VINCI Facilities blog: Get smart in the workplace

CCN Blogs | 08 November 2021

What is smarter working and how does it affect what goes in the public sector? VINCI Facilities and Lincolnshire County Council are investigating at the County Council Network’s annual conference on 21-23 November

Covid-19 has put a lot of things into perspective for many of us. One of the most immediate things that affected people across the country and many employers, particularly in the county council sector was the concept of working from home. Suddenly our buildings were not being used.

If you were office based or were responsible for managing a portfolio of buildings then you were faced with having to change your way of working. But right across society the pandemic hastened the introduction of new policies – it triggered innovative solutions to mitigate the risk of infection, grasp the opportunities to create a cleaner environment and help decarbonise our society.

In the workplace community there has been a reaction to these changes, and it has prompted numerous articles and online debate about the future of the office and how we work. But in the real world – particularly the public sector – there is a need to take practical action.

Covid 19 acted as a catalyst for Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) to think again about smarter ways of working – looking at how much of our buildings we really needed and where our people were going to be working. There was an imperative to make savings as well as embracing innovative and creative ways to just continue to deliver services to the public but do it better.

VINCI Facilities is working with LCC to manage the transition. The goal is reducing the number of buildings across the county’s property portfolio by around 30% whilst working on the assumption that the remaining space was only going to be occupied about half of the time. This is why it’s described as smarter working: being cleverer about utilising the space available and, at the same time, keeping the employees on side. Because any shift in workplace management and ways of working, no matter whether you call it smarter working, hybrid, agile or activity-based working relies on employee engagement. Changes in workplace require a cultural shift in mindset and behaviours – and that needs buy in from the team.

But what does this mean in reality? Is it working in Lincolnshire? How does it compare with other county councils, or local and district bodies? Is it providing long term savings? What is the output versus savings on buildings? Is that the right measure? What lessons can be learned from the private sector, and should our sector pay any heed at all to the debate amongst workplace pundits, designers and their trade media?

Workplace strategies, or to be more precise, discussions about what the workplace is going to look like, are increasingly common in the FM, design and mainstream business media. It’s easy editorial to write – surveys are commissioned, consultants voice opinions, data is analysed and concepts such as home working, hybrid working, agile working, activity-based working, open plan offices and employee engagement are bandied about. Much of this debating is focused on the private sector. For the public sector it is different: do our smarter working plans offer value for money for the taxpayer?

The truth about workplace lies somewhere else. That’s what we want to discuss as part of our workshop on smarter working and the future of work in county councils. We want to share our experiences, the lessons and best practice and through an interactive workshop taking place at the County Council Network conference at Marlow on 21-23 November to find a truth that will benefit all of us.

Paul Taylor

Customer Director, VINCI Facilities