IT hinders UK public sector response to Pandemic, finds major pan-European study


-UK public servants see biggest shift to remote working compared to European counterparts, and over half now want to continue working from home post Covid-19
-A third (37%) of UK public servants say their IT hindered their ability to respond to the crisis
-58% say that a remote delivery model can maintain or improve quality of service
-Modern/faster computers, improved applications and better infrastructure cited for upgrades...

Almost three quarters (74%) of UK public servants[1] experienced a major increase in remote working amongst their teams in response to Covid-19, but over a third (37%) found that their IT hindered their ability to respond to the crisis. The pan-European study of 3,500 public servants found the UK public sector experienced the biggest shift to remote working of the eight European countries analysed.

Despite the impact of technology on responding effectively to the crisis, almost two thirds (58%) of UK public servants indicated that service quality can be maintained or even improved with a remote model. This was only slightly below the European average of 62% - with Italy topping the rankings - with almost three quarters (71%) expecting no effect, or an improvement in services delivered remotely.

The UK findings, which form part of the major new pan-European survey across eight countries, are exclusively published today (23rd November 2020) by management and technology consultancy BearingPoint. The study also found few UK public servants interested in the latest tablet or touchscreen device to help them deliver their work more effectively, but almost 2 in 5 (38%) need a modern/faster computer, 34% require improved applications on their computer, and 31% need access to better IT infrastructure.

Overall UK public servants’ views on remote working are positive – and compared to their European counterparts - the UK (52%) only ranks second to Italy (54%) for wanting to continue to work remotely regularly after the Covid-19 crisis is over. Almost three quarters (73%) of UK public servants also reported that the Covid-19 crisis has either had a positive impact on collaboration (46%) or had no effect on how their team has worked together (27%).

But the BearingPoint report says that with a greater number of public servants in the UK and Europe wishing to continue working from home after the pandemic, the success of this new hybrid model (split between working remotely and in the office) relies on an effective allocation of tasks and careful planning of those activities carried out face-to-face rather than remotely.

Stewart Johns, Partner at BearingPoint said:
“Our study has shone a light on the fact that in the UK and across Europe, public sector organisations need to prioritise investments in basic IT hardware and infrastructure to enable more effective remote working and delivery of services. Remote working requires effective platforms for collaboration and remote conferencing, and professionalising the use of collaborative platforms such as MS Teams, will also future-proof service delivery and maintain public sector morale during these challenging times, and beyond.”

The BearingPoint study also found:
  • Response and job satisfaction – There has also been signs of a positive morale boost in the UK’s public sector - with almost half (43%) of public servants reporting that the response to Covid-19 has had a positive impact on their job satisfaction.
  • New skills - Over two thirds (69%) of UK public servants also state that the Covid-19 crisis has increased the need for new skills in their role; with a similar number (68%) stating that they will need new skills in the next three years.

Stewart Johns from BearingPoint concluded:
“There’s a real hunger amongst public servants to acquire new skills, citing skills development as the key dimension to improve service quality, ahead of technology, management and the working environment. Public sector organisations should therefore invest more in L&D to help public servants’ transition to new ways of working and take advantage of new technologies. With the right level of support, public servants can continue their transition from ‘process followers’ to ‘problem solvers’.”

The countries included in the BearingPoint study were France, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ireland using information captured from online surveys of representative sample groups over the summer period 2020.