they have gone above certain numbers of days, which also prohibits them from making any further job applications. Smart way of demoralising employees.

    • Replies to DD>

      Comment by ks posted on

      Exactly DD - I had not had to take any days sick leave in almost 2 years then through work pressures and a line management that were only interested in getting the work done rather than worrying about the poor health of the team - I was one in a long line of colleagues with stress related illnesses (in quite a small team too). I came back to work having been away for 10 days with 'work stress' and received a letter advising that I had hit the trigger for sick leave etc. There was an offer of meeting someone from Occupational Health which I declined because as far as I was concerned I had been put under tremendous pressure with an exceptionally high volume of work coming my was because of colleagues leaving and others being off of work sick. This was down to poor management decisions and controls and therefore there was nothing I could do to change this and it was for SCS/line managers to look to themselves rather than shooting the messenger.

  43. Comment by karen clare posted on

    all well and good, does anyone remember the fish! all civil servants had to watch a 2 hour film about a market stall in Canada, where the staff would fling around fish all day long to amuse the customers. We had toy fish to fling around after the film and were told that have fun was the way forward to make us happier and more productive. The reality was back at our desks if you speak to the person next to you your boss will say " if it's not work related can it wait till your break" so much for flinging fish! Once again it sounds like a crazy plan that will never work, just waste money and time.

  44. Comment by Cliff posted on

    Great concept. One I was aware of about 15 years ago. Then it was called teleworking and included "hubs" in the local vicintiy that people could go to - why has it taken so long for this idea to catch one? An advantage of these hubs is that they could be shared by different depts across government. But this may not work for everyone of course as some people may prefer the 9 to 5 in the office - how would you balance that out with colleagues working at different times?
    The tech and infrastructure might be there but is it secure enough? Are there any case studies and evidence to show the pros and cons? Also given the rising costs of energy if we start to work from home will we get a subsidy to pay for this - seeing as there will potentially be savings by not working in Whitehall.

  45. Comment by DBS posted on

    sounds fantastic. If only E1 grades could be trusted to work when not micromanaged to the Nth degree. Shame we'll still need to treat the lower levels as cattle. Ahh well.

  46. Comment by Anon posted on

    Great in theory. However the political reality is that ministers like nothing better than telling the public that civil servants are being forced into cheaper, less pleasant accommodation. We're constantly being told that the Civil Service needs to "be more like Google and Microsoft" - while politicians continue to treat their workforce like scum. Ministers and spads flock to tabloid newspapers to bemoan the fact that their predecessors "wasted" money on comfortable chairs, or nice-looking plants, or provided a workplace that people actually want to work in.

    Does anywhere in Whitehall treat its employees with the respect and trust shown by the Googles of the world? Until they do, posts like this will simply be more empty rhetoric.

  47. Comment by T posted on

    When tax office will offer work from Home? I wish I could do it from tomorrow. I absolutely agree with this. If we can work from home, it will be more productive. Less commuters on road, means less pollution. If weather is bad still u can work. If U r sick still u can work if it is not serious. More women can work & care children & elderly parents etc etc. Plus u don't need office space. U don't need to pay electricity bill etc. See so many advantages. Please offer it for all civil servants.

  48. Comment by Niki posted on

    No system is going to be perfect so I'm a bit disappointed that the article is a weighted towards the positive without balancing the argument. For example, 'smart working' may well encourage flexibility and increase productivity but I'm not so sure it encourages team working or knowledge sharing. Richard Bransen's proposal can have major pitfalls (as described by others) because it can result in having to justify taking your leave every time you take it, particularly if those around you aren't taking much. Much relies on having a robust performance management system that everyone trusts and buys into - basically, if you acheive what you've been asked to acheive, to the quality and time contraints that you've agreed, then that demonstrates you've managed your time appropriately and that should be that. However, if the system expects that you will always exceed what you've been asked to deliver or do more than everyone else, then when will it ever be safe to take leave? You have to create the right ethos to match the working arrangements.

  49. Comment by Stuart Holttum posted on

    "more people working locally will reduce our carbon footprint and pressure on the transport network"

    How does that square with closing all local offices and moving to a handful of huge regional centres?
    - - - - -
    "Once you feel trusted, it helps you do your job better"

    How does that square with a Performance Management system with enforced targets - which they ARE, I have first-hand experience - that require mountains of paperwork to justify everything you do during the year?

    I'm afraid I agree with A.Worker - nice words, but I will wait to see them start to happen in reality. But I won't be holding my breath.

  50. Comment by Somewhere out there posted on

    My office was previously local, it was a 15 minute drive, until it was moved 22 miles away making the journey approximately an hour, longer with train delays, for most of us. In my case (and some of my colleagues) waiting for taxis, not to mention the added cost, which we didn't need before has now been incurred. So by doing this they actually increased the carbon footprint and pressure on the transport network.

  51. Comment by anon posted on

    Richard Branson's not the best person/ business to use as an example.
    For a start it's head office staff only and subsidiaries will be encouraged to adopt the policy only if it works. So it may be unsuitable for the subs, or left to MD's to put in place and apply as they see fit.
    Don't get me wrong I think Branson's always entertaining but apart from trains and planes and credit cards (which are administered by someone else anyway), he manages to make alot of money out of failing businesses- make up, records, brides, vodka, cola to name but a few.
    I think that his cult of personality isn't as inspirational when you dig a little.

  52. Comment by Mike Booth posted on

    In HMRC staff are micro-managed to within an inch of their life . New syastems are brought in that provide absolutely no benefit to the caseworker , waste huge amounts of time , duplicate and triplicate work and all so that somebody higher up the food chain can compile statistics (Caseflow) . How exactly does that fit in with the aspiration to work smarter ?

    • Replies to Mike Booth>

      Comment by Anon - for fear of the opinion Police posted on

      @ Mike - Your behaviours are not what is currently expected, and I imagine that you will be hounded out of the Department forthwith.

  53. Comment by l hughes posted on

    so in HMRC's Building our Future why are they planning factory style hubs that people will need to travel (some miles) to & yet in the same breath talking about greater use of technology and innovation in working practices

    • Replies to l hughes>

      Comment by Anon posted on

      The reality is that HMRC are closing multiple offices, disposing of thousands of years of highly and expensively trained individual's experience, because the staff are in the wrong place - not even a consideration of home working or hubs. So are HMRC going to use our office as a trial site for this Smarter Thinking? No, we're being forced out in a matter of weeks. My own smart thinking is "How do I get to be a Consultant selling this to the Civil Service" and "Definitely time to join a smarter organisation."

  54. Comment by Deborah Rowland posted on

    Trust is the key element treat your team like the adults and individuals that they are they know what works best for them - that's what smart working is all about, however good IT that supports this is key

  55. Comment by Christopher Conder posted on

    I like the article overall, I'm a firm believer in smarter working. But boy would I hate to work at Virgin. As far as I can tell, no limits on annual leave also means no minimum annual leave. To quote from the linked article:

    'the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!'

    Who is ever 100% up to date on every project? Who wants to feel that their holiday choices are being judged and scrutinised alongside their work in the office? The message seems clear - those who take more holiday won't do as well in their career as those who take less.

    Give me a clear number of days off (and a manager who helps me make sure the workload doesn't become such that I can't afford to take them) any day over this pseudo-freedom.

    • Replies to Christopher Conder>

      Comment by chris posted on

      as richard branson spends His working life on a Caribbean island, im sure his head office spend hours wishing the could have his annual leave allowance. that aside, Having an IT system that works would make my day easier to cope with,

  56. Comment by A Worker posted on

    Fantastic sentiments.

    Now translate them to the Jobcentre network with outdated ideas, management who are so inept it is unreal, and who if they don't agree with the "powers that be", risk losing their jobs, just as those who dare speak up under them risk losing their's as they are being "negative" based on the PMR joke we have to comply with.

    Nice words, never to be followed up, the real civil service.

    It was a nice 2 minutes 20 seconds though.

    As always, name withheld for fear or reprisals.

  57. Comment by jen brown posted on

    it would be nice if the civil service could adopt these modern methods

    • Replies to jen brown>

      Comment by sandra armstrong posted on

      Some of us already do.... I have a mac air book and work from home, in other offices and on the move (trains, hotels etc). I agree that its not just about enabling factors like good wifi and mobile equipment (that for example supports meetings via video calls), for me its been more about a culture that focuses on 'getting stuff done' rather than presentism.
      I know there's a way to go and there will always be the naysayers and operational/physical constraints but be assured, change can happen and one you convert, you'll never go back!

      • Replies to sandra armstrong>

        Comment by Elizabeth Connolly posted on

        Sandra: sounds fantastic - which department do you work for? Is this the norm or do you have a special arrangement?

      • Replies to sandra armstrong>

        Comment by Fred posted on

        The Reserves Centre, in which I work does not allow Flexi Time - we where told that we would abuse it! Additionally, only a few of the military have the manners to say 'Hello' to the Civvies - they don't want to mix with the likes of us! This sounds bitter, I know, but it's true and only the tip of the iceberg!