Future of work: How can technology support wellbeing in the public sector?

Due to the global pandemic, the UK workforce has faced numerous challenges – including the blurring of home-life boundaries and their wellbeing impacted. According to our recent research, the most common workplace challenge faced by public sector organisations was managing the personal wellbeing of staff. Overall, 63% of those we spoke to said that personal […]

Due to the global pandemic, the UK workforce has faced numerous challenges – including the blurring of home-life boundaries and their wellbeing impacted.

According to our recent research, the most common workplace challenge faced by public sector organisations was managing the personal wellbeing of staff. Overall, 63% of those we spoke to said that personal wellbeing is a challenge within their workplace, demonstrating how the topic is front of mind for public sector workers.

We looked in detail at the findings and found some common themes across the public sector.

Future of Work Report

Wellbeing for remote and hybrid workforces

The pandemic has opened up new ways of working for the public sector, allowing greater flexibility and support for wellbeing in the workplace, but this isn’t without its challenges. Whether that is the excessive number of meetings people are being asked to attend, the fact that they are forced to work from disconnected data siloes, the lack of automation or that there is no longer a boundary between their place of work and their home, public sector workers across the board have all experienced bumps in the road within their roles. These challenges all potentially lead to stress and disengagement amongst the workforce. It is imperative, therefore, that managers can easily identify departments that are feeling the pinch, working excessive hours and are at risk of burnout.

The use of data to inform strategic workforce decision-making, for example, to identify capacity challenges within teams and the potential risk of burnout of certain staff, could be part of the answer. This could help to improve business agility, enable multi-channel employee engagement, and enhance decision-making. Technology, like Viva Insights, provides a scientific approach to adjusting the behaviours that are usually directly associated with poor productivity and time management.

How technology can support flexible working

The increase in home working during the pandemic has led to an increase in flexibility when it comes to the working hours of staff. However, while senior stakeholders valued the positives of this, they also acknowledged that it could present challenges for staff and the business.

Firstly, there was a distinct lack of synchronisation between colleagues’ contracted and actual working hours due to many employees being given increased flexibility. Differing working patterns between colleagues was a challenge for 42% of public sector employees and particularly impacted those who spent at least part of their working week in the office. 54% of those working entirely in-office and 47% of hybrid workers found asynchronous working hours challenging, compared to only 30% of those working entirely from home. This could suggest those working from home are more likely to benefit from the increased flexibility.

However, 59% of those who found a lack of synchronisation challenging and 50% who are concerned by the lack of structure in their workday felt technology could help address these issues.

Products like Microsoft Viva, which can bring collaboration and organisational data together, could be used to analyse current work patterns against best practice and provide improvement plans. It is an example of technology and data working intrinsically together for the wellbeing of staff within organisations.

Onboarding of new staff

In our report, we discovered that 60% of public sector workers found the onboarding of new staff a challenge due to the new ways of working. However, this was significantly less challenging for those working in an office (49%) compared with hybrid workers (65%).

With remote working, it is essential that technology is set up to enable the same if not better levels of productivity at home, as in the office. This goes for current employees and those joining an organisation that runs a hybrid or remote working setup. Organisations should have the ability to provide the same level of interaction, support, training and collaboration when a new person starts remotely, as if they were joining the team in person.

76% of public sector workers believe the struggle of providing training to current staff could be solved with technology

That said, providing training to current staff is another area that 56% of public sector workers found a struggle in day-to-day working life. Again, the large majority (76%) believe those struggles could be solved with technology, for both remote workers and those working in the office. With dispersed teams, the public sector needs to find ways of providing training to staff and supporting them with development, despite their location. Just because employees are not physically in the office, does not mean their career development should suffer as a result. Collaboration tools within Microsoft Teams can enable leaders to hold training sessions with workers with breakout rooms to allow for group work and interaction, and creative tools such as the whiteboard feature can enable collaboration and brainstorming – mimicking an office setup.

Recruiting and retaining staff

Of the senior leaders we spoke to, most expressed concern about staff retention. And that’s no surprise given the current backdrop of the much publicised ‘great resignation’. Historically, public sector organisations outside major cities prided themselves on being a stable fixture as a high-quality employer of local staff and this inspired loyalty amongst employees.

This landscape has been disrupted by the spread of remote working and, by extension, the opportunity to seek work further afield without the need to relocate.

As is the case with most public sector organisations, police forces, for example, are having to navigate the perfect storm of increasing (and changing) service demand and rising complexity. Increased sick pay is an inevitable consequence, as is staff churn. Amongst policing staff, attrition can be as much as 104%: meaning forces are losing people faster than they can hire them.

Looking to the future, public sector staff said they would be most interested in a role that offers a greater sense of purpose (52%), and in roles that were further away and allowed for remote working (40%). But in order to do so, staff must be supported by technology that enables them to do a job that makes a difference, from the comfort of their own home with the correct equipment and setup that they need to do the job effectively.

The good news is that a multitude of technology options exist for public sector organisations to reduce the pressures felt by public sector workers. By doing so and using technology in the right way to improve efficiency and communication, public sector workers and their senior leaders should see an improvement in staff wellbeing.

To gain a full picture of the public sector in 2022 across its people, wellbeing and technology, discover the full Future of Work report: