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Smart Working at Islington Council

A case study of an integrated approach to flexible working

Once persuaded of the benefits of flexible working, organisations need to set about the practical task of implementing it. To achieve the full range of benefits means working across several disciplines – HR, Property, Facilities , IT and environmental policy.

It means developing a strategy, setting up a project team, and project managing an implementation that may incorporate audits of current working practices, consultations, developing the business case, moving or refurbishing property, workplace design, deploying new technologies, training, culture change and developing new policies and protocols.

That can be challenging. But partial approaches can be costly without delivering the benefits. For example, an implementation that introduces flexible working time options but not flexible place options may have work-life benefits, but not deliver cost savings or environmental benefits. Introducing home working and desk-sharing without addressing workplace culture would probably be a disaster.

One organisation that has adopted an integrated approach is Islington Council. Like many councils, Islington has been under pressure to increase efficiency over a number of years – delivering better services, more sustainably, and with fewer resources.

The Smart Working programme began there in 2005, and has ramped up from departmental initiatives to have an integrated framework that guides Smart Working throughout the Council. 2,400 staff are now set up to work more flexibly, working on a desk-sharing basis.

Starting from a portfolio of around 40 office buildings, the Council has now released 12 of them, and refurbished 13 as Smart Working environments, where the focus is on collaboration rather than working at fixed desks. This has led to a 10% reduction in accommodation running costs.

According to Paul Savage, Smart Programme Manager at Islington,

“It’s been an interesting journey and we’ve learned a lot along the way. In an organisation like a Council, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So, while building up an integrated framework for delivery, the roll-out of Smart Working in each service has to take account of the particular needs of that service, and where they are starting from.”

Paul feels that Smart Working is more relevant than ever in the current economic climate.

“After salaries, property and facilities are the biggest costs to councils. We need the people much more than we need desks, and the more we can cut our overheads, the better we can maintain our services.”

Because of the need for integration. flexible work, or ‘smart working’, implementation is now perhaps emerging as a discipline in itself, with experts who can combine managing multi-faceted projects with a strong understanding of the emerging new ways of working.











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