‘We have a responsibility to the public purse’: exclusive insight into the future of UK civil service offices

By on 30/10/2022 | Updated on 31/10/2022
A person working at a desk
Photo: Pixabay

In the wake of the pandemic, many professionals want flexible working arrangements – and unless public bodies can offer them, they’ll find it difficult to attract the most talented and skilled employees. Indeed, flexible working can expand the labour markets available to employers: people are often willing to take jobs further from home if they aren’t required to be in the office every day.

This has implications for public bodies’ property assets and strategies: many may require less office space, with fewer desks and more meeting and collaboration spaces. This shift also comes after nearly a decade of the UK’s One Public Estate programme, which has been focused on making more efficient use of public sector property to both encourage collaboration and free up surplus land for housing.

Global Government Forum convened a panel of public and private sector experts for a webinar with knowledge partner Asana that looked at:

  • The benefits of office colocation and how it can improve local public services
  • The savings that can be unlocked through better use of public sector buildings
  • How public sector organisations can plan now for the hybrid working future

Here, we set out the key points discussed during the webinar, with clips for each section.

Meredith May, deputy director, real estates strategy, portfolio & leasehold, Department for Work and Pensions, discussed the future of the office from the DWP perspective, including the development of its ‘smaller, better, greener’ estate strategy.

Click on the video below to see this clip:

However, she acknowledged that at the moment, most of the department’s offices are set up for pre-COVID working practices. “We’re asking people to adapt at the moment, in an environment that has not yet been transformed.”

The department is looking into what works – and how organisational culture can match the new flexible working world.

Natasha Harris, deputy director, inclusion and smarter working, HM Revenue and Customs, set out how HMRC has developed its office modernisation plan – and how it is being implemented.

Hear how HMRC developed its estates plan here:

How HMRC developed its principles for hybrid working and how it is being “clear and consistent around the purpose of our offices”:

And how HMRC is building regional communities in its offices:

Ben Crowe, head of EMEA revenue partnerships at project management software specialist Asana, discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organisational efficiency.

The risks of burnout and imposter syndrome in flexible working environments, and how to tackle them:

How to free people from “work about work” so they can concentrate on productive tasks:

“The new normal is here. The question is, are we ready for it?’

Michael O’Doherty, project director at Local Partnerships – a joint venture between the Local Government Association, HM Treasury and the Welsh Government that works to help public sector organisations meet rising demands for services – discussed the development of the One Public Estate programme, which works to share buildings between different organisations.

He also covered the role of asset mapping and workshops in identifying the scope of the public sector estate:

The challenges in getting public sector organisations to work together:

And how One Public Estate is looking to help the government’s drive to net zero:

To learn all this and more, you can watch the 75-minute webinar via our dedicated event page. The webinar – hosted by Global Government Forum with the support of knowledge partner Asana – was held on 22 September 2022.

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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