Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Civil Service Home Working
The government has just announced that thousands of civil servants will be allowed to work from home over a seven week period covering the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This has attracted negative media coverage, implying that the Civil Servants will be having an extended holiday and that the wheels of government will grind to a halt. This is based on the mistaken assumption that people working from home are less productive than those coming into the office. But the results of research and the experience of major employers is the reverse. People who work from home are generally MORE productive than their office counterparts. A survey of 350 home workers carried out by the Telework Association showed that 85% of people who work at home claim they get more done by staying at home. The challenge for managers in the Civil Service will be to measure the output of their people and manage them based on results not on the hours put in. This is counter to the ‘presenteeism’ culture that still exists in many organisations which results in long hours of low productivity work. This week a senior judge has called for an end to the hourly billing by lawyers which gives a financial incentive to drag work out rather than speed it up. A survey by the CIPD released this week shows that three-quarters of employees make use of some form of flexible working and 20% work from home on a regular basis. Despite this becoming a much more common feature of the modern workplace, managers are struggling to keep up. In the CIPD survey 35% of employees cited line managers as a barrier to flexible working and this will probably be reflected in the Civil Service this Summer. If the experience during the Olympics is negative then home working will get a bad name. If it’s positive then government managers will find they can run a more effective operation by continuing to allow people a choice of where to work. With mobile technology allowing people to work remotely, we have a great opportunity to update our working practices to match. The Olympics should be a catalyst for change and a nudge into the 21st century for those managers still operating a presenteeism culture. Whether the civil service takes this opportunity or not remains to be seen.