Council's IT strategy embraces flexible working

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Council's IT strategy embraces flexible working

Antony Savvas

Lancashire County Council adopted widespread flexible working two years ago.

The council has 40,000 staff and 2,400 different premises and its IT department has a budget of about £40m a year.

Rick Wood, Lancashire County Council ICT manager, said the council introduced flexible working to increase productivity, retain staff, reduce absenteeism, improve employee relations with managers and boost staff self-esteem.

"Even within a single team staff can have quite different virtual workplace requirements, so a range of flexible working products and services were required," he said.

"For instance, in social services, some employees need immediate GPRS access after assessments are made, but others can wait to make changes to case files or send recommendations from home using dial-up or from 'touch points' spread across council buildings."

Wood said the council carried out its own research into the technology required by staff working out of the office before they became widely marketed and taken up elsewhere.

"Once staff start coming to you demanding new technologies, you are in a difficult situation as they usually want them next week."

One technology used to support flexible working is a data service staff can access over a dial-up connection.

Four hundred staff use this system currently, but one department has already asked how much it would cost to transfer another 600 staff to the system. "We worked out that it would cost about £1.8m a year," Wood said,

"The department wants us to see if we can get this cost down, and we will. But theoretically, it costs about £3.3m a year to keep 600 staff permanently in an office, so you can see the potential advantages of flexible working."

 

Technology used at Lancashire       

  • Blackberry wireless e-mail devices
  • Vodafone GPRS laptop data cards 
  • Multi-location dial-up 
  • Outlook e-mail web access from remote locations  
  • ISDN from home 
  • Fixed point-to-point wireless links between buildings 
  • Touch-point centres consisting of clusters of networked PCs for mobile staff in council buildings 
  • ADSL broadband from home from Telewest.

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