One of the best lessons from the pandemic was that hybrid or flexible work arrangements can have huge pay offs, not just for organizations, but also for their people and end customers. This couldn't be more true for public service. For this sector, hybrid working is not just another buzzword, but a reality—one they must embrace quickly if they want to deliver on their mission to constituents and communities. Public service agencies are indispensable to society. They help ensure public safety, convenient and efficient transportation, social services delivery and national security… just to name a few. But we live in a digital age and both employees and constituents expect more from their government agencies. So how can they meet those expectations and unlock value? One way is by helping their people improve connections, collaborate productively and drive innovation—through hybrid work.  

Aligning with the future of work 

Not long ago, my own hybrid work had me on a video call across three continents, with Jeremy Goldberg, worldwide director of critical infrastructure at Microsoft, in New York City; Anne MacRae, Europe modern workplace executive lead at Avanade, in London; and myself, in Canberra, Australia. Together, we participated in the Leading Voices in Public Service video series and talked about the changing work landscape and challenges specific to the public sector. We also spoke about the growing interest in and advantages of hybrid work and how the future of work will need to bring people together digitally for the benefit of all. 

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Leading Voices for Public Service – The Hybrid Workplace

The future of work will need to bring people together digitally for the benefit of all. See how Accenture, Avanade, and Microsoft are helping the public sector drive innovation through hybrid work.

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Jeremy, Anne and I reflected on how hybrid work is enabling the work experience to become more fluid, more individualized and more personalized. You can maximize employee productivity while also ensuring everyone feels that they belong, the latter positively influencing the former. That said, it’s important to understand the unique challenges stakeholders within public service face when implementing a hybrid work model. Those include: 

  • A typically older workforce, with people in the same roles for long periods 
  • Delayed implementation of modern technology 
  • Complex civil service laws and policies combined with hierarchical organizational structures 
  • Necessarily stringent security and compliance requirements 
  • Highly scrutinized and limited budgets 

Despite the potential constraints, you cannot ignore the opportunity and promise of hybrid work. Designed to land a compromise between remote and in-person, hybrid work is a chance to build on successes for the long-term. As Jeremy pointed out, a strong distributed workforce makes for a strong government. 

Understanding the “why” behind this change 

A digital employee experience is exactly what today’s workforce is looking for, complete with flexibility and an understanding of the need to connect. In fact, data shows we don’t need to be physically together to feel like we’re in it together and a hybrid work experience (which gives people the choice and a combination) is strongly preferred. The Accenture Better to Belong research, which looks at how different people interact with new ways of working, notes that belonging manifests across four main categories: 

  • Having influence over decisions 
  • Being respected by peers and managers 
  • Feeling comfortable speaking up 
  • Receiving sponsorship from a senior leader

Organizations that focused on these key areas were able to unlock up to five times more human potential. The very personalized form hybrid working takes can help governments better engage with their employees and with their constituents, meeting people where they are and when they need it most.

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Rethinking the work approach 

Hybrid work requires people, process and technology changes, as well as a culture built on trust and transparency. Research shows a paradox: employees cite work-life balance, focus time and collaboration as the reasons for both more remote work and more in-office work. So, there isn’t one best way to approach hybrid work plans. The key lies in offering personalized experiences to help individuals thrive.  

But hybrid working is not just about allowing people to work from new places. Rather, it’s about adopting and rolling out new ways of working at an operational level. You need to integrate flexible technology plans alongside workforce plans, and sources such as Avanade’s Rethink Work Transformation Guide can help.  

Starting the hybrid work journey  

If you’re already underway with a hybrid model or thinking this may be the way forward for your organization, a good place to start is by asking yourself these questions:  

  • How are you enabling effective collaboration now, and how would you like to improve in this area? 
  • What role do you want physical spaces to play in your hybrid plan?  
  • What elements of existing work and processes can you automate? 
  • How does training, learning and development take place at your agency now?  
  • How do you currently secure remote access to data and applications? 

There are several benefits of transitioning to hybrid working. When you reduce your people’s dependency on a physical location, you give them the opportunity to try new roles and explore different assignments. This encourages reskilling and upskilling of existing talent and helps attract young, diverse candidates to your organization. You can also build an inclusive workforce by attracting a broader demographic of people, for example, mothers and fathers working around childcare schedules.   

Leading voices in public service 

In today’s evolving work landscape, taking care of business means taking care of people. You provide services that citizens rely on, so you have a distinct opportunity to lead by example. By embedding flexibility into the workplace and really building momentum around a people-centric digital transformation, you can successfully sustain, scale and evolve hybrid working. That, in turn, will allow your people to be the best they can be, wherever and however they work and contribute to the ultimate benefit of society. 

Learn more about how we at Accenture, Avanade and Microsoft bring people and technology together to accelerate meaningful action, especially in the public sector.    

 

Marni Poropat

Director – Consulting, Public Service, Australia and New Zealand