The Humber will be at the centre of a new study looking at how technology can support workforces to choose how and where they want to work in order to improve staff health and wellbeing as well as increasing efficiency and productivity in the delivery of services to the public.
The four Humber local authorities, along with the University of Hull, have secured Government funding to carry out the study, which will look at the impact on staff working remotely or from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The partnership, led by East Riding of Yorkshire Council, successfully secured £76,000 of funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to undertake the study which will see collaborative work with colleagues from the university, Hull City Council, North East Lincolnshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council.
The study will engage with a cross-section of the region’s local government workforce, including operational staff and managers, from all four local authorities to understand their experiences of newly-adopted working practices, including looking at challenges and successes, to inform strategic decision-making in the future.
Like all businesses and organisations, the four councils are considering how they can reshape and refine the services they deliver to the public, in a post-COVID world, in order to maximise staff wellbeing, efficiency and productivity as new solutions and ways of working are adopted as part of the Humber’s recovery.
This will ensure that the services provided by the four local authorities continue to offer best value for money, which in turn benefits local taxpayers and communities.
The findings of the study will be published in a Government White Paper in the autumn and will identify the challenges, evidence findings and propose solutions for the wider Government to consider.
Councillor Richard Burton, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It is great news that the Humber region has been selected to be at the forefront of the study into the effects of home and remote working.
“COVID-19 created an unprecedented situation and local authorities across the country showed great resolve and resilience and quickly developed new working practices that maintained critical services and protected some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“Work is what you do, not a place you go to, and for many people work and personal lives are becoming ever more integrated.
“This is why we want to hear the experience of staff from across the Humber region so we can consider productivity, motivation and health and wellbeing issues and establish good future working practices, which could shape Government policy and ensure the UK is a global leader in providing modern workplaces for modern workforces.”
Dr Fiona Earle, director of the University of Hull’s Centre for Human Factors, an applied research and consultancy service specialising in human factors, occupational and organisational psychology and business leadership, said: “We are delighted to build further on the important partnership between the university and the consortium of local authorities. This is also a very valuable development for human factors in building further research capability and advancing our work with organisations on stress risk assessment.
“We have recently developed a digital tool for occupational stress risk assessment that will inform and support this work. Consequently, we are very well placed to support this collaboration, in particular the local authority staff, who have quickly and effectively responded to drastic changes in their working lives.
“As we currently know very little about the new ways of working across the local authority teams, it is vital that we explore what is working well, where there are emerging challenges and then understand the impact of these adaptations on health and wellbeing.
“This is an important piece of work that will provide critical insight to guide the development of good working practices and supportive technologies during and beyond COVID-19.
Councillor Philip Jackson, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “I think it’s fair to say that this pandemic has encouraged many organisations and industries to rethink their traditional approach to working.
“In North East Lincolnshire, many council staff have continued to do their work from home and some frontline staff have adapted their approaches suit the ‘new normal’.
“It’s exciting that the Humber region local authorities are to take part in this study. This is potentially an opportunity for us to shape the way public and private sector organisations do business in the future.”
Councillor Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council said: “We are keen to ensure the council has agile working practices and that we use the right technology to assist us in doing that. We are always looking for smarter ways of working to benefit staff, residents and help with the climate change emergency.
“I am very pleased the council is involved in this research which will ultimately help us to understand what has worked well, and provide us with experiences and views of local authority staff from across the Humber. The findings will help influence the future of how we work and deliver long term public benefit.”