Abstracts: May 21st, 2013

This briefing from the Society of IT Management looks at where the public sector is with flexible working, the direction it is moving and the barriers to further development.

Some 97% of UK public sector organisations have already adopted the practice in some form.  However, the march of flexible working is not all forwards. IT Trends 2012-13 shows that while there has been a strong increase in adoption of flexible working in the revenues and benefits function and some in education, four other services show a significant decline with others appearing to be static.

The briefing suggests three key issues holding back flexible working.The first is the desire not to lose the human contact of co-location. Teleconferencing and e-mail have a role to play with social media able to some degree to replace the ‘water-cooler’ experience. Younger people tend to more comfortable using a multiplicity of channels to interact with one another and supplementing relationships with virtual interactions and multi-tasking.

The second issue concerns management culture and style. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the greatest barriers to implementing flexible working are middle managers who fear loss of ‘line of sight management’.

The third barrier is linked to job insecurity in public services, and employees’ desire to have their contribution noticed and valued. They may feel this is more easily achieved by being in the office, than if they are working from home.

Chris Head, author of the briefing said: “Despite these barriers, public service organisations should push ahead with flexible working where the conditions are favourable. Technology enables all of this. Personal devices are smaller, lighter and more powerful. Mobile access is near-ubiquitous and set to reach 98% of the population. Security issues are largely solved apart from behavioural problems that lie outside the control of technology.’

The briefing is available from SOCTIM.