UK officials keen to retain remote working, survey finds

By on 03/05/2021 | Updated on 03/05/2021
Many civil servants in the UK want to continue working flexibly after the pandemic, according to new research. Credit: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

The vast majority of UK civil servants have adapted well to remote working and want to continue working flexibly after the pandemic, according to new research – though there are concerns around collaboration, security and data protection practices.

Some 73% of respondents said they can carry out all their responsibilities while working remotely, according to a new survey of 906 civil servants conducted by Global Government Forum and Dell Technologies. A further 22% said they can do most of their work from home.

More than nine in 10 respondents said they have all the tools they need to work remotely, while four-fifths have access to all the applications and datasets available in the office. About three quarters of those surveyed said their home broadband speeds are equal to or better than those in their usual workplace; and a similar proportion said they feel as well managed as they do when in the office.

Asked whether they’d like to work remotely more frequently in the future than they did prior to the pandemic, 82% of respondents agreed – with two thirds of them saying they “agree strongly”. Moreover, 72% said that doing so would improve their wellbeing. Most also felt that this would increase civil service productivity, with 59% saying they’re more productive working remotely; just 16% said that they’re less productive.

And on the down side…

A substantial minority of respondents expressed concerns about collaboration and team coherence in a remote workforce, however. Nearly a third (30%) agreed that collaborating and communicating with colleagues is a struggle when working from home, although 54% said not. And while 52% said that the sense of team identity and purpose remain just as strong out of the office, 35% thought they have been weakened.

On tech support at home, nearly seven in 10 said it’s as timely and effective at home as in the office, against 17% who thought it worse. And only a tiny proportion worried that their employer had not adequately protected security in remote working systems and tools.

But the research did identify some potential gaps. Over a third of respondents said their organisation had not been in contact to check that they’re observing data protection rules, and 40% that they haven’t been asked to check that their home wifi settings are secure.

A glimpse of the post-pandemic workplace

The report points to a future of hybrid working, noting that “large numbers of people believe their lives could be improved by having more choice and flexibility over the way they carry out their work.” These findings are important to civil service employers’ recruitment strategies, it adds, suggesting that “organisations’ flexible working policies will take on new significance in the competition for talent, as candidates re-evaluate their priorities in the post-Covid world.”

In the report’s introduction, Tariq Hussain, a senior director for UK public sector at Dell Technologies, notes that the findings “underpin our ambition that everybody should be able to work and learn from anywhere at any time. These results demonstrate that technology can be effectively harnessed to support flexible working in all civil service business units, with corresponding benefits for employees’ mental health and wellbeing.”

The full survey – including detailed findings attained by segmenting responses – is available via GGF’s website. GGF and Dell Technologies will be hosting a webinar on 13 May, where Hussain will explain the findings in detail: you can sign up via our event page.

About Matt Ross

Matt is Global Government Forum's Contributing Editor, providing direction and support on topics, products and audience interests across GGF’s editorial, events and research operations. He has been a journalist and editor since 1995, beginning in motoring and travel journalism – and combining the two in a 30-month, 30-country 4x4 expedition funded by magazine photo-journalism. Between 2002 and 2008 he was Features Editor of Haymarket news magazine Regeneration & Renewal, covering urban regeneration, economic growth and community development; and from 2008 to 2014 he was the Editor of UK magazine and website Civil Service World, then Editorial Director for Public Sector – both at political publishing house Dods. He has also worked as Director of Communications at think tank the Institute for Government.

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