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Civil Service Year of Inclusion - What inclusion means to me... Mark

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service, Diversity and inclusion, Year of Inclusion
Portrait image of Mark Funnell
Mark Funnell
2020 is the Civil Service Year of Inclusion. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements to date and to think about how we want to continue to make the Civil Service a great place to work. Having a sense of belonging, being able to be your authentic self and feeling you have a voice are all vital for inclusion.
Over the course of the year, we are running a series of blog posts in which civil servants explain what inclusion means to them. The first post is from the Environment Agency's Mark Funnell.

My name is Mark and this is what inclusion means to me.

Hear the word inclusion, and what comes to mind? Race and ethnicity? Faith? Age? Disability? Gender? Sex or sexuality? Perhaps all of these things. But what about location?

According to the Institute for Government, there are now 83,530 civil servants based in London – an increase of 5,000 since 2017. Policy departments like those for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, International Trade, and the Treasury have virtually no staff outside London. The vast majority of the most senior jobs remain in London.

The welcome new Government Estate Strategy aims to change that, promising “a major, long-term programme which will move many organisations and thousands of jobs, including a full range of professions and senior grades, over the next 12 years”.

For now, the gravitational pull to London continues to be powerful. Of course, this is partly because ministers are there most of the time, and because Parliament is too,. There’s been much talk of the 'Westminster bubble' in recent years – a bubble that the government needs to do more to burst.

How does this feel for civil servants based outside London?

I live in Bristol. On average I’m in London two days a week. Almost all of my team are based outside London, in some 20 different locations around England. The words I most often hear them use about this subject are ‘London-centricity’ and ‘second-class citizens’. 

Is this reasonable? I know for certain that no-one in London sees them as less important, or that different parts of the country are somehow inferior. But the nature of the work in Whitehall – fast-paced, responding rapidly to ministers’ agendas and political events – can magnetise focus and energy. 

Also, if you’re not used to working in a dispersed team, you probably haven’t thought so much about things like conference-call etiquette, and how to make sure people on the end of a phone line feel just as important and engaged as people physically in the room. 

Recently, we’ve been using apps that help to address this. It’s made a massive difference. Just being able to see people, even if they’re pretty small on a screen, fosters inclusion. It’s a leveller. For deaf colleagues (I work regularly with two), using one such app means they can zoom in on others’ mouths, helping with lip reading. 

Another clever idea, if you are chairing a conference call, is to dial in from a room by yourself. That way, you cannot possibly favour the input of people in front of you. In the Environment Agency, an organisation I worked for over many years, whose people are widely dispersed, people had practically written the book on good etiquette. For example, they’d routinely go to people on the phone first, individually and by name, for views. That has the twin benefit of keeping those colleagues awake, alert and ready to contribute!

As we are all going to need to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint over the next 10 years, and as tens of thousands more civil servants move out of London, these kinds of cultural and technological shifts will be vital. But we should already be embracing them – because they are fundamental to building a more inclusive Civil Service and public sector.

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  1. Comment by Heidi W posted on

    Hi Mark, this is great. You have mentioned some practical things which we can pick up for the department - we can develop a guide on the principles of an inclusive conference call/skype etiquette, share hand-outs in advance, so you don't have to be in the room to see what's been discussed, mention people by name on the phone - moving away from the blanket 'anyone on the phones want to add anything'....I really like the idea of putting in place steps that will give everyone fair opportunity to contribute to a meeting, wherever they are on the day, for true inclusivity. This is really helpful and thought provoking - thank you

    • Replies to Heidi W>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      You’re very welcome Heidi, and thanks for the kind comments. When you’re on the phone, you can’t read the room, and as the chair can’t see you, they don’t get any body language - for example telling them you want to make a contribution. Which means they need to make an extra effort in my view.

      Kind regards


  2. Comment by Susan Rees posted on

    Hi Mark a great blog, I am intersted in conference calling guidance, esspecially your reference to Apps that can help Deaf Colleagues I would like to know more.

    • Replies to Susan Rees>

      Comment by Jo Inglis posted on

      I too am interested in the Apps mentioned for deaf colleagues

    • Replies to Susan Rees>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      Hi Susan and Jo

      The app we have been using that deaf people say has really useful functionality is Zoom. The other app is Houseparty, which is simpler and easier to use but has less functionality.

      Kind regards


      • Replies to Mark Funnell>

        Comment by Susan Rees posted on

        Many thanks Mark, I mostly work form home as some with a rare disease and as my adult sons carer. So, most of my meetings are via Skype so your blog was very pertinent, and we have deaf colleagues at RoS and wish to make communication as easy as possible for all.

  3. Comment by Cara Oladeji posted on

    Some good tips, thank you! I was looking at some research on accents the other day, scary stuff the judgements that can be made depending on your accent! I'm from Liverpool, ha ha!

    • Replies to Cara Oladeji>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      Hi Cara

      That’s an excellent point. I live in the West Country and there’s doubtless some stereotyping when it comes to regional accents! You only have to look at BBC national news to realise regional inclusivity isn’t quite what it should be...

      Kind regards


  4. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Happy New Year mark,

    Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts and some great tips for making remote working staff feel more inclusive.

    As someone who has worked overseas, I am very much aware of the importance of ensuring that everyone is kept up to date with the current situation and re consulted in advance of any changes that are being implemented. It is also important that cultural differences are observed and that the specific themes of such meetings are not deemed as only been relevant to some.

    #Yearof inclusionandhope

    • Replies to Gavin Thomas>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      Happy new year Gavin

      That’s a very good point about cultural differences and relevance of content. Sometimes people slip into civil service-speak too, which can have an excluding effect on newcomers. Inclusive language is vital.

      Kind regards


  5. Comment by Rachel forster posted on

    Spot on Mark, location shouldn’t be a barrier to progression but often is. Getting it out in the open and looking for solutions is a good first step to change!

    • Replies to Rachel forster>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      Thanks Rachel, couldn’t agree more. I meet a lot of people outside London who feel they’ve hit a glass ceiling. Let’s hope that’s starting to change!

      Kind regards


  6. Comment by Rozanne Kidd posted on

    Thanks Mark for the post and the top tips. Helpful especially for departments or agencies only just gaining access to long awaited tech to support conscious inclusive actions we all can achieve on top of common sense stuff. HMPO is gearing up for a great #YearofInclusion & hope to share and learn more ways to support everyone feel valued and part of a brilliant Civil Service.

    • Replies to Rozanne Kidd>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      Hi Rozanne

      Many thanks. Hope the HMPO year of inclusion goes really well and the tech lands soon!

      Kind regards


  7. Comment by Angie Hesketh posted on

    Great blog Mark. I have just been 'transformed' so the new SKYPE and screen sharing is a great resource.
    I completely agree that the face2face makes a huge difference, and a good start is insisting a photo on all our profiles. It certainly makes you think prior to sending an irrelevant email seeing all those faces! Bring on the digital, who needs London anyway?

    • Replies to Angie Hesketh>

      Comment by Mark Funnell posted on

      Hi Angie

      Many thanks for the kind comments and I totally agree about photos. Really good idea about the guide.

      Kind regards