MF Warrender of Open Access Government explores the importance of smarter working practices across government

Established in 2010, The Government Property Unit (GPU) works with central government departments, striving to drive savings across the government estate. Added to this, the GPU works with local authorities to support them in achieving cost effective local public-sector estates, which can support the delivery of better integrated public services and exploit surplus land and property for growth.

Since 2010, over £1 billion has been saved in running costs, showing the significant progress that has been made since the GPU’s founding 7 years ago.

More recently, the GPU has been working together with Common Technology Services (CTS), to provide correct and effective technology to make sharing buildings easier within the public sector, as it is a high priority for the government to use buildings in an efficient and cost-effective way. To do this, it is being encouraged to use shared working spaces, to use cloud technology in these spaces to save money, to improve collaboration and to also make sure that staff have the resources available to “work smarter”.

Some of the solutions that are being worked towards will be solved by shared services. The shared services are as follows:

  • Shared Wi-fi;
  • Shared Wide area network (WAN);
  • Shared printing and;
  • Shared meeting rooms, using a booking system available to all tenants.

One of the core programmes run by the GPU is the Government Hubs Programme, which is making innovations to the central government’s estate by accommodating staff in shared regional hubs and supporting office estates, hoping to transform the Civil Service. The Government Hubs Programme transferred to the Shadow GPA in January 2017 and aims for a radical reshaping of the civil service estate. The key benefit of the Government Hubs Programme concerns their strategic locations, boasting excellent public transport connectivity and local amenities for staff. Striving to encourage flexible working with collaboration zones, these will ensure that staff working in cross-department projects can sit and work together.

There will also be quiet and private zones for work done by government staff that is confidential or sensitive. Furthermore, Cloud-based technology (which is a high priority) will free staff from their desks to work in the zones that are better suited to getting their job done.

The Government Hubs Programme will reduce the government estate from around 800 to 200 buildings by 2023, saving approximately £2.4 billion over 10 years. These spaces will support new and developing ways of working, allowing staff to work from a variety of locations, including hubs.

Smart working focuses on how to make the most of today’s advances in IT and technology, enabling more flexible use of premises. This approach aims to deliver the benefits of better decision-making, faster communications and greater collaboration across boundaries.

Smarter Work

John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary stated in December 2016, that: “I’m proud to say that the Civil Service is also embracing these changes, becoming more efficient and effective in its approach to working cultures and the environment in which it works”. It is clear to see that progress, an open mind, and the decision to embrace this new method of working will heavily contribute to: “A brilliant civil service”. (1)

An individual worth a mention is Smarter Working Programme Director at the Home Office, Martin Sellar, a seasoned PPM professional tasked with delivering some significant change initiatives across several government departments. Martin is focussed on the governance and delivery of projects to cost, time and quality, indeed he is working with stakeholders to bring issues forward effectively in operating environments that are complex. In his current role, Martin is concerned with rolling out the cultural move towards smarter working in the Home Office for the 30,000 staff there, while also reducing estates costs and increasing productivity by 10%.

At a conference (Assets & Estates Management Conference) recently, Martin revealed his thoughts on enabling smarter working by means of greater staff flexibility and modern working technology. He also discussed the importance of working closely with managers, staff and senior sponsors to bring forward the Smarter Working Programme (SWP). (2)

On the UK government’s website, we find out that the Home Office’s Smarter Working Programme (SWP) led the design of a groundbreaking new office building in Manchester. Indeed, the building design made smarter working possible, “by offering staff flexibility in their working arrangements and equipping them with modern technology.” (3)

On the website of the Civil Service’s TW3 Awards, we find out about the prestigious 2017 The Way We Work Award for Leadership. This Manchester-based project certainly embraced the concept of forward-looking change, as we find out on their website: “Staff surveys have measured increased staff satisfaction, motivation and engagement, and business areas continue to promote smarter working to attract new talent and retain its experienced staff. The SWP established a network of skilled smarter working champions to drive cultural change across the business and offer support at the team level. As a result, better collaborative working between HO business areas, suppliers and customers is helping the HO achieve better outcomes.” (4)

Another initiative worth underlining is “Work Wise Week’, which took place from 14th – 20th May 2017, with National Work from Home Day on the 19th of the same month. (5) The aim of Work Wise Week and National Work from Home Day was to promote modern “smarter” working practices, such as agile, flexible, remote and mobile working, as well as working from home. It aims to show the simplicity of smarter working in all types of business and how much of a difference can be made within the public sector if everybody got involved to help achieve a more productive United Kingdom.

Work Wise Week creates the space for us to think about the issues within any business and it encourages us to pose certain questions. What are the key drivers of your business? How productive is your organisation? Are you achieving more output per hour? Are you measuring the right things? Have you created the right culture for success? Without a doubt, these are difficult questions to ask and even more hard to answer without some real investment in time, research and people themselves.

This initiative also aims to give staff in government the time to think about these questions, thus encouraging them to pause and think about how they can work efficiently. The end goal is to reach successful new approaches, which will essentially result in effective change for the future.

Overall, the government in the UK is working towards developing new ways of “smarter work”, collaborating with new technology and sharing ideas on how to go about this, be it via a new programme or simply via social media platforms. The GPU, for example, will continue to develop their core programmes for a smarter and more efficient workplace.








MF Warrender


Open Access Government


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