Ministry of Justice, Joint Winner 2015, The DTCC Best for Innovation Award

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) ‘commuter hubs’ have shown that both individual and business benefits can be derived from excellent, creative flexible working solutions. The impetus came from the MoJ engagement survey which showed that staff wanted a better work–life balance. The issue seemed to be acute in London where many employees faced a long commute, some up to three hours each way, each day. There was also a need to reduce and rationalise estate costs.

The MoJ saw an opportunity to act on this through ‘the Way We Work’ programme (TW3,) a part of Civil Service reform concentrating on introducing smarter ways of working. The idea of commuter hubs was developed, with the aim of providing a guarantee of a desk in a convenient location to an individual’s home, meaning they would spend less time commuting but maintain all the advantages of being in the main office, such as interaction with other staff, a desk and visibility. This allowed people to have a clear distinction between home and work life and assisted those with caring and family responsibilities in particular. It also supported people who are not able or do not want to work from home to have a choice. The initiative was facilitated by the deployment of modern technology, PCs and mobile phones, thereby enabling the individual rather than the space.

An easy-to-use booking system allows staff to view and reserve available desks at any of nine locations in London and the South East and download all the relevant information regarding the office, for example regarding parking, hearing loops and disabled access.

As well as making the organisation a better place to work for existing employees and attracting new ones, the initiative has enabled the MoJ to reduce its running costs. Specifically, over the last four years the MoJ has significantly reduced its London HQ presence: by the summer of 2015 the number of holdings will have reduced from 18 to two, and there will be just one by 2016. The ‘1 HQ’ project will save the department at least £7 million per annum over the course of the next 10 years.

The feedback on the nine commuter hubs has been very positive. Examples include:

“The commuter hubs help me in bringing and picking up my children to school. Having a commuter hub close by, I am able to start earlier as I do not have to commute to Central London. I am able to pick up my kids from the clubs which otherwise would not be possible, and it helps reduce childcare costs.”

“I wanted to work flexibly away from London in order to reduce my travel time to work. My journey takes an hour and a half door to door; which is three hours per day, and 15 hours per week. I found this journey tiring; especially as I’d been commuting to London for nearly 15 years. Even though I travelled on the train, it was always surprising to me quite how exhausted I felt at the end of the week. I found that when I got home I was usually only fit for a quick catch-up with my wife and children, dinner, then bed and in the morning I’d get up and do it all again. When the opportunity became available to work at a local commuter hub I jumped at the chance to give it a try. Working at a commuter hub is something that I genuinely look forward to each week. Having one day a week working at the hub is great. It enables me to take my time in the mornings; I can take the children to school, pick them up from after-school clubs and sit down to dinner with them in the evening, which is something I cannot do when I work in London. I have also found that I actually have some time and energy to do other things in the evening. Overall, I have a much better home/work–life balance.”

The MoJ’s plan is to create more commuter hubs. It aims to have a 1000 hub places by the end of 2016 and will be surveying staff to find out where the most convenient locations to best support staff might be.