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David Bennett, Senior Review Officer for HMRC in Manchester:

The last 20 years have seen a dramatic shift in how people live and work. The growth and advancement of Smart Technology has enabled us to be connected almost everywhere we travel and as a result we’ve all changed the way that we work, live and travel.

Not only has technology changed the way that we work, but it’s also changed how we interact with each other and how we interact with businesses, service providers and government agencies, Both customers and employee’s needs and expectations are constantly evolving.

Colleagues are increasingly looking for flexibility so that they can enjoy a better work-life balance, and across the UK seven out of 10 people now work flexibly in one way or another, be it staggered start times, working from home, term-time working or job sharing.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK’s tax, payments and customs authority, has been at the forefront of this development and offers flexible working as standard.
David Bennett, a Senior Review Officer in one of HMRC’s Manchester offices, said: “We’ve always been proud of offering flexible working for colleagues, and through Smarter Working we’re now moving towards a culture of offering even more.

“We’re taking advantage of new technology to enable colleagues to work in different workspaces, including from home and on the move, and (where appropriate) access work remotely and interact and collaborate through technology rather than face to face.

“As we’re implementing Smarter Working we’re realising benefits for employees and the organisation as a whole.

“Our new buildings are designed to support digital, flexible ways of working, as an integral component of our broader plans to provide better services to the taxpayer at a lower cost. By making better use of technology and working differently, we believe we can become a more highly-skilled organisation that is maximising revenue, increasing tax compliance and reducing the tax gap. We’re also looking at how technology can allow for more flexible working styles and working hours, while reviewing our people policies to support new ways of doing things.
David added: “It’s also helped to bring teams together as space is used collaboratively at all times and shared creatively.

“Colleagues are not tied to particular desk and area, meaning that we can utilise space more effectively, and we can work collaboratively with colleagues from other parts of the organisation.”

In a survey that TfGM ran in late-2018 amongst 1,100 Greater Manchester employees, more than a third (38%) of respondents indicated that they were concerned that flexible working would have a negative impact upon how they're seen at work, with 12% of the view that it will have a negative impact upon their salary.

Likewise, the survey highlighted that managers may find it hard to trust that their staff are actually working at home, and not treating it as a day off. However, there is a big danger that in practice the opposite happens, and someone working at home feels obliged to do more or work longer.

It’s clear that trust and empowerment are key to both employers and employees getting the most out of flexible working arrangement, which is something that David feels strongly about:

“This can be a difficult cultural change when we are used to working in a regimented way with constant supervision; it’s important to judge staff according to the quality of their output rather than the time they are seen to be sitting at a desk.

“Staff also need to take responsibility themselves for organising their own time, and for finding ways to demonstrate that they are working effectively when they are not in a traditional work environment.”