Yorkshire Housing’s head of neighbourhoods, Nadhia Khan explains the results of staff working in a mobile way in neighbourhoods and what they have learned along the way.
Neighbourhood operating model principles
In 2012, we set up a customer service programme to create a new customer service centre in Leeds, review service processes and implement a new neighbourhood operating model.
Our vision for the new neighbourhood model is for local teams to spend the majority of their time with tenants and not to perform routine administrative tasks in offices. The principles of the new neighbourhood service are to take the service to the tenant, be more flexible and mobile in delivering services, and provide a speedy response to queries.
Mobile working pilot projects
A pilot was established in November 2012 to develop a mobile working solution. The objectives were to assess the benefits of mobile working using local touchdown points, flexible working policies and using technology in the form of tablet devices. Neighbourhood teams were given iPads to trial the new ways of working. A key part of the change was to look at how the pace of change was managed to increase staff engagement so that they were able to own and influence the outcomes from the pilot.
Adrian Hall, our head of ICT and his team provided support and training with the mobile devices. We chose Apple devices based on stability, ease of use and user experience, plus our ICT team was reassured by Apple’s iOS roadmap for hardware and software releases.
We added mobile device management software for additional security, device support and encryption. We also tested the capabilities on the 4G network in Leeds. The Citrix receiver on the iPads connects with everything on the desktop at work such as emails and calendars, the internet, data input into forms and our Orchard housing management system.
Our focus has been on how our neighbourhood teams work and not on a gadget-driven piece of work; the iPads are simply there to support these changes and provide the flexibility.
The results show that staff have been able to spend an average of 45 per cent more time with tenants, in their own home and in other locations. Tenants are receiving better real-time information around arrears and benefits advice. The iPad has proved a useful tool in enabling staff to operate remotely and to spend more time in their neighbourhoods servicing our tenants.
Staff mileage claims on journeys to and from the hub have reduced by about 20 per cent. For the Leeds team, this has given us a cost saving of £1,800 from November 2012 to March 2013.
We can achieve other cashable efficiencies through improved processes. For example, on lettings there are fewer journeys back to the hub, emailing proofs, and data inputting into the Orchard system. This equates to a cashable efficiency saving of £42 per letting.
There was also an increase in staff satisfaction with the flexibility that mobile working provides and they feel happier with their work/life balance.
We are now rolling out mobile working to 60 neighbourhood and income officers. We have learned that change should be introduced incrementally. And we need to allow staff time for learning and adopting this new way of working. The introduction of the new Orchard browser, service reviews and iPads affected the speed with which staff were able to implement new ways of working.
By empowering staff to make changes to processes and systems – staff felt engaged rather than it being imposed upon them. And to that end, we have produced a video for staff to show how the new ways of working has worked. This is available on the Yorkshire Housing YouTube channel, called ‘Excellence in Neighbourhoods’.
Nadhia Khan is head of neighbourhoods at Yorkshire Housing.