Our Way Ahead

Our Way Ahead – How the NHSBSA is moving towards a hybrid working model

The global coronavirus pandemic has meant changes for all of us, particularly in terms of how we work. We know we’ve needed to adapt and move into a new world, so we’ve developed an approach with our people to look at how we work into the future and explore the potential for a hybrid working model.

Our Chief Executive Michael Brodie and Programme Lead Anna Butterfield share our journey so far:

Introduction from Michael Brodie, Chief Executive

The global pandemic has caused the greatest level of disruption in our lifetimes.  It has had an impact on everything. And that includes our working lives. Despite all its horrors, COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to shake up our thinking of how we want to experience ‘work’ in a post-pandemic world. 

Over the last eighteen months, we have variously been working at home, working from home, and often it has felt like living at work. And it’s been different for different colleagues, as many have had no choice but to continue to attend our workplaces due to the nature of their work. It has challenged us to think again about how we attract, recruit, and retain the very brightest talent, meeting their needs for flexibility but also social inclusion and reflecting on the innovation that collaborating together in-person best delivers.

In our latest blog, Anna Butterfield, Programme Lead for ‘Our Way Ahead’, reveals how we’ve explored the potential for a hybrid working model for the future.

Shaking up our everyday thinking

Back in January, I was asked to consider the future ways of working once lockdown restrictions were eased.  A small programme team was established, and we started our thinking by considering our organisational purpose and what it means to be a Catalyst for Better Health. This became our anchor point: why we do what we do and in turn shaped the approach to the programme. Agreeing with the Leadership Team that the purpose of the programme was to ‘shake up’ the everyday thinking about how, when, and where we do our great work.

The ‘Our Way Ahead’ programme launched in early February ensuring that all colleagues could be involved in finding solutions to our challenge ahead.


Our first action was to listen to our people. We ran a series of all-colleague listening sessions where over 500 people attended (including representation from all our Lived Experience Networks). We also ran a survey that 480 colleagues completed. Next, we held a series of sessions for managers where over 150 managers shared openly their challenges of leading in a crisis and their needs for future working.  Finally, we worked with an independent researcher to facilitate 121 interviews with 30 colleagues to truly understand the lived experiences of as many colleagues as possible, especially those colleagues who were at risk of being marginalised because of COVID-19; including working parents and carers, maternity and paternity leave colleagues, under 25s and over 60s.

From the colleagues surveyed we learned that:

  • 40% of our colleagues want 100% remote working
  • 4% want to be back in the office five days per week
  • 56% want a flexible working model
  • Positive experiences included – colleagues have valued the flexibility and autonomy, felt supported, trusted, and feel more productive
  • Negative experiences included – colleagues have felt isolated, lonely, and missed the ability to socialise
  • Additionally, analysis carried out by our environment team saw a significant positive impact on our business emissions over the last year

This provided us with a sound evidence base to make an informed decision to move to a hybrid way of working, that builds on the positive experiences and designs out the negatives.

Our plan was to be everywhere, so even with the vast majority of people working from home we ensured our communications, updates, and programme opportunities could be accessed by anyone. We created ongoing communications including attendance at the Leadership Team meetings, a bespoke programme Yammer channel, monthly blogs, key progress updates to our senior leadership community, live all colleague Q&As, and continued listening to the organisational mood.

Impact on the business and wider research

Now we understood the impact the pandemic was having on our people, we needed to understand the impact it had had on the business.

We developed a hypothesis to enable us to test our assumptions against and explore the possibility of hybrid working in greater detail:

“By changing our ways of working and our supporting policies/systems/practices we can create flexible working with no degradation to organisational productivity or effectiveness.”

To test the hypothesis, three distinct communities were established.   

The first to be created was the NHSBSA Think Tank - a community of colleagues who bring fresh ideas into the organisation and ensure knowledge gets into the hands of those who need to hear it. Initially, the Think Tank developed a wide range of insights exploring what it means to be a hybrid organisation. It then attempted to answer more specific questions, such as how we ensure people are at their best when working from home and how to create a fully connected inclusive environment.

The evidence generated by the Think Tank informed our second community of practice, our Clusters. The Clusters consist of six groups made up of colleagues from across the business focussing on:

  • People
  • Leadership
  • Technology
  • Estates
  • Strategy
  • Governance

The purpose of the Clusters was to determine the requirements that will enable the NHSBSA to become a hybrid organisation. They helped us identify the habits that serve us well and change the ones that don’t. The groups worked through the following questions:

  • What’s good about here?
  • What’s not serving us well?
  • What can we develop further?

Finally, the third community was led by our Business Analysts and the purpose was to thoroughly work through what a hybrid working model means in practice across each of the NHSBSA’s business areas. We worked with leaders from each directorate to test what tasks and roles can work in a more flexible way, assessing the impact on productivity and effectiveness. Additionally, we identified what key activities were best carried out remotely, on location or a combination of the two.

We found that:

  • Majority of all processes/activities can be carried out remotely
  • KPIs were being met
  • Managers have successfully adapted to new ways of working however further development would be beneficial for a hybrid model
  • Opportunities for national recruitment
  • Further support for developing colleagues in a hybrid model is needed
  • For roles that cannot be carried out flexibly, there is a need to ensure we create a great working environment to ensure inclusivity
  • And our estates will require some redesign to ensure that people use our office space for connections, collaboration and learning….as well as having effective workstations

Next steps

Using the research, our Leadership Team has now agreed we will move the business to a hybrid model and the programme team are now in the process of making that happen.

From October all managers have been asked to start having conversations with their team members to work through their new ways of working. We’ll be using the next few months to test and refine until we get the right balance and work through what being a hybrid business means for us.  Finally, phase 2 of the programme will start in the Autumn, giving deeper focus to culture, behaviours, and what matters to us in a post-pandemic world. 

This has been our experience to date, and we’d love to hear how others are approaching this new world of work.