Ever wondered what it would be like to get a seat on the Tube each morning? Flexible working could provide the answer.

One of our operating model specialists, Antony Segrove was recently seconded to the Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Group to provide private sector expertise in the design of a national certification scheme to encourage smart working.

Leading the way in smart working

The expectations of clients – and advances in technology – have resulted in consultants adopting one of the most flexible and agile ways of working of any profession, with a nomadic but connected life of laptops and tablets, mobile telephony and conference calls. But many organisations in other sectors are catching up, and the future working landscape will be radically different to the 9-5 office based culture of the past 150 years. For example staff at global oil giant Shell makes great use of video conferencing to accommodate geographical dispersion, while Vodafone actively encourages remote working to ease the constant desk and parking space pressure on their Newbury HQ.

The UK Government is also keen to promote the benefits of flexible working across UK PLC and Capgemini has been assisting the Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Group to develop a national certification scheme to promote smart working as part of the Way We Work programme.

Towards a more flexible workforce 

Smart Working is defined by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development as ‘empowering staff to choose how, when and where to work, through cultural change and effective use of new technology and efficient workspace’.

Studies show that organisations which adopt smart working practices and empower employees with choice in where and when they work to best carry out their role, in line with business priorities and to balance their life, can achieve significant benefits, as studies undertaken by Capgemini and CIPD have demonstrated. For example BT saw a £ 1.2Bn  reduction in overheads  over 10 years, £9.7M reduction in travel costs over a 12 month period (1,800 person years of travel), a 21% increase in productivity of Smart/Mobile workers over the overall average. Centrica saw a 38% improved work / life balance from its staff survey, 96% of flexible workers out-perform office based workers, and significantly reduced staff travel (equivalent to 13 return trips to the moon).

In the public sector, HM Government has sold around £1.2bn of real estate since 2010 with a dramatic improvement in office space cost per FTE.  Government is also encouraging departments to share buildings and is creating regional hubs in places like Croydon to reduce city centre commuting.

The Smart Working Charter

The Cabinet Office has ambitions beyond property disposal, and has created the Way We Work Programme to educate and support Departments in the adoption of new ways of working. This is being achieved by encouraging greater leadership around flexible working, driving up the usage of laptops and mobile devices and instilling a culture of management by outputs rather than presenteeism. And with over 400,000 civil servants in the UK, the potential impact on commuting and travel infrastructure of more flexible working is considerable.

The intention now is to extend this philosophy into the private sector and launch a national Smart Working Charter -a publicly available certification scheme for organisations to assess their level of maturity in smart working practices against a set of National Standards and against leading practice.

Cabinet Office has formed a consortium of organisations which are at the forefront of smart working to draw on their expertise and help design the scheme – consortium partners include Microsoft, Virgin, the BBC, EY, Vodafone, Working Families and several central Government departments.

The future is flexible

As if to underline the changes to come in the way we all work, Virgin Group has recently taken flexible working a stage further by announcing a policy of unlimited leave. Sir Richard Branson said: “The policy permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want.”The journey towards more flexible working has only just begun. 

The journey towards more flexible working has only just begun.