The NSW Government recently agreed to implement a proposal for public servants living in Wollongong to work from local spaces rather than commuting to Sydney every day.
The ‘Work from Wollongong’ plan is a great idea to support the government’s flexible workplace policies, at the same time ensuring COVID-19 office space limits can be maintained and avoiding congestion on public transport. It’s also a model that can improve responsiveness, flexibility and resilience at a local government level.
This new plan has been backed up by the NSW Government’s own research. In a pilot study of flexible working undertaken by the NSW Public Service Commission in 2019, the results revealed that public service teams could build a new culture of flexibility, and individual, team and customer outcomes were either maintained or improved.
However, the success of the Work from Wollongong plan largely depends on technology.
It was the one major challenge cited by the pilot study’s participants, with the report’s authors noting that technology and workplace processes have not kept pace with the way we work now.
“Technology wasn’t strong enough to handle working from home. We can’t offer strong customer service if the phones keep dropping off,” wrote one of the participants in the feedback provided, while another said, “It is often technology and availability of meeting rooms that let us down.”
Getting the technology piece right is critical – especially communications.
Without that, it’s very difficult to create a connected culture, which is something RingCentral uncovered in our own research on remote work with Australian employees last year. Organisations need to focus on the total employee experience – their systems of experience – for all staff, no matter where they are working. That includes constantly improving their remote workers’ access to resources and collaborative technologies, so that they continue to feel connected to their company’s culture and their colleagues. That translates into greater productivity. Employees working for organisations that foster a “connected culture” are twice as likely to be productive when working from anywhere, compared to those who don’t foster that culture.
While the shift we have seen to remote work as a result of COVID-19 has been unprecedented in Australia, flexible working is set to become a prevalent model, with the Working from Wollongong plan a good example. New Australian research from Bastion RM and Pitcher Partners Melbourne on hybrid working has found that 23% of employees are currently working full-time from home and 55% at least one day a week. In the future, the research found that flexible working will be permanent – 13% want to stay working full-time from home, while 67% want to be working at least one day from home. This is largely consistent with the expectations of their employers.
A case in point for the predominance of this new hybrid working model comes from another business in the Pitcher Partners group – Pitcher Partners Adelaide, who fast-tracked its unified communications deployment in response to the lockdown.
“Post-COVID, we are more flexible with our working arrangements. With RingCentral in place, we have the ability to be a lot more reachable for our clients,” said Richard Dixon, Pitcher Partners Adelaide’s practice manager.
Pitcher Partners Adelaide also found that staff were using video far more frequently as a communications channel. Face-to-face interaction or video calls are important “not only for keeping teams up to date and promoting collaboration and productivity, but for building and maintaining trust between teams and individuals,” writes Stuart Taylor, CEO of Springfox.
A reliable cloud-based communications platform allows for a ‘work from anywhere’ model to be easily adopted and should be underpinning any flexible working arrangement which might incorporate teams that are based in the office, in a regional hub or working from home. Ideally, this should be a single, integrated contact centre and unified communications platform that means a seamless connection between your internal and external communications, ensuring both a positive employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX).
Casey Cardinia Libraries (CCL) in south east Melbourne upgraded and combined its unified communications and contact centre platform just in time before the lockdown last year. While CCL introduced new technology for its users, RingCentral’s ability to integrate with multiple applications, including Microsoft Teams, ensured that staff continued to use the same familiar interface as the front end for all calls, so they didn’t “suffer from an ‘app-ocalypse’ and have to learn another new system,” said Daniel Lewis, CCL’s General Manager, Digital Operations.
This allowed CCL to quickly transition to a remote working operation, a centralised 1800 number and online ordering system. That meant the local public library could continue delivering a range of services to the community throughout 2020.
More than just enabling flexible work, a strong communications platform allows government agencies to be more resilient and responsive during crises like bushfires, droughts and pandemics, and to gain access to the best skills no matter where they are located. It also opens up regional areas to greater population growth and local investment without compromising on maintaining the connected, collaborative and productive working environment. We’ve seen that recently with regional property markets outperforming Australia’s capital cities.
There are now numerous government digital transformation projects underway to open up access to information and streamline services for Australian citizens, so it’s critical that internal communications and collaboration keeps pace with the change. RingCentral is committed to ensuring that our state and local government organisations have the tools they need to overcome today’s unprecedented challenges, and take every opportunity to integrate and unify their communications, their applications and their systems.