Based at Senate House near Russell Square, the University of London is one of the oldest universities in the country, with many affiliate colleges and research institutes making up a student body of over 170,000. As part of their ongoing strategy of providing innovative academic services and infrastructure they are going through a big change initiative called Programme Beveridge, resulting in about 350 staff transitioning from roles based at fixed desks into a more flexible way of operating – they call it activity-based working.
Here at Hable we love this approach – using cloud services and mobile devices to break down the physical barriers to collaboration (and free up time and space for other activities). We were hired by UoL to deliver a training package to support this programme of change, for which we designed and produced four bespoke training modules: Working From Different Locations; Store, Share and Sync; Smarter Meetings; and Working as One University. Led by Hable superstar Sarah Mann these were delivered between September and December 2016.
Now obviously just buying a load of new kit isn’t going to help a team become more productive. So instead of focusing on, for example, the tech specs and capabilities of the Surface Pro 4 and its Skylake Core m3 processor, we focused on the kind of things you’d need to think about when working day-to-day in this activity-based way. You can be much more efficient when you’re mobile and able to be flexible with your time commitments, but it necessitates a change of mindset, and new approaches to time and task management. There is less rote repetition, more of a chance to play to your strengths. As we often say, we don’t think of it as training, we think of it as learning. Once they “got it”, people were very enthusiastic; they told us their work-life balance was better now the new tools facilitated them being out of the office more easily. As a practical example, one learner liked that they could take photos of slides at a conference and save them in OneNote, share them immediately with the people who needed to be kept in the loop. Others were glad they could check in on important emails on their commute should the need arise.
Sarah recalls a lovely moment when completing their profiles on Office 365 brought two team members together. The session involved setting up Skype for Business which included uploading a photo: “She messaged someone she emails everyday but has never actually met, only to find by looking at her profile pic that it is someone she sees on the tube every morning – they never knew they worked at the same place! And now they chat to each other on the journey!”
We’ll let Dan Wakelin, Head of Space Management & Design at UoL have the last word:
“The University of London is in the midst of a large scale change in the way that we work. Hable helped us to develop a comprehensive training programme that considered how technology could be a powerful tool to enable activity based working (the notion that you choose a location to work depending on the activity you are doing). What was important to us was that the training outlined the benefits that technology can bring to individuals, and how people can use it in their day to day work; that is what Hable delivered for us.”