Getting back to the office

As we are opening up more and more of our buildings for colleagues to return as and when they need and want to, we have to acknowledge that our ways of working have changed out of all recognition in the past 6 months; we are adapting quickly to make the most of the opportunities.  Many of you will have heard me say that I’m very glad that we went down the Smart Working road some 4 years ago, but we’ve learned more in the past 6 months than we have in those previous 4 years.   I’m quite clear that we are not ordering people back to the office, but rather enabling safe environments for us to make the most of the new realities.  Fewer of us will come to the office for a desk and a computer, and more of us will come for specific activities, such as meetings which work better face to face than virtually. 

I was struck by conversations after a recent Business Brief that some colleagues in jobs that involve stressful interactions with clients and the public really miss the opportunity to sit with their teams and decompress.  As an intelligent, thinking organisation, we  are making that happen, and I seek your support in this endeavour.

We also recognise that our town centres rely on the footfall from office-based staff during the week. By providing a safe environment for more colleagues to return to workplaces, I hope an added benefit is that we can collectively support our local shops, eating places and other businesses, at a time when they really need our custom.

Elsewhere ,the county council is also adapting our HR policies to suit us as an organisation in the future.   We had an excellent briefing at SLT last week on re-thinking our HR policies.  I have personally always worked on the basis that I assume that everybody got up this morning wanting to do their best, and when that doesn’t happen, there are usually things that can be done to recover the situation with a bit of focussed leadership.  I was therefore delighted to listen to a briefing from Hannah Reade–Head of our Education HR Service which proposes “Freedom within a Framework”, reducing the number and complexity of our HR policies. The aim is to empower our people, accept that mistakes happen, that they are a sign of a learning and developing organisation, and the measure of success is that the same mistake isn’t made two or more times.     

Lastly this week, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to make a “plug” for the upcoming iManage workshops. In the coming weeks, managers will be asked to enrol on a series of workshops to give them the skills and confidence they need to have great conversations. It’s a conscious step-change in our approach to one-to-ones. I’m looking forward to the sessions and seeing you taking part.

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