Your checklist to writing a Smarter Working policy

Who is involved in the policy writing, what are you proposing, and how will you best communicate this? We outline some key questions should you be asking as you write or refresh your Smarter Working policy, based on our recent experience.

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Property Services – like most organisations – had to rapidly change how we worked. Before this we had made much progress on our Smarter Working agenda, for example re-designing our offices to encourage hot desking, and expanding our internet connectivity across our clinical portfolio so staff could work ‘on the go’. However, the pandemic significantly accelerated this progress, and we were faced with both a challenge and opportunity to rapidly develop and this work into a formal and standardised approach.

As explained in our first blog on this Smarter Working series, we grew our existing Office Forum to become a wider cross-functional working group, consulted our workforce with a series of company-wide surveys, and then channelled this insight to create a formal Smarter Working proposition and implementation plan. A key component of this was our Smarter Working policy, which set out our definition of Smarter Working and how we would work together to implement it.

We’re aware many organisations will be in the process of writing, refining or implementing their own Smarter Working policies, and we’re keen to share our learnings so far to support this. Establishing an open culture across NHS (and wider public sector) organisations is crucial as we work together to find our ‘new normal’ and continue to deliver a high-quality service for our partners, patients and communities.

10 questions to ask when writing your Smarter Working policy

 

  1. Do you have the right team involved?

Our cross-functional Smarter Working Group includes workstreams such as Technology, Health & Safety and Communications, to ensure every angle of Smarter Working is considered, as well as having a ready-made group of advocates to cascade updates across the organisation. You may also want to consider external support – we are currently working with Henigan Consulting Group on our workplace strategy and change management.

 

  1. To what extent have you involved and consulted your colleagues?

We have run two company-wide surveys to assess our colleague’s appetite and requirements for Smarter Working and hosted a series of Q&A sessions at company and team level townhall meetings. As we move from initial policy to implementation, we will run shorter ‘pulse’ surveys to check we are on the right track. And for more in depth, qualitative insights we are running interviews and focus groups across a range of roles.

 

  1. Are you clear on your definition of Smarter Working?

How much flexibility are you proposing to your workforce? For example, we made the decision to only allow remote working outside of the UK in exceptional circumstances. It is also important that you emphasise the difference between working from home and ‘return to the office’ planning around COVID-19, and longer-term ‘true’ Smarter Working.

 

  1. How will you make your policy engaging and accessible?

Whilst your Smarter Working policy needs to fully explain your approach, it needs to be as succinct and digestible as possible to ensure colleagues properly read, absorb and act on the information. ‘Soft launch’ the policy with a small group of employees to test and refine it.

 

  1. What are you offering employees, and what are you expecting of them?

We split this into two clear sections: the first outlining the ‘employer responsibilities’ (e.g. provision of equipment, creating a supportive culture), the second explaining ‘employee responsibilities’ (e.g. maintaining a safe and suitable workspace, appropriate use of equipment).

 

  1. Who is eligible?

Smarter working means different things for different roles, and at NHSPS this meant a careful consideration of how to best support our large frontline workforce. Whilst many of these roles may not suited to working from home, smarter working goes far beyond this, and we are building a more connected and flexible workforce by improving access to digital devices and collaboration tools (and the training to support this) and improving our network availability access our portfolio.

 

  1. How does this connect to existing policies?

Your Smarter Working policy needs to ‘fit into the puzzle’, complementing and adding to policies such as Expenses and Data Protection. The creation of this new policy may prompt a wider review and update of these connected policies – another reason why a cross-functional working group is so important.

 

  1. Have you pre-empted your FAQs?

We started with a list brainstormed by our working group, echoing feedback we had received from our surveys and Q&A sessions. We then monitored all questions post-publication, identifying commonly asked and building them into our list.

 

  1. How will you ‘launch’ this policy?

You will need to work with your Communications team to ensure an effective launch and promotion of your policy. You should consider the various audiences across your company (e.g. senior management, new starters, frontline staff) and their differing perspectives on Smarter Working, then adapting your messaging and channel strategy accordingly. For example, we launched this company-wide via our monthly ‘Management Webinar’ and weekly all-staff email, but tapped into directorate and team-level meetings and newsletters in the following weeks to allow for a more personalised explanation of the policy’s details.

 

  1. How will you evolve this document?

This should not be a static document, created once and then left to gather dust! We launched the policy over Summer and then monitored feedback from across the company, feeding this into a review and update in September. This cycle will continue as we begin our strategy implementation in the coming weeks and months.

Next up: dispelling common Smarter Working ‘myths’

In our next blog we’ll share our most common questions and concerns following our policy launch, and how we’ve works to dispel common misconceptions and ‘myths’ to encourage cultural change.

Where are you in your Smarter Working journey?

We’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch!

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