As we gradually return to our workplaces, as either a home/office hybrid, or some other combination, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to consider:

  • how we worked over this period
  • what we learned (about our work, our teams and ourselves)
  • what we might want to change permanently
  • what we might need to keep improving.

We have developed a bootcamp for you to run with your team that structures this discussion to make the most of lessons learned and keep a focus on delivering outcomes. Produced as a toolkit with a series of six discussions, it is supported by a series of simple templates to structure each discussion and devise a plan as a team. The bootcamp can also be run by human resources professionals as a series of workshops.

If you have any questions about the toolkit and running the bootcamp please email flexible.working@psc.nsw.gov.au.

Bootcamp lessons

Week 1: Diagnosing your current state

In this week’s task, you will explore how everyone has worked to date, and what’s changed over the past few months. 

  • What flexibility do you have now?
  • Formal, informal, and ad hoc
  • Flexibility in (when, where, how, who)
  • Has your approach to flexible work evolved? (how/why?)
  • Do you have a culture of flexible working?

The purpose is to have a preliminary discussion that gets everyone thinking about the way their work has changed, and quite often, how their approach to flexibility has changed. We’ve found people may have worked primarily from home over this period, but they divide up their days differently to when they were in an office, for example. If they were in frontline services, the assumption they need to see all clients for all tasks face to face may have been challenged, with telehealth or other technology being used instead, and clients have preferred this. 

Your toolkit:

  1. Watch the week 1 video for a quick brief on what to do and your expected output. 
  2. Email your team to explain what you want to do, when and why. 
  3. Set up a quick online poll to measure if you have a culture of flexibility. Use this is a basis of discussion when you get together
  4. Use the template in the resource pack to capture the outputs.
  5. Compare your results against our suggested examples in the resource pack to ensure you haven’t missed anything. 
  6. Use this list to send as pre-reading on the different types of flexibility available. People may often use flexibility without realising it (e.g. flexi days/RDOs), or assume it’s just working from home. This can be a useful prompt. 

Week 2: Reviewing and confirming your business outcomes

In this week’s task, you and your team are going to review the business, team and individual outcomes that – irrespective of flexibility or how you work – you and your team need to maintain or perhaps could even improve. 

The purpose of confirming these is to identify how you’re going to measure progress in your team. They should be aligned to your team’s business and project plans, and any individual performance objectives as well. They form a really important basis for ensuring everyone is clear on expectations, and a reference point for any conversations you may need to have if something is not working.

Your toolkit:

  1. Watch the week 2 video for a quick brief on what to do and your expected output.
  2. Use the template in the resource pack to capture the outputs.
  3. Compare your results against our suggested examples in the resource pack to ensure you haven’t missed anything. 
  4. If you’re unsure how to define an outcome, or manage for them, we have a managing for outcomes tip sheet to get you started. 

Week 3: Digging deeper into how we worked over this period

In this week’s task, discuss and reflect with your team how you have worked. In Activity 1, you explored the ‘what’ – this task helps you to dig deeper, and explore the ‘why’. What worked well? What surprised you? What was a challenge? 

The purpose of this activity is to ensure that any future plans are based on a recognition of what made things good or bad over this period. For example, was it the opportunity to take risks and fail? Was it the realisation that your team could respond incredibly well to change – or that your organisation’s technology, while imperfect, was enough to find workarounds when needed? What was everyone’s experience of the enhanced autonomy?

We’ve created a template to capture everyone’s reflections – use this to structure the conversation. We also recommend a Learning Loop approach if you’re comfortable with that methodology – either is sufficient. 

Your toolkit:

  • Watch the week 3 video for a quick brief on what to do and your expected output. 
  • Use the template in the resource pack to capture the outputs.
  • Compare your results against our suggested examples in the resource pack to ensure you haven’t missed anything. 
  • If you would rather use a Learning Loop style approach, here is a link to an excellent learning loop example published recently in Apolitical

Week 4: Our new flexibility plan

In this week’s task, it is time to draw together all of the outputs of the conversations to date to agree your new plan as you return to your workplaces. What sort of flexibility does everyone want to use? How has it changed? 

It’s important at this stage to ensure several things:

  1. The flexibility/way of working proposed will ensure (as much as you can reasonably anticipate) your team continue to meet (or have the opportunity to improve) the business, team and individual outcomes you defined in Activity 2
  2. Test your thinking – are there any opportunities to do things differently – whether by work share, or swapping tasks, that can open up even more choice in the way you all work? Similarly, is there any work you can collaborate with another team to complete? 
  3. Reflecting back on Activity 3, are the options being proposed going to make the most of the things you have all valued and found effective, while addressing the challenges? 

There may be some differing views at this meeting – encourage everyone to make constructive, respectful challenges, and ensure everyone gets a say. People may have really different views on what they want and need – remember, the idea is democratic access, while maintaining or improving access. No one needs a reason to ask or a hierarchy of need (unless someone’s preferred option would genuinely affect someone else’s workforce participation). In our experience, however, people are very pragmatic about what’s possible for their context, and can have quite creative ideas they may have feared expressing previously because of stigma. 

Your goal here is to develop a team flexibility plan that is inclusive, practical and cost neutral (unless your organisation has said otherwise). It will need to abide by existing industrial parameters, and find an equilibrium between the needs of your clients/customers, your team and the individual’s within it. Make clear any plan is a pilot only for three moths minimum, to see how it will go, and encourage a spirit of being prepared to test and experiment, and try to make it work – but be prepared to change it if it does not. 

Your toolkit:

  1. Watch the week 4 video for a quick brief on what to do and your expected output. 
  2. Use the template in the resource pack to capture the outputs.
  3. Compare your results against our suggested examples in the resource pack to ensure you haven’t missed anything. 
  4. The Behaving Ethically Guide is a great resource on engaging in effective dialogue.

Week 5: Developing your ‘rules of the road’

In this week’s task, one of the most crucial, your team will define ‘how’ they will make it work – the guiding principles and parameters they will use to interact effectively and ensure everyone is on a level playing field. How will you communicate with each other? What meetings will be online, and what absolutely has to be face to face (and with notice)? How will you foster collaboration with other teams – is there a tech solution that removes the need to rely on co-location and happenstance? How will you check if it is working, and how often? What else do you need to do to make it work? 

A useful conversation starter is a pre/post mortem activity. In the pre-mortem, consider as a team what you did or put in place to ensure your new way of working succeeded. In the post-mortem, consider what you did not do that meant it failed. Looking at it from dual perspectives ensures are more failsafe approach, and encourages everyone to think critically. 

After you’ve done a first draft, step back as a team and consider these rules against your flexibility plan (Activity 4) and again against your business, team and individual outcomes (Activity 2). 

Your toolkit:

  1. Watch the week 5 video for a quick brief on what to do and your expected output. 
  2. Use the templates in the resource pack to capture the outputs.
  3. Compare your results against our suggested examples in the resource pack to ensure you haven’t missed anything. 

Week 6: Last step – your team’s implementation and monitoring plan

This week’s task is your last step in developing your new, improved team way of working. In this activity, you will build your team’s implementation and monitoring plan, which outlines the practical steps that need to be taken as a team, and perhaps as individuals to make it work.

Questions to consider:

  • Is there any hardware or software needed? 
  • Is any training required?
  • How are we going to check if this is working? We suggest a regular short survey at inception (baseline) and then quarterly. Check also in team meetings (perhaps quarterly) and in 1:1s for more qualitative feedback or conversations that are harder to have publicly (e.g. one team member raising a challenge with another’s arrangements). 
  • Are there any stakeholders you need to consult, or permissions to obtain at senior levels?
  • Have you advised other teams or clients you work with of any new arrangements that may affect them and the way you work together? 
  • Does everyone have updated performance plans aligned to the outcomes defined? Are there any other HR forms to complete or checks to undertake?
  • And a final check: is everyone clear on what is expected of them? 

Your toolkit:

  1. Watch the week 6 video for a quick brief on what to do and your expected output.
  2. Use the templates in the resource pack to capture the outputs.
  3. Compare your results against our suggested examples in the resource pack to ensure you haven’t missed anything. 
  4. Here is a sample survey we’ve used at regular intervals. 

Good luck, and keep in touch to let us know how you go at flexible.working@psc.nsw.gov.au