New research finds that civil servants welcome increase in flexibility of patterns, but lament back-to-back virtual meetings and reduced opportunities for innovation and creativity as colleagues are often geographically dispersed
New research on civil servants’ attitudes to their work has found that while a majority appreciate the increased opportunities for flexible working that have arisen since the onset of the pandemic, half also report clear downsides.
Interviews with 40 civil servants from 18 different departments found that 80% were happy with the move to hybrid working, with part of the week spent at home and the remainder at office locations.
They cited benefits including reduced commuting time and greater flexibility. However 50% of respondents said they also faced “challenges” including longer working hours, back-to-back virtual meetings and “difficult, blurred boundaries between work and home lives”.
The research, by University of Bath School of Management and transformation consultancy Moorhouse, also found many respondents identified “a sense of diminishing creativity on projects” because of reduced opportunities to explore ideas and innovation in person with colleagues.
More than 25% of interviewees – some of whom were senior civil servants – said “geographically dispersed” teams were struggling to adapt to the hybrid-working requirement of two-days-a-week in the office.
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Many were said to have remarked that going into the office could “seem like a redundant effort to sit by oneself in back-to-back virtual meetings”.
Hybrid working was also blamed for a tendency for more junior team members to find it more difficult to master softer, interpersonal working skills.
Elsewhere, the research found evidence that consistent resource pressures since the pandemic had fostered a “no time to do training” culture.
“Many of our research participants noted that they had not been on any professional training for over four years, with the post-pandemic workload pressures increasing to the point that people do not feel they can take off the time required to participate in skills development courses,” the research partners said. “This is in addition to uncertainty created through temporary contracts or fixed-term promotions, meaning that teams are losing skills and knowledge as people move out.”