I was waiting in my local housing office this morning and the man in front of me in the queue was irate about a housing benefit/rent issue. In particular, he was annoyed that he has had to ask his manager to come in to work late so that he could visit the housing office to sort it out. The opening hours of this housing office are 9-5pm Monday to Friday. The man went on to explain that he had come off benefits a couple of months ago, had been temping since then and had only just started his new, permanent job. Where for some of us it is ok to come in to work late to sort out a pressing life administration issue, for him it was a big deal. It was a call he didn’t want to make, and rightly so.
For every morning taken off to go to the housing office, visit a GP, ring the council, visit a health centre etc is a morning where someone, somewhere is not being productive.
The ‘p’ word was doing the rounds again last week following the Chancellor’s budget. Last year my colleague blogged on how productivity, as well as economic growth, is a now a local issue. Productivity is stagnating but there are some local levers councils and public services have at their disposal to increase the productivity of their population. The question is: to what extent you want to genuinely align public service goals with economic growth ones, and how can they support each other?
The workforce is changing and public services are not keeping up with how we live our lives. This blog is not a personal rant; I’m lucky that I work for an organisation that is perfectly happy for me to make up the time elsewhere. Therefore, the counter argument is not that all employers should be flexible. The point is about productivity and how productive we really want our workforces to be. If the answer is ‘very’ then we need to have a frank conversation about what’s stopping us (opening hours?) and the role of public services in helping us to fulfil our potential as productive citizens.