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New action required to embed the benefits of distributed working

Published 22 July 2021 by Transform Scotland

We’ve today published an update on our ‘Connected Recovery’ report of June 2020, highlighting whether there has been progress in embedding the benefits of distributed working necessitated by the pandemic lockdowns.

The June 2020 report had recommended that:

  1. The Scottish Government, Scottish Public Bodies & the Scottish Parliament demonstrate their own commitment to distributed working.
  2. The Scottish & UK governments follow the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to prioritise investment in digital infrastructure over new, high-carbon road construction.
  3. Public transport operators provide flexible season tickets to address increasingly flexible working patterns.
  4. The Scottish Government work with COSLA to develop best-practice guidelines and HR policies as part of normalising remote working.

Today’s new paper (July 2021) argues that:

“Avoiding unnecessary travel is the first step in improving the sustainability of transport. As well as being being beneficial from a climate change perspective, reducing travel also results in cost savings for businesses. The benefits of reducing business travel are two-fold: not only is the cost of transport eliminated, but so is the cost of unproductive time lost to travelling. And reducing the need for employees to commute to work every day has been shown to increase productivity, and reduce absenteeism, staff turnover, and inequalities. Coronavirus restrictions for most of 2020 forced companies of all shapes and sizes to quickly adapt to a ‘no travel’ world where staff worked from home and held virtual meetings.”

The paper finds that inadequate progress has been made over the past year in “enabling the digital commute”, and makes seven new recommendations:

  1. HR departments in the public sector should ensure that a location of “distributed/home working, but requiring [frequent/regular/occasional] travel to [office location]” is standard for all jobs that can support it. It will also require updating internal working practices and management training as discussed in the Connected Recovery report.
  2. The Scottish Government & Scottish Parliament should develop procedures for running both internal and external meetings with an online participation option as standard, and publish these procedures as best practice examples.
  3. The Scottish Government should work with COSLA to develop best-practice guidelines and HR policies as part of normalising remote working, and make these available to all employers under the Open Government Licence.
  4. The Scottish Government should publish regular updates on the R100 Programme, including the number of premises eligible for SBVS vouchers, the number approved, and the number of installations under the scheme.
  5. The UK Government should be more ambitious in its timescale to infill the mobile network in areas where there is currently no coverage.
  6. ScotRail should extend the validity of their Flexipass to 3 months and the eligibility to include Avanti West Coast and LNER.
  7. Bus and light rail operators without flexible discounted ticket bundles should introduce them, and all operators should ensure the validity of such tickets is a minimum of 3 months.