Weeknote w/c 18 February: learning from experts and promoting positive working styles

Half-term made for a change to my normal routine, and I was glad to have the flexibility to do some work from home and also a grandparent who could offer a couple of days of childcare. The working week was still very good though, with some pleasing progress.

Mayor’s digital advisory panel

On Thursday we had the second meeting of the Mayor’s digital advisory panel. Hackney is fortunate to count leading digital experts among our local residents and the businesses who are based in the borough, and this group gives us an opportunity to test out some of our thinking and explore new ideas. I find it really encouraging that the Mayor gives us time from his very busy diary to take part in these, which reflects his support and commitment for the work that we are doing to help Hackney realise its goals for the future.

At this meeting we focused on three topics, starting with a really useful discussion about data ethics. We are exploring ways that we can engage with our residents to demystify the ways that we use data now and in the future and to get their thoughts on the things we should do to make sure that as well as following the letter of the law we are also continuing to build trust. The panel made some really helpful suggestions which will help us reshape some of the ideas we were considering for this and also suggested some other steps that we could take.

Following that we then talked about ways that digital technology and approaches might help support the Council’s work with our communities and suggestions for ways that we can showcase Hackney as a leading tech borough in London Tech Week later this year. All in all a really thoughtful and valuable session and a great example of where working with local experts can help us with our work.

Positive working styles and mental health

I’ve had several conversations recently about how we can make sure that changes in technology and working styles are supporting positive mental health. Last week I caught up with a colleague in Public Health to discuss how we can contribute to the wellbeing strategy that the Council is developing. Many of the challenges aren’t new and I am a strong advocate for the benefits that more flexible and connected technology can provide and how these can be a positive contributor to a healthy work-life balance (I blogged some thoughts on how that works for me here: https://bytherye.com/2018/12/11/personal-reflections-on-how-i-prefer-to-work/).

But there’s also the risk that work might become a 24/7 thing with people finding it difficult to switch off if we’re not careful. We had a really good discussion about ways to guard against this, ranging from simple tips on how to disconnect from work apps during down time through to behaviours that we should be modelling to encourage positive working styles. I’m looking forward to being part of the conversation to develop this further and making sure that we are helping to promote wellbeing.

Other highlights from my week were:

  • A couple of great meetings as a management team, one to look through what the recent staff survey results tell us about how our service is developing and the second to catch up on the priorities we set last month and agree the areas we will focus on for the month ahead.
  • My regular catch up with the leads for the Council’s unions, where we talked about the changes we are helping services across the Council deliver and ideas Cate and I are developing for our future provision of mobile telephony.
  • A series of updates to the Housing steering group covering the digital services we are delivering.
  • Our regular security meeting, checking in on the work we are doing to keep our systems secure and develop a proactive approach to managing security risks.
  • Sharing the thinking that we did for our service structure with colleagues from another borough.
  • And a very useful discussion with our Comms team to look at how we can make sure that our work is plugged into the Council’s strategic communication planning.

Something I’m learning

At the end of the week I was trying to figure out why I hadn’t responded to a helpful set of suggestions that someone had shared with me in an email earlier in the week. I realised that it was because they’d included a link to an article that provided context for the ideas they’d shared and I’d allowed myself to think that I couldn’t respond until I’d read that through and taken time to think it all through – I’d basically turned an easy thing to do into a more complicated task, and then parked it and moved on. On reflection I could have made it easier for myself and been more responsive if I’d not done this. I’m going to ask myself whether I’m over-complicating my response to things and whether I can get things done more quickly if I keep them simpler. (Those who know me reasonably well will realise that this is not a trivial challenge!)