The UK’s public sector has grown accustomed to flexible working and will continue to adopt it post-pandemic, according to research by expense and travel management expert, SAP Concur. The survey, which questioned 233 decision makers within central and local government, looks at the future of central and local government, particularly in the context of the pandemic’s impact on working practises.
When the pandemic hit, the public sector was forced to move its operations remotely almost overnight. This caused many challenges for government organisations, but according to the research over nine in 10 (91%) of UK government decision makers agree working from home will become an expected norm post-pandemic. Only 4% expect work to return to permanent office working in the future, while 37% expect to see permanent home working as the way forward. To prepare for this, 86% of government decision makers have accelerated digital transformation as a result of the pandemic, with 83% believing that digital has become increasingly important to maintain contact with citizens and suppliers.
There are a number of different technology projects that government organisations are investing in, including online training (86%), cloud based technologies (58%), travel and expense management tools (46%) and digital invoicing (40%). Despite this acceleration, there are still barriers for digital initiatives to overcome. The research finds that the most common barriers are legacy systems (53%), reduced budgets (50%) and data issues (37%). On top of this, 30% don’t believe that their organisation has all the necessary digital tools, processes, and systems in place to enable employees to work remotely in an effective, efficient, and stress-free way
Richard Gwyther Head of Public Sector, SAP Concur, explains: “With the challenges that COVID-19 has presented this past 12 months, technology has been key to helping government organisations function in the most challenging of times. Historically the public sector has been cautious with investing in technology due to potential disruptions in the short-term during implementation and the need to demonstrate any investment is worth the cost. But this research shows that the pandemic has made the sector overcome this cautiousness and embrace digital transformation. Moving forward, the sector must build upon this progress and continue its investment in digital projects that will increase both citizen and employee satisfaction.”
Gwyther continued: “The findings clearly show that flexible and remote working is set to remain for the sector, with employees appreciating the freedom that it provides. Despite this, it is clear that many government organisations are not fully prepared to enable their staff to work remotely and this is something that must be addressed. The need to optimise the remote workforce and modernise operations is more important than ever and quite possibly, the only way central and local employees can be freed to focus on taking care of their constituents. Leaders within the sector need to identify the manual processes that are slowing down back-office operations, and invest in modern, cost-effective technology. This investment will help employees manage their increased workload now—and create efficiencies longer term coming out the pandemic.”