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Remote working and culture change in the Church of England

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Find out about the reality of the Church of England adapting and letting new working patterns emerge in practice.
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Over the last few months, we've been exploring with the Mayvin community how we can mindfully move towards new patterns of working. As we adapt towards a post pandemic world, organisations and individuals are attempting to make sense of the emerging context. And take decisions on how to design their future working practices.

Mayvin is facilitating an inquiry with our community. We want to understand how those involved in or influencing the design decisions can support the development of the most beneficial new working patterns. Over the summer, we've had conversations with three colleagues from the Mayvin community. We want to find out more about what is happening in their world right now.

In this episode, we hear from Jennifer Hutton, Deputy Director of Organisational Development for the Church of England. Jennifer talks to us about the reality of the organisation adapting and letting new working patterns emerge in practice. At the Church of England, they're skilfully integrating the process with a wider cultural change agenda. Amplifying shifts they were already working on, specifically to work from trust and prioritise well being. So without further ado, let's pass over to Sarah and Jennifer.

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How working patterns are changing in the Church of England transcript

Sarah Fraser 1:24
Great to have this conversation. Let's see where we go with it. So, as I said, tell me a bit about where you work and, and your role. And let's go from there.

Jennifer Hutton 1:35
Okay, Sarah. So I'm Jennifer Hutton. I'm Deputy Director, Organisational Effectiveness in the National Church Institutions. They are seven different institutions, which are treated as a single employer. And our job collectively is to support the mission and ministries of the Church of England. I joined about 18 months ago into this role. So just pre pre pandemic. So I have a good good run at in office work before before the pandemic took off.

Sarah Fraser 2:18
Yes. Which makes a difference in terms of Yes, having built having built the relationships and

Jennifer Hutton 2:22
Yes to have something to compare to. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we were we're about 600 people, okay. Largely London office based with some regional working, and some people who regularly have to go to sites like cathedrals and churches. And we had a handful of people not more than 15 on actual homeworking contracts.

Sarah Fraser 3:00
Okay, yeah. Yeah. And it was unusual,

Jennifer Hutton 3:04
Very unusual. We had all the usual flexible working policies and right to request that you would expect, but not huge takeout. So coming to the office, five days a week was very much the norm. So it was a really sudden pivot for us to have enforced remote working in March in March last year.

Sarah Fraser 3:38
Yeah. So one of the questions that that sort of felt useful in exploring what that was like, and I'm sure you've had loads of conversations about what it was like, but it was there a sense of what people lost, having to shift to homeworking and, and, and what people gained as you've sort of gone through it.

Jennifer Hutton 3:58
Yeah, yes. And I think that has shifted over over the last 18 months or so. I think we, we focused at the start the sort of immediate, leaning into this into this situation and our support. Really, within the first week or so, we we decided I say we meaning sort of the HR and change team, together with the senior leadership of the organisation decided that we would have two guiding principles and that would be the first would be trust.

We would in this context, meaning but we trusted all of our people would do the very best they could in this in whatever circumstances and that wellbeing should be front and centre of our immediate support. And those principles really guided the formal guidance, and the FAQs that we pushed out and the way that our HR business partners supported their their teams.

Sarah Fraser 5:08
It's almost, I'm just trying to imagine that coming up as guiding principles without the pandemic for people wanting flexible working or homework, Imean, it just Yes. Yes, wouldn't happen.

Jennifer Hutton 5:21
No, I mean, I think, yeah, I think I think we, I think there were reasons for that for aighting on those two. And that had probably been the history of what had gone on the previous year, in quite an intentional way.

So, you know, we had start and I had been brought in to start a programme of culture change in the in the National Church Institutions, the NCI's and had launched and started to roll out a programme of belonging and inclusion with a strong well being focus as well, right.

And our previous staff engagement survey had demonstrated to us that we had issues of trust that we needed to work on, and we'd started that work. So in a sense, I suppose when this happened, it was a chance for us to to amplify, dial up those aspects of organisational culture that we knew we wanted to work on in any case, yes.

Sarah Fraser 6:20
So, so how did it go? Tell us? What was the impact of using those two guiding principles?

Jennifer Hutton 6:27
So I think we, you know, we had to show people what that meant in terms of, you know, these are the principles but so what does that mean that you see and experience and of course, some of that is, is the way that teams are themselves and what they do at a local level, but some of it is what they experience from the, from the organisation pushing out.

So we we stood up very quickly, a sort of tiered offer around wellbeing and personal resilience, which was, you know, webinars, Team sessions, one to one support. We had our trained pool of Mental Health First Aiders stand up a series of themed monthly drop in chats.

And we instituted monthly all staff webinars, which led by our most senior leaders, and we made sure that wellbeing and trust were embedded in those in each time, both in talking about the commitment and encouraging openness and access to support, but also those leaders modelling how they were themselves, including when they weren't feeling that great, or when things were difficult

Sarah Fraser 7:48
And there must have been quite a shift for them. But for some?

Jennifer Hutton 7:52
Yeah, I think so. And I think it was, you know, one of the things that we noticed was that being able to do things virtually meant that everybody in the organisation could gather in a collective virtual space, really, for the first time.

So it hadn't been possible, actually, for many people to be together, or to hear all of our senior leaders talking at the same time and be able to ask them questions at the same time. So I think that was quite a profound change and that people all the feedback round was that people really appreciated it.

I think the other time in the year that I noticed that really making a difference was last summer and the period of the Black Lives Matters debates. Our BME staff network hosted a couple of open spaces for people to - virtual open spaces - for people to come and reflect on how they felt about those matters. And and or to be present to show their support and allyship.

And, you know, over 100 people came along to those each time. I know that that wouldn't have happened, had we been in the office. There was something it wasn't just the physical ability of being able to join. I think there was something about it, that made it easier for people more comfortable for people to come along. To be there and participate to be there and participate.

Yes. And you know, in terms of impact, you know, when we did our most recent employee engagement survey, which was earlier this year, you know, a whopping 90% of people responded very favourably to the support that we've given during the pandemic. You know, over 80% of people responded positively to the question the NCRs cares about its people So I think that corporate support was really, really felt and appreciated by people.

Sarah Fraser 10:10
And is there a, I'm kind of curious as someone who, you know, often work with senior teams, how have they felt in terms of having to make that shift? Not just to sort of sharing how they are, but, you know, holding those conversations and potentially, you know, reaching out to the organisation, more than they would have done previously, or had a chance to do previously by the sounds of it.

Jennifer Hutton 10:33
Yeah, yeah. And I think they've, they've, as individuals felt differently, I referred right at the start. To them, to us being actually seven different institutions, sometimes doing quite different things. So it has given them a more visible, collective presence as a senior leadership team. And I think that it's been interesting to see how some people have grown more comfortable into that role over time.

They're still themselves, you know, some, some of them clearly feel like they don't like remote working, and they'd much rather be in the office and a bit wide, sort of open about that. And other people have felt differently, you know, maybe one of them has, has had to do flexible childcare. And homeschooling, maybe other aren't in a, you know, are in a different position. But I think it's been really great for people to see them as they are, and to see them be alongside everybody else in their journey.

Sarah Fraser 11:45
It comes back to something I think that came up in our last Mayvin session reminds us that in a lot of ways, having to work virtually and everyone working from home has opened up a sort of bit more of the humanness of each person, because then you're in your homes. So there is there are artefacts around you. There are sounds around you that are part of your home life. Yes. It's more difficult to separate the different parts. Yeah, yes. senior levels that makes a difference.

Jennifer Hutton 12:22
Of course, of course. And I think I agree. And I think we notice that double edged sword actually. So obviously, you see a side of people, as you say, that you haven't seen before. You can see their homes, their pets, their children. Their carefully created curated backgrounds, it's all, you know, but I think it was very clear that for some people, they were really experiencing that cognitive dissonance about professional relationships suddenly being in your personal space.

And I think when those relationships, or the conversations were difficult, then, you know, then that that was difficult. I was going to say it's we also, you know, we noticed that really, really wide variation, not just among senior leaders, but among everyone of where they, not just how they were reacting, but where they were on that change curve and how they oscillated.

You know, along that that curve, and sometimes that was because they themselves were in different places. And sometimes it was about the work that they had been accustomed to do. If that was if that was for example, visiting heritage buildings. If that was bats in churches, that was that was sort of taken away. And those are quite sort of deep expertise, professions. And those people, you know, found it really difficult.

You know, other people have very comfortable and happy homes in which to work, they've company at home and for others, you know, that wasn't the case. And the issue that we were talking about the relationships with other people, you know, one of our, we did a couple of wellbeing surveys over the last year. And the importance that people placed on their work relationships was was huge. It was it was most important. It was up there with family and friends as a source of support.

So, you know, those relationships being nurtured and working or not, that you know, got an enhanced importance, as it were, and we really noticed that right from the start ops teams sort of in instinctively starting to emphasise their personal relationships, for example, in team meetings, that would have been quite task focused catch ups would now half of that time would be on checking in with each other.

Sarah Fraser 15:18
Even that process of checking in, sounds like was was a new, was a new thing.

Jennifer Hutton 15:27
It was interesting to me that, you know, as an OD person, that would have been something that I would have encouraged people to do, and I didn't need to people seem to arrive at that by themselves. And it was also interesting that, at the beginning, there was quite a lot, my observation was, there was quite a lot of positivity around that, around making the best of what was happening, around spending time, you know, connecting with nature making sourdough.

As time went on, and fatigue increased, it then became okay, there was more emphasis on, it's okay to say you're not okay, during that time. Right. Yeah. But also teams being far more intentional about creating social space for themselves, you know, virtual drinks, or yoga, or quizzes or whatever it was,

Sarah Fraser 16:30
And sort of sounds like sort of changing permission about how you can use the time together. Yeah. But it does, as you're saying, it doesn't all have to be task focused, you know, getting on because the relationships are key. Yeah.

So how, as I'm here, you're really clear story of the shift than the shifting use of shifting ways of using the time together virtually and shifting. You know, well, people's reactions and ability to cope with the pressure of a lockdown. I think we can probably all times, with a lot of us. So Where where are you at sort of now? How are things as we start? Well, we hope we're starting to emerge. Let's see. Yeah, as things have changed in the last few months?

Jennifer Hutton 17:25
Yes. So we started to plan for how we might emerge into a new way of working quite early actually. And you'll know that we worked actually, with with Mayvin earlier this year on engaging people in a conversation about enhancing our organisational values. That gave us the chance to engage maybe over 100 people across the organisation in that that conversation.

And we also took that chance to explore specifically what people felt they'd learned about themselves, or we have learned about ourselves during this period. Especially what we want to keep and build on and to have a conversation about so. So what do we need from a hybrid working world to be at our best? And, of course, that kind of conversation does a double duty, doesn't it?

Because you're talking about the topic, but you're also providing that really precious space for people to come together, to ventilate, to decompress a bit. And we had sort of focused on doing that throughout the year and taking various opportunities. And that was a really good opportunity.

So on the basis of that feedback, and the data from our staff survey, and our well being surveys and what we were hearing, what our HR business partners were hearing what our senior leaders were telling us, we distilled a project, which is called, we've called working out walls.

So it's based on what our people have told us. Our history, which we've talked about already, what other organisations comparable to us were thinking and doing and working without walls encompasses, both the more formal HR aspects of this. So there were policies that we needed to write and update on hybrid working. Yes, we're working reward. But it also addresses the sort of cultural and behavioural aspects.

So we were able to sort of distil an ambition which we you know, which we agreed with our senior leaders, that and partners like the trade unions about what we want the future to be. What the principles for the future to work way of working would be.

So we focused on performance and delivery. So that comes first, we're here to serve the mission and ministries of the Church of England. Trust, which I mentioned earlier, so in this context, maximising control and choice over when and where people work. Okay. Learning, you know, and I've referenced those conversations we had

Sarah Fraser 20:35
the opportunities for people to continue learning in the context of their roles, or organisational learning.

Jennifer Hutton 20:43
It's both really, it's sort of continuing to draw out the learning, continuing to talk about our experience, and building on strengths that we've discovered. So a learning orientation, I guess, yeah, in the organisation, and then inclusion and wellbeing.

So we designed and rolled out a session to about 30 teams during May and June, working closely with the with our directors. And that session was designed to give people the framework and tools to talk about how working without walls would be for them. Thinking about the ambition that I've just explained, thinking about the actual work that they do, thinking about the team overall, and then thinking about the individual situation and preferences within that.

And we decided that we would have a trial year, so that teams can try different patterns of working with no contractual changes or reward consequences until next year. And we already know that a small number of teams want to try completely hybrid working. Mainly because they want to increase their national presence and Diocese's across the country.

Sarah Fraser 22:22
What's the definition of hybrid working that you're working with? Because I think it's been talked about in some slightly different ways and ways just yeah, just in the, you know, the reading and the articles that been written. So yeah.

Jennifer Hutton 22:35
That's, that's a really good point. So what we did was, we contextualise that by actually giving people some illustrations, right? You know, for example, for example, you might want to do complete virtual working, if that's what your business model is, you know, for example, you want to increase your presence in the diocese, where you're working very closely.

And you might decide as part of that, that once a month, you meet face to face as a team. There was an example of hybrid working where a team and the individuals or team might decide that it does hybrid working, which means to us probably coming into the office between, you know, one and four days a week. And within that individuals might make different options. So within that an individual by agreement might decide that they want to work completely remotely.

Sarah Fraser 23:42
So for Yes, between one and four days a week,

Jennifer Hutton 23:44
Between one or four days and there might be sort of quite a lot of nuance between that. So I mentioned you know that some teams, their work actually is very heavily, heavily predicated on visiting site building. But there are other teams we have, for example, the gardener's at Lambeth Palace, the caterers at Lambeth Palace, they have to do their work in the palace five days a week, they just sort of had to offer services.

So that might be you know, full time in the office working. We have defined homeworking as being in the office on average, less than one day a week. So that's our model. We also talked about the emphasis on you know, whichever, whichever way you want to try for the next year, what's really important is frequent check ins both at individual and team level so you know, both on performance and delivery but also wellbeing and inclusion, how's it working.

The other thing that we talked about with people was how they onboard new joiners in whatever model that they they go for to make sure that, you know, their way of welcoming new people is effective and sort of baked into into their thinking. And I think what was really interesting, having rolled out those 30 sessions is that's, you know, again, people have very, very different received it in very, very different ways.

So there are some people for whom, if every eye isn't dotted and T isn't crossed, isn't they can't engage with the discussion. And other people are just very open and flexible and happy to give it a go and see what see how it goes, see how it goes, suck it and see.

And then there's a sort of significant minority of people, I think, who you know, possibly due to uncertainty, fatigue and having become very used to the rules based life that the series of, you know, national lockdowns has made necessary. Were just very uncomfortable with this approach and would clearly much rather, we had just told everybody, you must come into the office two days a week.

Sarah Fraser 26:34
Yes. I have heard that from other organisations that there. Yes, but that's sounding very familiar. For some that would just, it's the uncertainty, which is uncomfortable. Yes. And the lack of uniformity? Yeah. Because it can one rule for another one rule for me or, you know, but.

And potentially, I, you know, as I've been having discussions around this, and in this research is, you know, potentially some, some feeling more empowered to have those discussions, or you could potentially call them negotiations about working patterns. And others seem very disempowered, because too, I don't know, if you, you found this, but to a great extent, it could depend on how that relationship is with the manager.

Jennifer Hutton 27:25
Absolutely, absolutely. So we are you, we have sort of briefed our HR business partners to lean into those discussions, particularly with line managers. But we've also, I absolutely agree, the line manager relationship is key here.

So we've designed some sessions for line managers, which is both around practical support in how to manage teams and individuals in a hybrid world, but also gives them that space for ventilating their own feelings, building some peer support, taking time to reflect on their own emotions and how they feel. So we're expecting to roll that session out across around 200 line managers over the next couple of months. But I'm sure that won't be, you know, that will be the first sort of go at that conversation.

Sarah Fraser 28:27
Yes, for further support, or further conversations about it. Because it is yeah, it sounds you know, you're you're shifting the culture anyway. And these principles of trust and well being and coming in as as being paramount. It feels like almost that's a it's a new underpinning approach for any, any leader and manager within the organisation, which must be, yeah, could be quite a shift for them.

Jennifer Hutton 29:03
Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Fraser 29:04
And I'm sort of wondering how it's going. Have you got a sense, even now, of, because the people must maybe you're already having starting to have conversations before the training?

Jennifer Hutton 29:15
I think it's. So I think we, you know, we, we talked right at the start about the work that we had started to do and had seeded in the organisation before this happened, and in a sense, using using this change to accelerate that sort of broader culture change.

Sarah Fraser 29:43

Jennifer Hutton 29:44
So we know from our sort of, you know, some of the qualitative and quantitative data we have around our well being surveys and our employee engagement surveys that you know, for example, the, the work on trust is paying dividends we've got you know.

We've seen a measurable increase in levels of trust and inclusion, appreciation for or sort of a recognition that the organisation is serious about well being, comes through. I don't, I think I think it's still very challenging because I think that people well, because of the overall the overall context that we're they're all we're all in, you know, there's fatigue around.

Sarah Fraser 30:39
And it's still unclear. When will the end be?,

Jennifer Hutton 30:42
Yeah, when will the end be? Sort of people on quite a short fuse, I guess, due to sort of prolonged anxiety, though, luckily, we haven't had any Jackie Weaver moments that I'm aware. You know, we know what the neuroscience tells us about Zoom, or Teams fatigue being a real thing.

I think you mentioned that issue around breaks and boundaries. That was something that we've heard quite a lot about. And we've sort of responded to in our well being and resilience offer around giving people some encouragement and support and tips and strategies around making sure that you know, breaks and boundaries are, are taken.

And I think the other thing was, what surprised me a bit or the impact surprised me a bit was the change of the seasons. So there was a big dip in winter. Big dip. When people you know, weren't able to go out after work for a walk, because it was already dark, it didn't feel quite the same. And so we tweaked our offer again and did a bit of a winter well being series of workshops.

But I think at the moment, the main issue for people is the hygiene factors. It's if I want to come to the office, how do I book a desk? What's it going to be like? Can I come off peak? You know, what's will I be able to use the kitchen? Will I be able to get a coffee? Yeah, all of that stuff has to be addressed really, really clearly for people to feel comfortable? To engage in more.

Sarah Fraser 32:41
There's something about helping people like yes, giving people some clear structure, it sounds like you're doing extremely well as an organisation. So that then they can navigate around, navigate sort of around this. What's what's going to be very new ways of working and find their way in it. It's not rules. It's it's more Yes. Guidelines and guidelines and structures by the sounds of it.

Jennifer Hutton 33:09
Yes. People need enough to feel safe, don't they? Yeah,

Sarah Fraser 33:13
Yes. And then to be able to know how they make the choices that they want to make you feel safe? Yes, yes. So, I get the sense of the main bit of changes to come. But you're saying early, you've been in a couple of days.

Since since sort of the last lockdowns, are you noticing any patterns emerging for you know, the type of people that are coming into the office or, you know, the hours or the way people or teams are choosing to work? Are there any patterns that are emerging already? Even though you're only just sort of going out with the guidelines?

Jennifer Hutton 33:54
Yeah. So I think we have had, so there are a small number of people who have been quite regularly attending the office, as soon as it was, we were able to accommodate that, for whatever reason, either because of their work, or because their home working environment wasn't suitable for whatever reason, you know, for their own well being.

But what we're starting to see now and in fact, it's only in the last couple of weeks, that we have had a desk booking and meeting room system available to us. And we've had alongside the work we've been doing, we've had a sort of return to the office project, which has focused not only on this is how you book the room, and this is how the health and safety stuffs working, but also, let's take the chance to brighten up our office space and encouragement to come in and have an office refresh day where you can sort of you know, tidy up your office space.

Basically get rid of all the shoes under the desk and the, you know, the dead plants. So we're seeing quite a bit, you know, seen a small amount of of that stuff going on now. And I would anticipate that when people start coming back after summer holidays sort of first half of September, perhaps we might see more work type meetings being scheduled as face to face meetings, but I don't want I don't see, is there any rush back in. And indeed,

Sarah Fraser 35:41
Not banging on the door

Jennifer Hutton 35:42
No, I went, as I told you last Wednesday. I saw three people.

Sarah Fraser 35:51
So gosh,

Jennifer Hutton 35:53
Which was lovely. I was glad to see those three people.

Sarah Fraser 35:59
But yes, people are not going to want to see too many people in the office, because that's overwhelming. And yeah, worrying in terms of safety as well. But it's yeah, it's gonna be a fine balance as people start going back, isn't it? Yes. But it's interesting thinking about so.

So you've been saying no, you know, you think the team's teams are going to start to come in and are likely to start to come in and have meetings, and a conversation I'm having with people is that so? What would? What would be the reason to have that team meeting in person rather than virtual? Like? Who would? Who gets to decide that? Is it because of the agenda? Or is it the manager? Yeah, yeah. That's tough. It's gonna come up.

Jennifer Hutton 36:44
Yeah. Yeah. And that is actually something that we have included in our line manager training, sort of things to think about how you convene a meeting, and what kind of model is appropriate for what kind of meeting? So you know, if, in our own team in the HR team, for example, we're having our own working without walls conversations, and it's kind of quite intuitive way.

But what's emerging for us is that, you know, we will, we will do a hybrid model we'll be based in our London office, but we'll be doing a hybrid model of working people, you know, quite a few people will choose to do remote working within that, but what our commitment to each other is, is that once a month, and with sufficient notice, we want to meet face to face as a team, because that's important for our collaboration and learning and relationships, right?

And if one or two people can't make it every time, that's fine, we understand that. But that's the general the general gist, but I know that for another team who's trying, trialling virtual working, they will make their team meetings which they'll continue to have very regularly, of course, virtual. And perhaps once, yeah, and perhaps once a quarter with a lot of notice schedule a, a face to face one for the same reasons that we would.

Sarah Fraser 38:29
Yes, but potentially, then it sounds like sort of knowing that their regular team meetings are quite pragmatic. It's about Yeah, task focused. Yeah. Or operational? Possibly. Yeah. And that's okay to be, virtual?

Yeah. Yes. I mean, we are equally having, you know, as a business having having the same conversations, when, you know, how many should be face to face, and while it's been working, because, you know, we're a virtual organisation, but, you know, I've had a lot of face to face, team meetings, different guises. And, you know, both what's the purpose?

And how do people feel about that? Is actually I think, for us as business sometimes the other way around, Oh, almost. We're too used to doing virtual, and we need to push ourselves to meet a bit more, remembering that face to face is, is hugely valuable.

Jennifer Hutton 39:23
I mean, I mean, for Mayvin, even just like an HR team, I guess it's it must be partly driven by your customers must know. Yes. Yeah. You know, if my senior customers want to eyeball me, then they will. Yeah,

Sarah Fraser 39:41
Exactly. And that's, that is the, that has been the initial driver for us. You know, getting our policies and things clear and us having that conversation has been right time. Clients are starting to be ready to meet face to face. So let's talk about how we feel about that how we do that, and how our internal meetings switch around. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. But it is interesting.

The, I mean, a lot of the articles written around hybrid working are talking about, you know, how do you decide, you know, when to have the team meeting when to get together? And a lot of them are talking about what it is about building relationships and all that. But it's, some talking openly in terms of mental health as well being which Yeah, which is great.

And I don't, and, yes, pre pandemic, I don't think we would have thought about it in those ways. Yeah. I feel like, like, it sounds, there's an organisation, I think you've you've clearly put that umbrella over this whole change process, and wellbeing has come forefront and centre of the conversation about how we decide how we work.

Jennifer Hutton 40:57
I think that I think it's, it's well being and inclusion. But I also think that that wasn't that that goes with the grain of what people in what is important to people in this organisation. And I think that would be borne out by the data we got from those workshops we did with Mayvin, at the beginning of the year, in the conversation that was about, you know, what's important to you, about the future, the way that we work together in the future.

One of the strongest sort of groups of responses was, you know, for the sake of our well being, for the sake of our inclusion, we need to have sufficient face to face with something like time and quality time and quality space, to come together, to learn to collaborate to innovate, and to nurture our relationships. So while it, it's, it feels to me like it's a corporate change programme that is tapping into something that is there in the organisation.

Sarah Fraser 42:13
Yes, yes. Yeah. So you are amplifying something that was, that's that's kind of been seen already. Yeah. That's the ideal. The ideal in a culture change process? Yeah. Very nice. I think that yes. I wonder if some other organisations it's, it's, it won't be so easy, actually feel a bit could feel that countercultural? Or they'll be taking, yeah, some very different approaches. So yes, in essence, are there any risks you're seeing in terms of people who might get left behind? You mentioned already, but to some people who just wish it would like, can you just be give everyone the same guidelines, and let's get get on with it? Almost going back to how it was before.

Jennifer Hutton 43:03
I think that I think some people are, as I said, are struggling with the very permissive approach, I suppose, you know, is the framework, here's some ways to have the conversation, go and have the conversation and decide and give it a go. If it's not working, give something else ago, some people would never have been comfortable with that extra uncomfortable with it.

At the moment, I think there was a lot of anxiety. And I think there still is a risk around the reward consequences to opting to be a home worker. If at the end of the trial, that's what you want to do. And, you know, I guess for some parts of the organisation where skills are scarce in the wider labour market, we'll just have to see how that pans out. Yeah.

So I think that's a that's a risk as well, but I don't you know, I don't I don't I don't really anticipate or not seeing any other major risks from an organisational point of view. I think there aren't well, you know, our data tells us there are a very, very small number of people who have not thrived in remote working, enforced remote working, and who are never going to be able to come back to the kind of environment that we have before. Because it won't exist. And I think, you know,

Sarah Fraser 44:40
They've got to find their way in in the new normal. Yes, yes. Yeah. Absolutely. I think for some people that that is going to be hard. And those are the people that will want long term, those the people are going to need support or Yes, yes, support or guidance.

It's kind of feels like this initial phase. is yes, there's support for everyone, but it's kind of helping people to get into the new patterns, find new patterns, and then it's going to be supporting the outliers longer term. who otherwise might. That's kind of but it might could kind of get left behind as organisations change.

One, one final question, I think is so it sounds like you've done, you know, as I said, you are doing some amazingly positive work. And it's, it's sort of born of an opportunity and your culture change process and fits really well.

How do you think that the NCI that's gonna then sit alongside and no, you're quite different as a sort of civil service institution alongside civil service, but how would it sit alongside you think the working patterns that that are seem to be emerging in other parts of civil service? Do you have any sense or do you have any connections back?

Jennifer Hutton 45:58
We do. We do. Because, you know, both I and our people, Director, Christine Dyer came from the civil service. So we're, we're very sort of still connected with our colleagues. So we know. You know, we keep up to date with what's going on there.

And we do turn to them for you know, sort of comparable benchmark quite often. Yeah, along with other not for profit sector. So my anecdotal evidence is that the NCI's have if we, you know, if we stick to our working without walls, principles and approach, we're probably pretty competitive, because we are so very explicit about a hybrid working approach.

And I know from people who have, you know, who've left and have been looking for other jobs or people who have joined that for a lot of people, and this may be a generational, there might might be a generation dimension to this as well, is that people are quite anxious, people won't consider employers or jobs who aren't offering flexible and hybrid working.

Sarah Fraser 47:20
Yeah, quite. It's becoming a given.

Jennifer Hutton 47:23
And yes, it's becoming a given. I think that I think the reward consequences are the other thing which might become the differentiator in the end. But we'll have to see how that plays out.

Sarah Fraser 47:39
Yeah, that's a little further down the line. Yeah. Well, it's been brilliant to sort of hear the full story and what you're doing and it sounds like, you're well set up to support people as they they might think about going back to the office.

Suria Lonsdale 47:58
Thank you so much for listening. And thank you once more to Jennifer for her contribution and insights. This episode concludes our first series, and we truly hope you've enjoyed listening and found our content both interesting and insightful. We've already had such great feedback that we plan to continue the conversation, so watch this space.

On that note, we have our next mindfully event coming up this Friday, the 17th of September 2021, and we'll be hosting our virtual group inquiry from 12 to 1:30pm. If you'd like to attend, please get in touch to confirm. Our contact details are on our website And finally, don't forget to subscribe to our podcast to ensure you catch all future episodes. Thanks again for listening

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