Four hacks for government agencies to boost flexible working capabilities

Public service leaders discussed the ingredients needed to help staff increase productivity, well-being and efficiency at work, as it comes to understanding that flexible working arrangements will be more than a pandemic of the day.

A practical guide for agencies looking for optimal ways to manage a flexible workforce has been published, with the publication of new research from the UNSW Public Service Research Group.

The findings, which identify four essential elements for effective flexible working, were produced with funding from ANZSOG in partnership with the public service ACT.

To get the best results from flexible working, government workplaces need to work on these key ingredients:

  1. Have a results-oriented approach to work, emphasizing results and task completion as an organizational cultural value.
  2. Identify the purpose and benefit of specific face-to-face activities and tasks to be accomplished in the office.
  3. Establish a teamwork approach, where staff are bound by a common goal, have interdependent tasks and roles, share responsibilities and have complementary skills.
  4. Build the capacity of managers to provide high-level support for flexible working in the operational context, and empower staff with managerial responsibilities to conduct flexible working in a way that ensures that job demands and job objectives are met. the team are achieved.

The document was developed with public servants in the “knowledge worker” category, recognizing that flexible working arrangements for more autonomous and remote tasks were more feasible.

“The research showed that ACTPW staff value the ability to work flexibly, and most participants were satisfied with their level of choice regarding when and where to work,” read an explainer from the ANZSOG.

“A key retention factor for ACTPW is to continue to offer employees flexibility and choice of when and where to work.”

The researchers used a blended approach to gather their findings, obtaining qualitative data from ACTP’s Flexible Working Task Force meetings and focus group discussions with human resources (HR) managers and general staff.

They also examined the perception of middle managers and employees by analyzing existing information from the ACTPS employee census, Microsoft 365 data, and building and meeting room data.

While ACT civil servants said they were “mostly” satisfied with the way their flexible working arrangements were managed, management practices varied considerably from administration to administration and from each directorate. The researchers noted that this sentiment disparity showed how important a particular line manager’s attitude and support for flexible working and people management was.

“Research shows that flexible working exacerbates and accentuates existing management styles,” ANZSOG said.

“When managers focus on active people management, they support and see the benefits of flexible working and actively work to improve the benefits achieved.

“Managers who focus less on active people management struggle to maximize the benefits of flexible working.”

Proactive strategies to support manager development were highlighted by the document as essential to improving flexible working arrangements for happier and more productive workers.

The ANZSOG Research Insight series article also found that many civil servants held a negative view of activity-based work, with researchers highlighting the importance of building design and configuration for this purpose.

Co-authors of the study included Dr Fiona Buick, Dr Miriam Glennie, Professor Helen Dickinson, Professor Deborah Blackman, Associate Professor Sue Williamson, Dr Vindhya Weeratunga and Professor Massimiliano Tani.


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