Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022  |  Reading time:  13 mins  | Read online

Changing nature of work

Each week we focus on a different global topic, highlighting innovative content and insights from LGIU and our members around the world.  

This week's Global Local Recap focuses on how local governments can best adapt to the changing nature of work – both within their own organisation and the communities they serve.

The pandemic has accelerated societal changes to how we work, in large part byforcing a mass remote work experiment, but also through reflections on the importance of roles and changes to labour participation. This unique opportunity to rethink how we work has clear benefits, so long as we take stock of not only what works best, but also for whom

How has the global landscape of work changed? Global working culture has seen not just temporary changes, but a structural shift – 9/10 workers don’t want to return to pre-Covid working patterns. Large numbers of workforce leavers have tipped the balance of power toward workers, with companies working to attract talent placing new emphasis on ‘employee experience’; cementing flexible working perks as the norm. The effects are not only felt by white collar remote workers – in the USA, the ‘great resignation’ (where competition allows workers to job hop easily) pushed up service sector wages by 10% last year. 

What opportunities do these changes offer local government? Virtual council meetings boosted local democracy’s visibility and access and many councils want them to stay. Ongoing remote meetings and work could improve council representation and diversity. Remote working offers rural areas particular opportunities: both to attract better talent and reduce the urban “brain drain”. However, new training and wellbeing support will be needed internally and in communities as required workplace skills change and employees are more isolated.

Who inspired us this week? We loved the Regional Assemblies of Ireland’s regional coworking analysis, the ‘right to disconnect’ helping European employees maintain work-life balance and an actionable OECD guide supporting the public sector transition to hybrid working.

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This week's featured content

The longer-term shift to hybrid working – Implications for local government

By Merle Zierke, LGiU Australia

The management activities and workplace culture required to support effective working from home (WFH) or a hybrid model are vastly different to a traditional office-based model. They are likely to require more scheduled communication and occur in roles where outputs are not easily measured, such as ‘knowledge’ jobs. 

The focus is likely to shift to work delivered rather than time spent on tasks, as described in an Australian paper on the subject as: “a greater focus on outcomes, as opposed to inputs … it is less about when and where you work but more about the value and outcomes that you deliver.” (Bennett, 2021). This is likely to have follow-on costs in terms of the systems required to monitor productivity and wellbeing remotely, and to train employees in new ways of working.

Workplace culture – the norms and practices communicated through informal interactions – may suffer as a result of a move to a hybrid or WFH model. To create opportunities for social interaction and a sense of affiliation, many employers are looking at a models that require employees to attend the office on designated days.

So, how can local governments create a strong hybrid workplace culture?

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Remote working and regional co-working analysis in Ireland

The shift to remote working has the potential to open up an array of economic and environmental opportunities for Ireland's regions. By supporting remote working, policymakers could improve opportunities for workers and businesses alike, allowing integration and coworking across regions to address regional imbalances. 
Read the article here.

Workforce development: call for case studies

We’re working with international partners to support local government workforce development. Help us share what’s worked for you or what you’d do differently.
Find out more and share your story here.

Online Training: Developing an Organisational Culture to suit future operating models

This workshop taking place on February 10 is for those looking to develop or update organisational responses, shaping working culture as organisations evolve through the pandemic.

Want to know more? Check out this article by the training leader for an introduction: Maintaining and developing culture in a remote organisation

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

Australia: Virtual council meetings allowed permanently to improve access and diversity

New South Wales councils can allow councillors to attend meetings virtually if illness, disabilities, caring responsibilities, work, or other approved reasons mean they cannot attend in person. Councils can also meet virtually during natural disasters or public health emergencies, thanks to the Model Code of Meeting Practice changes made in October 2021. NSW Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said: “We have heard loud and clear that councils want this flexibility into the future.” The move intends to encourage more diverse candidates to stand as councillors – as women represented just 31% of NSW councillors before the changes.
NSW Office of Local Government

Related: Remote and hybrid meeting case studies highlight UK council innovation during and beyond pandemic restrictions Local Government Association

USA: Houston initiatives address skills gaps and boost social mobility

UpSkill Houston is a partnership addressing a lack of “middle-skilled” workers for vital technical sector jobs and helping people in marginalised groups move from insecure work to stable jobs. The Greater Houston Partnership initiative expands the talent pipeline for careers requiring qualifications between a high school diploma and a four-year college degree, including in construction, health and manufacturing. The City of Houston, Texas, supports further targeted skill-building initiatives, including the ‘Hire Houston Youth’ summer job and internship scheme and the ‘Youth Excel’ economic recovery initiative, which addresses structural barriers to STEM jobs.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation / Hire Houston Youth / National League of Cities

Related: European-inspired workplace learning programme in Cleveland high schools hopes to break intergenerational poverty cycle The 74 / Patrick O'Donnell

Portugal: New remote working laws introduced in Europe to maintain work/life balance

Spurred by increased remote working, the European Parliament recently introduced a ‘right to disconnect’ recognising workers’ right to disengage from work communications outside of working hours. Going a step further, in November Portugal passed new laws for remote workers; significant laws include banning employers from contacting employees after hours and asking employers to contribute to expenses related to home working, such as internet or electricity bills. Ireland and France have also legally recognised the right to disconnect with new policies designed to protect leisure time.
Lancaster University Work Foundation

Related: Government of Ireland provides employer checklist for remote workingIreland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Italy: Coworking space network proposed as part of Milan’s 15-minute city plan

The Municipality of Milan is considering creating a citywide network of coworking spaces that are accessible from surrounding neighbourhoods on foot or by bicycle within 15 minutes. A report produced for the municipality describes accessible coworking spaces as “new essential services” for the city’s neighbourhoods, along with libraries and schools. The proposal reflects the municipality’s understanding that many residents will continue to work remotely after the pandemic, as well as a recent surge in interest reported by local coworking spaces from residents seeking to avoid the isolation caused by working from home.
TheMayor.EU / Tzvetozar Vincent Iolov / Techinnova

Related: Remote workspace with secure indoor bicycle storage to open in Cardiff in Wales firstWalesOnline / Zara Pereira

Policy & Resources

Research, analysis and examples of policy in practice from leading institutes and places like yours

Guidelines: The Future of (Remote?) Work in the Public Service: 5 Ways to Find a Balance Between Remote and In-Office Presence in the Public Service (OECD)

The pandemic has presented opportunities to experiment with ways of working remotely, turning previous assumptions upside down to become the opposite: ‘work from home unless you have a reason otherwise’. This OECD guide explores what we’ve learnt so far, and helpfully outlines an easy-to-follow blueprint to guide the design of new ways of working – utilising the lessons learnt so far.

Toolkit: Making hybrid inclusive – key priorities for employers and Government 

The Work Foundation has found that the overwhelming majority of workers would prefer to work in a hybrid format, but employer plans do not always align with worker preferences. Expectations of regular office attendance can increase workplace inequalities, affecting disabled people, women, and parents/carers. This guide identifies aspects of work culture that can either hinder or encourage access to hybrid and flexible work, providing useful recommendations.

Case study: The Future of Boston’s Workforce: The path forward from COVID-19

This collaborative paper identifies the potential of Greater Boston’s (USA) organisations’ work across institutional lines to address the labor market challenges that the pandemic had laid bare. The Project on Workforce at Harvard analysed responses from a diverse group of stakeholders to present areas of consensus for a cross-sector agenda for collective action.

Global research: McKinsey: What’s next for remote work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and nine countries

This research indicates that hybrid work-from-home are likely to continue for many positions long after the pandemic has subsided – and especially likely in more advanced economies. Results are broken down by country, profession and task – interesting, but also relevant to local governments planning for the future based on employment demographics of areas.

Interested in other LGIU Global content?

Online Training: Managing homeworking post-lockdown – hybrid and agile working

This session on 28 January is aimed at managers who manage staff working in an agile or blended way and HR professionals who may wish to explore the approach taken in their organisation.
Find out more and book your place here.

UNISON invites you to nominate a local service champion!

UNISON has launched its hugely popular local service champions awards again this year highlighting the invaluable contribution of local government workers. Click here to find out more, nominate someone or read about the work of last year's winner.

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we’ll explore how local governments can use open data effectively to improve their policies and practices and manage the associated challenges. In two weeks’ time, we’ll share a new research paper on global health inequalities.

If you would like to share your story, you can fill in this simple form or drop me a line at [email protected]. Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. We tweet from @GlobalLocalLGIU.

Want more content? Visit our website to access our Global Local briefings, blogs, podcast and more.

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