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Published: 20 Jan 2015

Scottish Government, Winner 2014, The DTCC Best for Innovation Award

The Scottish Government is moving to be a smaller, more flexible organisation, operating within constrained running costs. It needs to embrace new ways of working within the office environment. At the same time, it recognises that staff would benefit from working more flexibly, in the hours they work, how they work and increasingly, where they work. By introducing more flexible ways of working, the Scottish Government can improve career opportunities, development and work–life balance. Innovating around flexible working was therefore both business and people driven.

A key initiative has been the development of ‘location neutral’, a policy that brings with it a substantial change in culture. Applicants for advertised internal posts can be based in a location remote from the business office and still fulfil the duties of the role. This policy can also apply where business restructuring is taking place and the work is moving from one location to another.

As part of a major restructuring exercise, Scottish Government Department, Housing, Regeneration and the Commonwealth Games Directorate made posts location neutral rather than having employees move office or go to redeployment. This enabled employees to work flexibly and resulted in minimal disruption. There has been considerable research to measure the success of the initiative and whether it can be successfully rolled out across the whole organisation. Staff support has been extremely positive.

The clear aims of location neutral from inception will help the organisation measure success and meet challenges. These aims include improved recruitment and retention, improved motivation and productivity, reduction in absenteeism, increased employee satisfaction and morale, more flexibility in service provision, better utilisation of office space, improved work–life balance, improved commitment and trust, reduction in travel time and associated costs, greater choice about workplace and helping people to remain in work because their work–life balance is better.

There is already solid support for location neutral at all levels across the organisation – particularly staff located outside the central belt. However, the importance of having senior buy-in and putting this at the heart of local workforce planning, development and team communications and culture is seen as essential. The organisation understands that it is unlikely to work well for the individual or the team without this commitment. It is also aware that the success of location neutral is very much dependent on the support provided to individuals by line management. Communicating the success to the wider business, therefore, is a key element in changing the culture around flexible working.