What were the key factors for your case study?
The key PESTLE factors for the Location Independent Working case study are political, economic, social and technological. Within the Commercial Enterprises division at Coventry University (CUE Ltd) LIW has become a well established and embedded practice since its launch in 2002, with three quarters of staff now working LIW. The key drivers underpinning the shift toward this new way of working were to both to improve flexibility, enabling staff to better respond to changing customer requirements, whilst at the same time reducing pressure on office space in a commercial environment. More recently LIW has been piloted within an academic setting within the Faculty of Business, Environment and Society. Funded through JISC the pilot sought to test the concept of LIW amongst cohorts of teaching, research and support staff. LIW itself was seen as highly appropriate within a Faculty where the concept of sustainability; linking sustainable lives, organisations and places is very much central to the research and teaching agenda. The key drivers underpinning the pilot were individual (e.g. improving work-life balance, reducing commuting and stress); organisational (e.g. reducing pressure on space and parking, improving employer flexibility and absenteeism, and improving attractiveness as an employer); and environmental (e.g. reducing carbon emissions). The success of the pilot in terms of individual and employer benefits, as measured by an in-depth evaluation, has encouraged the University to explore wider roll-out of LIW in other Faculties. Through dissemination activity, LIW has sparked interest with other higher education institutions although it is unclear if drivers elsewhere are HR related, e.g. based on an employability agenda, or cost related. In an economic sense initiatives to counter recessionary pressures are increasingly important; the interviewee believes that organisations both in the public and private sector will continue to explore different ways to reduce costs and that one option to achieve this is through savings on office space. In this respect Location Independent Working (LIW) and similar flexible working initiatives could play an increasingly important role. Environmental concerns are also an important factor behind the introduction of flexible working schemes, although more research needs to be done to fully test and understand the potential for LIW to achieve positive impacts. For example, one benefit of LIW is thought to be a reduction in carbon footprint as staff are not commuting to and from work as often – however an alternative school of thought suggests that any energy and carbon footprint savings may simply be substituted to another location, such as home, without any actual significant overall reduction.
Who were the main mediators driving these PESTLE factors? Please provide examples of how they influenced your case study.
For the LIW case study (within CUE Ltd) the key mediators were initially institutional; driven by a need to maximise rental income within commercial buildings, whilst at the same time, maintaining competitive advantage both economically and from a recruitment perspective. By offering attractive and flexible employment options Coventry are able to draw on a wider pool of staff both geographically speaking and in terms of attracting individuals who see the potential in flexible working and the benefits it will have to both their work and private time. The student experience is perhaps less important a mediator for this case study because of its commercial nature but for the wider institution Faculty pilots have shown that staff feel students derive benefits from their tutors being location independent; having other methods of communication such as mobile email often results in students getting quicker responses and access to support out with the traditional 9 to 5 environment.
In what order did change occur? Among working practices/ roles and responsibilities or with the individual?
As the driver for this case study came mainly from the institution the change was initially among working practices. The pilot called for participants from all areas (from within CUE Ltd) so it was not exclusive to particular roles nor did it attempt to create new roles or responsibilities per se. The premise in fact was that it would not change roles and responsibilities just working practices, as it would allow staff to do exactly the same job with the same responsibilities, just performed in a different, more flexible way. So the change through LIW was always about the working practice while striving to preserve roles and responsibilities in their current state.