APS ‘future of work’ trends require additional training for middle managers

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With a post-pandemic reality on the horizon, APS is turning to building stronger cultures of trust, overcoming bad attitudes towards presenteeism and putting in place “right to disconnect” measures. for employees.

The idea that work will never be the same in a post-COVID world is not a given – and the two big questions facing government departments and agencies now that public health restrictions are easing include what to transition the APS workforce to and how.

According to Associate Professor Sue Williamson at UNSW Canberra Business School, employees prefer to work 2-3 days a week from the office. This feeling portends a future of hybrid work, the expert in human resources and industrial relations told a talks in mandarin panel.

“Hybrid work is here to stay and I know APS organizations are thinking about how they can make it work,” said Williamson.

“Employees don’t want to spend all of their time at home because they enjoy being in the office. They need this connection with their colleagues, but they want to work in a hybrid way, ”she added.

Williamson recently conducted a survey of 5,000 public servants, as well as a review of the academic literature on homework research over the past 10 years. She found that most officials preferred a work-from-home arrangement (WFH) of at least three days a week.

Of course, the reality of what is possible and the working arrangements available to civil servants depends on the nature of their work and the approach of their management teams. Williamson said she was aware of APS agencies that had a cap on how many days an employee is allowed to work flexibly (or away from the physical office), for example, and that conversations were taking place over the optimal length of time for an official to be absent from the office.

“Because working from home depends so much on the context of the organization, the layout of the employee’s home, the way they work with their team, all kinds of things, it’s really hard to get a optimal number of days or hours per week that employees should work from home, ”Williamson said.

“One of the difficulties in the future is that it will be individual negotiations, as has always happened, with the right to ask for flexible work. But now it’s happening on a much bigger scale and it’s going to be really important, ”she said.

The issues facing the public sector after the pandemic outweigh the options for flexible working arrangements. They spark reflections on organizational structure, the future demand for skills from potential talent, and the culture of trust that can be fostered in the absence of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, in person.

The public sector also has to deal with the new expectations that individuals in the labor market – from top to bottom – have for work-life balance and for creating the conditions in which they feel they are giving the best. best of themselves.

To this end, Qualtrics XM Crissa sumner, who specializes in employee experience, said it was important to invest in training to develop management and leadership skills.

“I think it’s important to recognize that managing a remote workforce is quite different. There’s a different set of skills required and managing for results is going to be really, really important, ”Sumner said.

“In terms of supporting these changes, agencies need to think about how they invest in the management, development and leadership development in these new areas. “

Additional training for middle managers on management and performance appraisal issues was also important for the public service during this transition period, Williams noted, as managing employees off-site required a level of confidence that recognized that just because workers weren’t “seen” doesn’t mean they weren’t functioning.

“Before the pandemic, we know a lot of managers thought, ‘If I can’t see them, they must be fooling around watching Netflix,'” Williamson said.

A positive consequence of the forced WFH provisions brought about by the COVID-19 restrictions is greater trust between managers and employees, she added. With an improved “psychological contract” between public servants and their middle managers, the next thing to consider cultivating is the idea of ​​the “right to disconnect”.

“We now know that managers know their staff can work productively from home and multitask in multiple meetings. Agencies are moving towards a results-based performance framework, which is a really positive thing, ”said Williamson.

“I think the right to log out is something really interesting – there are company agreements in Europe with a clause saying ‘you don’t have to respond to your employer after 6 pm’. Whether or not it should be codified, like many other APS regulations, is something to think about as well, ”she said.

Commenting on the new culture of trust demanded by a more hybrid public service workforce, UTS economist and data scientist Nik Dawson said the new ways to monitor employees remotely bothered him. He called for more transparency on how staff were monitored by employers in their government agencies and said officials should be clear about the extent to which their hours and performance were under digital surveillance.

“[Employees] are constantly followed and shouldn’t be fooled – when you work for particularly large companies, they most likely follow you while you work, ”said Dawson.

“I definitely think there should be at least some sort of concept of joining something and people should know what exactly and how they’re being tracked.

October talks in mandarin was hosted by Private Media Editor Peter Fray. Premium subscribers can watch the episode again here.


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