[Editor’s note: Guest blog post from Sachia Thompson, Commuter Hub Project Sponsor, Ministry of Justice (MoJ)]
Expanding our flexible working offer
‘I want to work away from the office – but not from home’. A phrase I’ve heard many times over my two years as Commuter Hub lead for MoJ National. Staff want to enjoy the benefits of working remotely but, for a number of reasons, working from home simply isn’t an option. It might be a lack of suitable space, or a lack of childcare cover (I can testify my children have played many a starring role in telephone conference calls!). In some cases, it may be the need to create a clear line between home and work, or even the social aspects and networking opportunities offered by an office environment.
New to the ‘Hub Club’
Whatever the reason, MoJ National is committed to providing more choice and flexibility over where people work. I am very proud to say we now have over 45 hubs situated from Brighton to York. The popularity of our hubs are increasing; with more than 3,000 staff enjoying the benefits of flexible working from hubs each month – highlighting the appetite for smarter working across our department.
To keep up with the ever-growing demand, we’ve been working with partners and other government departments to expand the number of commuter hubs we can offer. We recently set up 8 new hub sites across the country with our colleagues in Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).
Guy Tompkins, Director of Operations in HMCTS said:
“Some months ago, I worked with the commuter hub team to source available HMCTS hub space in the regions. These hubs are invaluable in striking a work/life balance for our people. Modern technology means it makes sense to work from a local base from time to time, providing it fits in with your business needs.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work out of one of these new hubs in Winchester. I was very impressed. It's a bright, clean space with an IT set-up that allows me to sit down, plug-in with my laptop and get to work without any hassle - as a man with simple needs, there's not much more I can ask”
The Library Hubs pilot
We’ve also joined forces with the Libraries Taskforce. Libraries give us a unique chance to launch even more high-tech hubs in the heart of communities, cutting journey times by up to 90% and allowing staff to walk and/or cycle to work.
The first phase of the library commuter hub pilot included a number of libraries across London and was a success with overwhelmingly positive feedback. A recent survey showed that staff enjoyed a reduction in commuting costs, improved work/life balance and reclaimed precious time to spend with family and friends. Talk about a win/win/win!
Following the success of phase 1, we have recently opened 5 further sites situated in libraries in Leyton, Putney, Basingstoke, Farnborough and Witham.
Feedback from users has been very positive. Library hub user, Ryan Chaplin, said:
“As a place to work, the library is great and reduces my commute from 90 minutes to 10. I’ve joined my local library and have frequented it several times since then in my own time.”
This collaboration has benefited not only MoJ staff but also libraries in giving them an extra income stream from otherwise redundant (back office) space.
Councillor Andrew Gibson, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, said:
“Hampshire Libraries are at the heart of our communities and are ideal places for Ministry of Justice (MoJ) staff to work from as ‘commuter hubs’ during this pilot. As part of our Library Strategy, we are keen to share our buildings with partners so they are used fully, creating more joined up public services and delivering savings for the taxpayer. We’ve had positive feedback from library and MoJ staff saying that the partnership is working well.”
For me, the hub programme is a vital part of MoJ National in that it truly improves flexibility and wellbeing for all of us – empowering us to decide how and where we work and reclaim that all important commuting time.
We’ve recently launched a Smarter Working campaign and we’ll continue to promote the variety of flexible working options available. Smarter working will foster a culture that encourages creativity, efficiency and collaboration.
The phase 2 pilot ends in December and we will conduct an evaluation. Subject to the findings, we would look to move to phase 3, further expanding the range of library sites on offer. Anyone interested should contact us at Commuter_hubs@justice.gov.uk
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce