Place based to place led: Shaping our virtual world

27th July, 2020. Published by Georgia Watson

Has the crisis made collaboration the new norm? In short, yes. Essentially overnight the public sector and commercial businesses alike were made to work 100% online. There was no longer an option to gather together or to come into the office.

This posed a number of problems for businesses and the public sector in particular as they are not typically set up with a full-scale work from home model, valuing the face time the office allows. However, the only option was for us all to adapt immediately, so we did. This quickly proved to the world that adaptation is absolutely essential to survive, but also extremely doable and in reality, not nearly as complex as we may have perceived it to be.

Video calls and interactive webinars became the norm, four months in and it is almost hard to remember what it was like going into the office every day. Eliminating any face time was hard at first, so I found that I was really making an effort to collaborate as it was helpful to my job, but also gave me a sense of community and something “social” in my day.

So, what does this mean for the future of public services? I think it provides a massive opportunity for those people working within councils and other local public sectors the chance to shape their future. Something like COVID-19, which like it or not has had an impact on every single person, isn’t a common occurrence so we’ve been given a unique opportunity to get stuck in and help define the ways in which we work together, how we rely more on technology and how we combine these together to better serve our communities.

It also means we are no longer tied to the traditional 9 to 5 and having that kind of flexibility is a game changer for employees who may have left work in the past due to family or other care commitments. This is a significant asset for the public sector and commercial businesses who were losing good people who just couldn’t keep to those traditional hours.

If these changes are managed in the right way, a remote target operating model will no doubt lead to continued collaboration. Having increased flexibility, employees across the board can feel empowered in their work and their personal lives, no longer having to choose one or the other. If more public sector services become remote, physical location matters less, so both public and commercial sectors have a real chance to rebalance the economic geography and reduce the economic disparity between big cities and rural areas.

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