We recently delivered an exclusive webinar, Making the New Normal Work in Public Sector, in partnership with GovNews as part of their Learning Exchange. The webinar focused on how public sector organisations have adapted their work practices during COVID-19, with valuable contributions by four notable speakers:
- Emeran Saigol, Operational Director (Digital & CX) at Redbridge Borough Council,
- Kate Richardson, Head of National Office Programme at NHS Property
- Katie Jacobs, Senior Stakeholder Lead at CIPD
- Gareth Johns, Senior Director of Vertical Solutions at here RingCentral
With over 250 registrants, the webinar provided an opportunity for public sector leaders to share perspectives on the challenges many of us have recently faced in our professional – and personal – lives.
Investment in mental health and people management
Perhaps unsurprisingly, mental health was a central aspect of the discussion. A key result from the survey we conducted with GovNews illustrated that 84% of public sector organisations say the wellbeing of staff is a priority. All webinar speakers agree that COVID-19 has provided their organisations with much-needed lessons around how they can better support staff in this area.
As a registered charity for HR and people development, CIPD offered a particularly interesting perspective on this. Katie Jacobs stated that COVID-19 “started as a physical health crisis, and indeed it is still a physical health crisis, but the impact on mental health across the UK workforce is likely to be pretty dramatic, whether that is those people on the frontline or those struggling being isolated at home in environments that just aren’t suitable or even safe for working from home.”
Katie Jacobs went on to mention how, although there has been an epiphanic shift in mindset for many organisations, with employees working in well-equipped home offices, we must recognise that younger workers in shared spaces or those on low incomes are in a less fortunate position. She referenced a recent survey by Young Minds, which revealed 80% of young people with a history of mental health needs said the pandemic had made their mental health worse, with 41% stating it had become much worse. A similar impact was seen in adults; during June the rate of depression had doubled compared to numbers when lockdown began. These statistics are troubling; they highlight why organisations across the UK need to address mental health. We can start by incorporating support for employees at the heart of policies and leadership, encouraging compassionate lines of communication through people management.
At RingCentral, we believe that public sector investment in communication platforms that enable collaboration can assist organisations to support mental health and wellbeing. Gareth Johns emphasised this point, offering examples of the power that such platforms can have in connecting colleagues in meaningful interactions, when they may otherwise be out of sight and out of mind. Through these simple acts, communication platforms are bridging the gap between remote working and office working, putting their stamp on the culture of our organisations. These platforms are a key driver for change across the public sector as we navigate through the pandemic in the months and years ahead.
Achieving strong digital service delivery
To deliver an effective digital service, organisations must be open to embracing new ways of working. London Borough of Redbridge’s Emeran Saigol highlighted this in his presentation, stating that, when communities first went into lockdown in March, “Our organisation was forced in rapid time, much like most of local government, to reconfigure our services and reconfigure our approach.”
The first step was to identify the crucial areas where the borough required the most support. It was essential that Redbridge’s call centre staff were able to communicate with residents through a number of channels, including social media, telephone, website and chat bots. Emeran noted that, “Mobilising the technology in rapid time was absolutely key.”
The borough shifted around 2,500 staff to working from home virtually overnight, and throughout his presentation Emeran explains Redbridge were able to seamlessly adapt to the new normal because of the IT infrastructure they had in place.
RingCentral’s Gareth Johns thoughtfully observed that communications and collaboration platforms are no longer merely IT infrastructure – they have become core business applications, central to business operations. As digital touchpoints with customers continue to evolve and teams across public sector organisations strive to work in more streamlined ways, the role that communications and collaboration platforms play will only become more important.
Consolidating systems to optimise costs
Smarter working is not only a means to be cost-effective, as Kate Richardson of the NHS Office Estate pointed out. However, by establishing smarter working practices and consolidating systems where possible, public sector organisations find they do save considerably on costs, a clear added benefit.
Kate Richardson touched upon the huge potential to drive efficiencies for the NHS office estate by proactive management. Not only is the NHS office state continually looking for ways to consolidate, Kate mentioned that remote working had accelerated a number of exciting opportunities in order to help them become a productive and happy workforce and “a smaller, leaner estate.” This creates a culture where productivity and cost-effectiveness work hand-in-hand.
The same can be said for data consolidation. Bringing data together into one collective hub is an undertaking in itself, and yet it has never been more imperative for the public sector to do so. The London Borough of Redbridge were hugely successful in this area, as consolidating data into one business intelligence function allowed them to understand the evolving needs of communities and shape council services in response. By extension, they were able to effectively manage their spending into the areas that residents need it most, all because they had a simple solution to analysing their data.
Ultimately, consolidation is about maximising the value from tight budgets for maximum productivity. By scaling up and scaling down when needed, RingCentral’s platforms offer organisations a way of spending that can be agile to the changing needs of their customers. As Kate rightfully stated, smarter working is about giving the public sector choice – the choice of how you communicate, the choice of how you consolidate, and the choice of what changes you will make. This is exactly what RingCentral’s communication and collaboration platform can achieve.
Watch the webinar in full below: