Policies and practices for a future of flexible working

July 8, 2021
United Kingdom

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The wholesale shift to remote working last year was forced on organisations and staff, but many have found it a positive change – with employees enjoying their newfound flexibility and reduced travel time, while employers see benefits in productivity and reduced office costs. Both for civil service bodies and in the wider economy, the future appears to be one of hybrid working; and this shift will have profound implications for civil service policymakers, operational managers and senior leaders alike.

If more people work at home, for example, suburban high streets and neighbourhoods will need new local facilities, services and transport connections, while central business, retail and leisure districts will have to adapt to a changed economic model. Meanwhile daily commuting volumes are likely to fall, but – with staff freed to live further from their workplaces – we may see both growing demand for other forms of travel, and a dispersal of earning power away from the South-East of England.

So in fields such as economic development, infrastructure and planning, the pandemic is altering the landscape – presenting policymakers with a new set of challenges and opportunities. And these changes are just as significant for civil service leaders and HR, property, IT and service delivery professionals; for the tasks of recruiting, developing and managing staff will look quite different after the pandemic.

At this webinar, experts from the public and private sectors explored the pandemic’s impact on working practices in the UK, considered the implications for civil service policymakers and operational managers, and took questions from the live online audience.


Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.

Kate Guthrie, Deputy Director Workplace Experience and Smarter Working Programme Director, Government Property Agency, UK

Kate is the Deputy Director of Workplace Experience and the Smarter Working Programme Director at the Government Property Agency in the UK. Pre-COVID, Kate led the Cabinet Office’s work to support departments in putting flexible and remote working arrangements in place, and she’s been closely involved in managing the shift to remote working throughout the pandemic.

Tony Devenish, West Central Assembly Member of the London Assembly

Tony Devenish has represented Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea on the London Assembly since May 2016. He was re-elected as the West Central Assembly Member in May 2021.

On the London Assembly, Tony has led calls for the Mayor to urgently fix Hammersmith Bridge, open a temporary road bridge and publish a plan to help central London recover from the pandemic. He campaigned against the Mayor’s Congestion Charge hike and for an electric bus fleet to improve our air quality. He has published reports on overcrowded homes and congestion in London.

Since 2006, Tony has served as a councillor in Westminster. Outside of politics, Tony had a long career in infrastructure and property – including as one of the youngest overseas General Managers for Rolls-Royce.

GLA Conservative Responsibilities:

  • Environment Spokesman

London Assembly Responsibilities:

  • Environment Committee Deputy Chairman
  • Housing Committee Deputy Chairman
  • Member of the Police and Crime Committee

Kevin Murray, Managing Director, Metre Sq Limited (currently providing consultancy services to the Metropolitan Police Service)

Kevin Murray is the Managing Director of a construction and facilities management consultancy. He qualified as a Chartered Surveyor, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply and holds a Master’s degree in Construction Law.

In 2010, Kevin joined the Ministry of Justice as Head of Commercial for Property and Construction. He became a Senior Civil Servant to the Cabinet Office in 2015. While in Cabinet Office, Kevin undertook senior commercial roles related to estate, FM and construction for DWP, DEFRA, BEIS, Crown Commercial Service and the Government Property Agency.

In 2019 he set up his own practice and is undertaking commissions with the Metropolitan Police and two central government departments. He is also providing strategic tendering advice to an off-site manufacturer and a major construction organisation.

Kevin was former chair of both the Government FM Board and the Collaborative Procurement Working Group and the RICS, QS Division, in Yorkshire. He remains a member of the advisory Constructing Excellence Procurement Group, and also provides expert opinion to working groups and mature students.

Andrew Almond, Partner, Pick Everard

Andy is a Partner of Pick Everard, one of the UKs leading multi-professional construction consultancy companies, with forty years’ experience in the construction industry.

Previously Andy has led and managed major construction projects and programmes in the UK and abroad.

Currently Andy is Partnership lead for Pick Everards COVID Task Force and Hybrid Working initiative. Alongside this he works closely with major public sector clients which includes strategic estate management and digital information management.

Dean Smith, Joint Managing Director (UK & Europe), WT Partnership

Dean Smith is the Joint Managing Director (UK & Europe) of WT Partnership, an independent international FM, project and cost consultancy.

Dean is a Chartered Surveyor with over 30 years’ experience in providing practical strategic advice to a wide range of public and private sector clients both in the UK and overseas, including BUPA, General Electric, Royal Bank of Scotland, numerous NHS Trusts, Zoological Society of London, Manchester Airport, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunal Service and charity organisations.

Throughout Dean’s career he has promoted innovation and managed change where this provides tangible benefits to clients in achieving their organisations’ objectives.