The local authorities in the Humber region and the University of Hull have successfully bid for £110,000 of funding from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to develop a second phase of the Future Work Design project with an emphasis on supporting wellbeing.
This phase of the work adopts a collaborative approach between the parties involved in Phase 1 of the project - East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Hull City Council, North Lincolnshire Council, North East Lincolnshire Council and the University of Hull - but also brings in Microsoft as a collaborative partner.
With councils now re-evaluating and implementing new agile ways of working, it is important to support staff with the challenges identified during Phase 1; these included pressures that have emerged as a result of working in new ways. For example, the lack of travel between meetings means that back-to-back calls have become the norm, and this impacts on the work/life balance.
This challenge is being experienced by local authorities across the country and it would be reasonable to expect that there will be significant benefits in providing staff with the knowledge and tools to support themselves with a personal suite of digital tools that facilitate self-management, communications and healthy ways of working, thus being supportive of wellbeing.
The work aims to explore the potential for the roll out and communication of features that currently exist within the Microsoft 365 suite, but which are not yet being utilised, to be rolled out as interventions that respond to the needs of staff highlighted during Phase 1 of this work. The work will employ a quasi-experimental approach, including a control group, to explore the features available and their potential as interventions, and to explore different approaches to the intervention process, so that other local authorities can learn from this work.
The partnership, led by East Riding of Yorkshire Council, had previously successfully secured funding from MHCLG in 2020 to undertake a study which engaged with a cross-section of the region's local government workforce, including operational staff and managers, from all four local authorities to understand their experiences of newly-adopted working practices, including looking at challenges and successes, to inform strategic decision-making in the future.
Councillor Richard Burton, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: "The wellbeing of our employees has been tested like never before during this global pandemic and phase one of the project showed staff have struggled at times to get the work/life balance which suits their circumstances.
"We are delighted to have secured further funding for the second phase of the project and we are thrilled to be working collaboratively with Microsoft at this stage whilst we look to support staff with new agile ways of working.
"I'd like to thank staff who have shared their experiences of working practices during phase one of the Future Work Design project and now look forward to working alongside our partners to develop and utilise the technology available to us to be supportive of self-management and well-being."
Councillor Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council, said: "The future of how people work has changed, and this research is very important to understand how we can best support people to achieve a work life that provides a positive impact on wellbeing. I'm pleased we have now received funding to move to phase two of the project."
Faith la Grange, director of local & regional Government at Microsoft UK said: "We are delighted to be supporting the work of this project. The global pandemic has forever changed the way we all work, and Microsoft's research shows employee wellbeing & resilience in the new hybrid workplace, is a priority area for both organisational development and use of technology. This is a key area of investment for Microsoft in the development of our own solutions, and it is fantastic to have the opportunity to support both academic research and our Local Authority customers in this important work"