Agile transformation

Intro

The agile project was born out of the council's Organisational Recovery Task Group's ambition to not only recover from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic but to recover well and thrive in the post-pandemic future.

One way of achieving this is by becoming a more agile council, which means becoming more modern, flexible and responsive while also being high-performing and cost-effective.

Becoming more agile also means supporting a culture in which creativity and innovation is nurtured, staff are empowered with more trust, autonomy, flexibility and choice to achieve the results expected of them, digital opportunities are embraced and agile ways of working and decision-making are encouraged.

Full Council agreed agile as a strategic direction of travel in February 2021 and the agile project is part of the wider People Strategy which was approved by the Cabinet on 21 September. It is also intrinsically linked to the Digital Strategy and other initiatives such as our commercial work, all of which feeds into the council's ambition of a modern workforce in a modern workplace, where everyone matters.

For help or more information please email agile@eastriding.gov.uk

Blended working team protocol template

This template can be used by managers to create your own blended working team protocol. The protocols should be discussed with your teams as a means of agreeing your blended working arrangements. The template can be adapted to suit different teams' needs and should be reviewed regularly.

Download the blended working team protocol template.

Why do we want to become more agile?

There are many potential benefits of becoming more agile in the ways described above - for staff, members, the organisation, the environment and for the customers we serve: local residents, businesses and the East Riding as a place.

Becoming more agile can enable the council to become even more efficient in the way it works and delivers services, increasing efficiency, and it can help to reduce the organisation's carbon footprint, from lower energy and paper usage and by reducing unnecessary travel. It would build on the council's existing values, culture and vision and can support inclusivity as an organisation and as an employer and can offer staff a better work-life balance.

Even more focus on results in our approach to performance management, combined with smarter working, simplifying processes wherever possible and more collaboration and innovation, can help to deliver better services, at better value for money, increasingly in the ways customers want to access them.

Being more flexible and responsive will make the council more quickly and efficiently adaptive to the ever-changing needs of our residents and businesses.

The recruitment and retention of staff should improve by offering more choice and flexibility, therefore widening the talent pool we can recruit from and increasing workforce diversity. More choice and flexibility should also benefit people's work-life balance and lead to better health and wellbeing and job satisfaction.

How will the project achieve these benefits?

There are a number of workstreams being managed by a cross-directorate project group which reports to an Agile Board.

The workstreams cover the council's accommodation provision, HR policies, digital and ICT, learning and development, opportunities for the frontline and communications and engagement. The group is overseeing a wide range of work, which includes an agile accommodation review, the development of a blended working policy, the roll out of modern leadership training and the planning of equipment provision which will give staff the tools they need to work in agile ways.

Agile questions and answers

The information below was last updated on Wednesday 30 March 2022

Blended working and the agile principles

What is the blended working policy?

Thousands of staff have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, with the aid of technology such as Teams, adapting to new ways of working while still delivering quality services.

We now want to harness and build on the successes of our pandemic response and, like many other public and private sector organisations around the world, one way in which we will do this is by offering staff, where suitable, the opportunity to continue remote working for some of their working time - as part of a blended and balanced approach - and to be more flexible in how and when they get their work done, subject to business requirements.

We know this is not something all staff can do, as many colleagues' roles depend on them being in a particular location at a particular time, and we are exploring other ways in which those colleagues can benefit from agile opportunities.

For those staff who can be blended workers, a blended working policy has been developed. This was approved by Cabinet on 12 October 2021 and at Full Council on 17 November 2021. The policy provides the framework for blended working arrangements and enables the council to offer the increased flexibility which many jobseekers want from employers, following the changes brought about by the pandemic.

Blended working policy

Blended working arrangements will need to be agreed by managers, who have to consider business needs, as part of team protocols which are being rolled out.

What are team protocols and when should they be completed?

Services are being encouraged to discuss and agree their team protocols before the council officially launches blended working arrangements on 28 March 2022.

The completion of team protocols are part of a service area risk assessment approach to enabling more staff to attend workplaces. This is explained on our working in a council building - guidance for managers page.

Different services may take different approaches to completing team protocols but they have all been given a standard team protocol template to use for guidance.

The protocols act as a series of questions to prompt conversations about how teams want and need to work to deliver the best possible service, taking into account how teams have had to adapt to new ways of working and changing customer needs and expectations brought on by the pandemic and all sorts of other factors such as emerging technology.

The template can be adapted to suit different teams' particular considerations but the intention is that all team protocols should be in the spirit of the agile principles. You can view and download a copy of the team protocol template.

What are the agile principles?

There is recognition that a one-size-fits-all approach is often not appropriate to such a huge and diverse organisation as the council therefore the agile principles are designed to act as a framework - rather than a set of rules - to shape how the council becomes more agile.

They are themed around performance, culture, equality and wellbeing and development and can be used by services to assess and review their own agile approaches. You can access the full set of agile principles here.

Will the council be paying an allowance or contribution to the utility bills of people working remotely from home?

The council is not proposing to provide financial assistance for household bills. The option for staff to work remotely from home, as part of an agreed team protocol, is about giving staff more choice and any staff who don't want to work from home or other remote locations will be able to work from a council workplace.

Employees should weigh up any costs involved in home working as well as considering the potential benefits, which may include financial benefits such as savings on commuting costs, vehicle maintenance, parking costs and lunchtime costs as well as work-life benefits such as less time spent travelling.

Staff can also apply to the HMRC for home working tax relief for household bills.

Visit the GOV.UK - claim tax relief page

Agile accommodation review

What is the agile accommodation review?

The council has an ambition for a modern workforce in a modern workplace, where everyone matters, and wants to make future office provision as positive a 'people experience' as possible so that workplace environments support performance, wellbeing, collaboration and innovation.

The agile accommodation review aims to achieve that through a redesign of offices based on what services believe they need to support team operations and effective service delivery and also based on the likelihood that we will not need as much overall office space in the future.

This is because the roll-out of blended working will give staff more choice and flexibility to divide their working time between offices and remote locations, such as their homes, and therefore fewer people will be in council offices at any one time.

Will teams have designated office space in the agile future?

Every service will be allocated its own specific space, although this will be across a smaller overall footprint, and teams within services will be able to use this space to work and collaborate together.

It will be up to each service how it wants to best utilise that space. For example, this may involve setting up rotas for different teams to use parts of the space on certain days or operating desk-sharing agile arrangements (in accordance with safe systems of working).

Services can also share their space as part of a neighbourhood approach, which is aimed at encouraging cross-service collaboration, so there is also the opportunity to utilise the space with individuals or teams from other services.

What will work spaces look like?

Areas will have a mix of different types of workspace, depending on what services have told us they want as part of the ongoing agile accommodation review.

This can range from confidential meeting rooms to collaboration spaces of different sizes, task-based workstations for concentrated work, touchdown areas for people who need to work for a brief period of time between appointments and more informal break-out areas which could be similar to the layout in The Point.

What are neighbourhood areas?

The council is looking at creating what we are calling neighbourhoods as a means of providing shared agile space for services. The intention is to encourage and support more collaboration across services which have strong links. Neighbourhood areas can feature different types of workspace but there is likely to be a focus on collaboration space for individuals and teams from different services to come together to work on projects or other work which impacts across multiple services. The neighbourhoods will be themed Organisation, Place and Customer.

When will we know what our service's space allocation will be?

Services initially provided high-level information for the agile accommodation review which included staff numbers, expected working arrangements as part of team protocols and the types and amount of workspace desired to support service-delivery and team operations.

This has enabled Asset Strategy and the Agile Project to determine what overall space is needed by different services and more detailed work then takes place with services to take into account their different needs and considerations, for example storage space, specialised work spaces and particular operational requirements they might need to cater for. Space allocations have been agreed with the services which are in the first phase of the agile accommodation review and are being discussed with other services as part of the ongoing process.

When will changes to offices start?

The council has agreed to take a phased approach to office reconfigurations, as part of a 'test, learn and evolve' approach to the agile accommodation review.

This will allow services to test and assess how the new layouts are working for them while also adopting and adapting to the new, blended ways of working as agreed in team protocols.

The first phase is involving the 4 services within Corporate Resources as well as Revenues and Procurement in the Communities and Environment directorate.

Corporate Resources services are making up the Organisation Neighbourhood, which will be in the ground floors of B and C blocks at County Hall. Those offices are being reconfigured and the occupation of the neighbourhood is due to start from the end of March.

Revenues and Procurement staff are expected to occupy a new look space on the first floor of C block at County Hall by mid April.

The accommodation programme will continue at County Hall from April and May, with further office configurations and some further relocations, in liaison with services.

Over a period of time, we expect that services and teams will evolve how they work and review their team protocols and this may in turn lead to further changes to office layouts if they realise they want more or less of a particular type of workspace.

One aim of the agile accommodation review is to create workspaces which are as flexible as possible, whether that is furniture which can easily be rearranged to temporarily create more collaboration space for an afternoon or reconfigured on a longer-term basis.

Can staff work in an office more often than what is agreed for their team in a team protocol?

Services are being encouraged to develop team protocols to discuss and agree blended ways of working, including the consideration of topics such as team collaboration, communication, performance, information-sharing and wellbeing.

Many services are planning to utilise their space by organising working arrangements in a way which means different teams come together in the workplace on a set number of days and the remaining days individual staff can choose where they want to work, for example at home.

If any staff want to work in an office more often that what is agreed in their team protocol, they can do so, as the agile project is all about providing more choice where possible for people.

Bookable, agile space will be available for anyone who wants to have the benefit of working remotely sometimes, as part of a blended working arrangement, but who actually wants to spend more time in an office than their team protocol says they need to.

In these circumstances, staff will be able to book an agile workspace, For example, it could be in their service area's neighbourhood or one of the hubs we will be establishing across the East Riding, which could be closer to people's homes and therefore cut down on their travel time and expense.

What are the hubs and where will they be?

Alongside the accommodation review of County Hall, a network of agile hubs is being established across the East Riding to support agile approaches such as blended working.

They will offer agile, bookable space for people to use, whether that is for brief periods of work, to meet and collaborate with other people or as somewhere to have a lunch break between appointments.

The aim is to repurpose existing space in council-owned buildings and we are also looking at co-location opportunities with partners.

The hubs will offer a range of facilities, workstations and meeting space, depending on their size, with a mix of desks available for any staff to use via a booking system.

The first 2 hubs are available to use from Thursday 28 March - at Willerby Depot and the Hedon Centre - with 2 further hubs due to open at Bridlington Town Hall and Goole Council Offices in April.

Further sites are also being considered elsewhere in the East Riding.

How do I book a workspace at one of the hubs or at County Hall?

An easy-to-use booking system has now been created for the hubs and will also be available for services to use in their new neighbourhood workspaces at County Hall once their agile accommodation changes have been completed.

Further guidance about booking a workspace is now available on our book a desk at a council office page. Extra hub locations will be available shortly.

Will I be able to have confidential face-to-face or virtual meetings and calls in offices and hubs?

Services are being asked to specify requirements for confidential meeting space as part of the agile accommodation review.

The hubs will vary in their provision, depending on their size, and confidential space will not be available at some of them.

There is an expectation that all staff take relevant measures to maintain confidentiality and data protection wherever and however they are working and to complete all mandatory training such as data protection eLearning so that they are aware of such requirements.

Equipment such as headsets (including noise-reducing headsets) can be provided. These should have been requested through the Agile Ways of Working: Equipment questionnaire. Please speak to your line manager if you have not requested a headset and feel you need one.

When working near other people in an office or communal area such as an agile hub, you should be considerate of other people if you are in a Microsoft Teams meeting or call by using a noise-reducing headset whenever possible.

This not only makes it easier for you to communicate with people on the Teams call (because the microphone and earpieces help to reduce background noise in the room you are in) but it also means you don't have to use the speakers on your laptop (or other device), which can be a noise disturbance to other people in the same work area you are physically in.

Can staff work permanently in an office?

If any staff want to spend all of their working time in an office, they should seek agreement from their line manager as soon as possible so that the planning of accommodation requirements can take that into account.

If someone wants to work permanently in an office, would they need to book a desk on a daily basis?

If an employee has a preference and managerial support to be 100 per cent office-based then the intention would be to either allocate a specific workstation for that person, or have a number of specific workstations availble to office-based staff, which would not need to be booked. Services can make the necessary arrangements to best suit their needs and the desk booking system can be configured accordingly.

However, the expectation would be that that person would not be able to participate in blended working and would spend as close to 100 per cent of their working time in that space, aside from meetings, training and other reasonable requirements to be somewhere else.

If the person wants to have flexibility in their work location, with the agreement of their manager they could book any agile space at a choice of locations, whether in their service's neighbourhood area or elsewhere such as a hub.

They would, however, be expected to attend any planned coming together of their team as part of team protocol working arrangements or any other planned meetings, training and events arranged by their line manager, service or the council.

What storage facilities will be there be for work materials and equipment and for personal belongings?

The agile accommodation review is considering storage requirements for different services.

Provision will be made for services which have paper records and other types of files and documents which need to be retained and easily accessed, as well as equipment which needs to be stored and easily accessed.

Services are encouraged to consider digitising processes and records as much as possible but there is an understanding that some legal or contractual reasons may prohibit this.

We do ask that services take the opportunity to declutter where possible, recycling unwanted items if they are recyclable and disposing of anything else no longer needed.

Agile workspaces and any workstations which are used for desk-sharing should have a clear desk policy in operation.

Consideration has been given to the possibility of providing secure storage for personal belongings and a limited number of lockers are being provided as part of the agile accommodation review, on a trial basis.

However, staff can be provided with a choice of bag to transport work equipment and any other items they need, as referenced in the Agile Ways of Working: Equipment questionnaire.

ICT and equipment

Will staff who need specialist equipment or furniture be catered for?

The agile accommodation review will work with services and Safety Services to identify and assess requirements for adaptations and specialist equipment and furniture. This will involve detailed work and consideration of individual circumstances.

Staff who feel they need specialist equipment or furniture should speak to their line manager in the first instance.

What equipment will be available for blended workers?

A standard package of work equipment will be available to blended staff to enable them to work as easily as possible from any location.

This will include a laptop, a choice of WiFi keyboards and mice, a noise-reducing headset and the choice of a laptop bag, rucksack or wheeled case if staff require one.

The intention is to also provide monitors for home use where needed.

Other items such as laptop risers are available for services to purchase should staff need them.

Staff who requested WiFi keyboards and mice, headsets and bags in the Agile Ways of Working: Equipment questionnaire will receive an email in early March with instructions on how to collect their equipment.

We will do our best to accommodate any additional requests but please note the global shortage of vital components for ICT equipment has caused supply problems and this may impact the timescales for rolling out new agile equipment to all blended workers.

What about staff with base units?

The council's Desktop Refresh Programme has been adapted to align with the phased approach to the agile accommodation review, with services in phase 1 being prioritised to have base units replaced with laptops so that those staff can work more easily from different locations.

The programme will continue to prioritise blended workers across the council as it moves into 2022-23.

What ICT equipment will offices have?

There will be a mix, depending on the type of workspace and workstation.

For example, touchdown areas would have no fixed equipment, as they are designed for brief, drop-in work by people on the go, but workspaces aimed at focussed, task-based work would have fixed equipment such as monitors, with cable connections, and some of these monitors could also act as docking stations.

The agile accommodation review will work with services to work out the detail of their requirements, as well as corporate requirements, so that the provision of ICT equipment, connectivity (power and network points), furniture and other equipment such as display screens can be catered for as much as possible.

Staff have got lots of specific questions about ICT equipment and furniture. How and when will these be answered?

We appreciate staff have many questions about current and future ICT equipment and workspace provision, such as desks, chairs and other furniture, and we expect that the details of what individual staff want to know, if they aren't covered by these questions, will be answered as their services go through their agile accommodation changes.

One common question is about new or replacement ICT equipment. The global shortage of vital components of ICT equipment has caused supply problems and the council, like many other organisations, has been impacted by this, however we have been taking steps to procure what stock we can to support current needs and in anticipation of future needs.

The Agile Ways of Working: Equipment questionnaire which was undertaken last year helped to determine those future needs, as well as assessing existing equipment usage.

What is happening with telephony?

A review of telephony is taking place across the council and the results of this will inform what telephony equipment and software will be used in the future. It is anticipated that fewer physical desk phones will be needed as internal calls between network users should be made via Teams. Mobile phones should be the default for external calls wherever possible, with 'softphone' software available as the next best option to enable laptops to be used as telephones if mobile phones aren't suitable for some staff.

What will the WiFi be like at County Hall once the agile accommodation changes have been made?

A full review of the council's WiFi provision is taking place, with the aim of extending and improving coverage. There will be more information about this over the next few months. In the meantime, apart from a few locations including The Point and the larger corporate meeting rooms which have WiFi provision, staff are advised to use network cables wherever possible to connect to the council network.

Training and support

Will there be training to support blended working and other agile approaches?

Yes, the council has been revising its approach to learning and development and this will include a range of training, such as in digital skills, to support the organisation through the agile and digital change journey.

A programme of Modern Leadership training, to equip managers with agile leadership skills and reinforce the culture and values expected of them, launched on 17 September.

Nearly 600 managers have so far either attended the sessions or have enrolled on the training.

The Agile Ways of Working: Equipment questionnaire also asked questions about people's digital skills and the responses to those will help shape future training opportunities. The people and digital strategies, along with the commercial framework, are also helping to inform future staff training provision which links to the council becoming more agile.

What guidance is there for managers about blended working and staff returning to the office?

There is a range of guidance for managers about the process involved in enabling more staff to work in offices on our working in the office - guidance for group and service managers page. The document below also provides useful guidance.

Managers guidance - returning staff to the office

Parking

Will there be any changes to parking arrangements once the council officially launches blended working?

The flexible parking permits scheme has been expanded and is now available for all staff following the removal of all eligibility criteria. That means more flexibility for staff who work part time or split their working week between the office and home. Staff can pay for single-use daily permits which can be used in a variety of long stay car parks on weekdays. Staff parking pass allocations are also being reviewed. More information about flexible permits and monthly permits are available on our staff parking permits page.

Catering

What is happening at The Point?

There will be a new approach to catering at The Point, with a Micro Market service offering a wide range of food and drink. That should be open by the summer but, in the meantime, The Point will continue to offer £1 hot drinks as part of the new agile 'office experience' and the Treasure House cafe is open.

Engagement

Will there be any more surveys, to see if people still have the same preferences about working arrangements as they did when responding to the blended working survey in 2021?

The results of the staff blended working survey were overwhelmingly in favour of blended working being taken up by employees, subject to their job roles, business need and managerial support.

Nearly 52 per cent of networked staff responded and 90 per cent of respondents said they wanted to work in a blended way in the future, with 7 per cent saying their preference was to work remotely all the time and 3 per cent saying they wanted to be purely office-based.

We appreciate the survey was carried out at a moment in time but we asked staff to think about their long-term view. We also appreciate that staff responded based on the information available at that time and that of course people can change their minds. We expect people will have different views in the coming months and years as well, depending on all sorts of factors, whether that is changing personal, work or other circumstances.

We don't intend to run another such survey because we have established the desire for, and benefits of, blended working and it is now down to services, teams and individuals to discuss and agree their working arrangements, with the offer of blended working available if their job roles are suitable, there is a business need and they have managerial support.

That is why the team protocols are so important. They will determine working arrangements and should be agreed collaboratively so that individuals have their say but with the understanding that it is for managers to make decisions and that those decisions will be reasonable, within the spirit of agile and in the interests of service delivery.

There will be other staff surveys and the intention is to do these on a regular basis on a variety of topics relating to blended working and the wider agile project. For example, we intend to run some short 'pulse' surveys later this year to assess the impacts of blended working and how well it is working for individuals, teams and services.

These FAQs will continue to be updated and expanded over the coming weeks and months.
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