Future Work Design


  1. Project outputs
  2. Project timeline

This project conducted a study into the effects of remote working on council staff and was led by East Riding of Yorkshire Council in partnership with Hull City Council, North East Lincolnshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council, and supported by The Centre for Human Factors at the University of Hull.

The study looked at the impact on staff working remotely or from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it looked at the effects on staff health and wellbeing and their productivity.

Watch the team’s lightning talk during Digital Leaders Week 2021:

Project outputs

The project outputs from Phase 1 include:

  • A research report (PDF) into remote working challenges in local government, which contains nine working practice profiles for council staff working in different contexts.
  • A risk assessment tool (PDF) that’s ready to be used by HR/OD and corporate teams.
  • Guidance (PDF) on how to use the risk assessment tool in practice.

Following Phase 2 in 2022, the project produced a final report (PDF) on exploring the value of digital tools in promoting healthy working practices.

Project timeline

August 2020

The Future Work Design project receives £76,000 from the Local Digital C-19 Challenge.

February 2021

The project receives £110,000 of follow-on funding from the Local Digital Fund to continue their work.

Building on the first phase, this next phase will see the stress risk assessment tool rolled out to the 4 partner councils. Researchers from the University of Hull will analyse the results and identify organisational needs.

At the same time, the project team will work with Microsoft to test the effectiveness of Office 365 wellbeing and productivity tools in practice. Ultimately, they hope to be able to direct staff towards the existing wellbeing tools that meet their needs (determined through the survey), and to illustrate where there are gaps.

Separately, the Risk Assessment tool is being made available nationally via the UK Health and Safety Executive.

Read more about Phase 2 of the project in this blog post.

April 2021

The Future Work Design project team kicked off their current phase of work and published a new blog post, ‘The Start of Future Work Design: Phase Two’, on their website.

Eddie Niblett (East Riding of Yorkshire Council), project lead, spoke on Great Yorkshire Radio about Future Work Design. Listen to a recording of the show on their website.

The team also started working with Microsoft to identify tools that will support them in their next phase of research.

The pilot groups for this phase of research started to be defined.

May 2021

The team spent May working on finalising their DPIA’s so that they could start recruiting their research participants.

They also published a blog with an update on the phase so far.

June 2021

The team gave a presentation about the project during the Digital Leaders Week Lightning Talk session (skip to 12:37 minutes).

Eddie Niblett (East Riding of Yorkshire Council) gave a presentation about the project for Microsoft’s Envision event. Michelle Mulder from Microsoft also wrote a blog about working with the team on this phase of the project.

The DPIA’s were all approved and the team started to recruit participants for their research.

The project team also nominated themselves for an LGC Partnership Award.

July 2021

Future Work Design were shortlisted as finalists in the LGC awards. They have been included in the ‘Digital Impact’ category for phase 1 of the project.

The team finished recruiting their research participants and up-skilled the participants through MyAnalytics learning.

The team attended a Theory of Change meeting with Jamie, the Local Digital Collaboration Unit’s Economist, who discussed their Monitoring and Evaluation and the project outputs.

They also published a blog about the interviews the team were involved in recently.


August 2021

The project entered their 8-week ‘intervention’ period with their research participants.

During this period the participants received daily insights into their working habits, which was designed to help them to reflect and make changes where necessary to support their wellbeing. During this intervention period the participants completed daily diaries to help the University identify the challenges and benefits people face on a daily basis.

The team also published a new blog post about their usage of social media on the project, and another blog post to provide an update on their progress so far during phase 2.

September 2021

Project Lead, Eddie Niblett (East Riding of Yorkshire Council), and Occupational Psychologist, Fiona Earle (University of Hull), presented to the LGC awards finalist panel.

The team also published a blog post which detailed a recent research participant’s feedback about how using Microsoft My Analytics has made their working habits clearer.

November 2021

The team won at the LGC awards under the ‘Digital Impact’ category for phase 1 of the project.

The 8 week ‘intervention’ came to an end. The University then ran 8 focus groups with staff from all four local authorities, from both the control and intervention group.

The team also presented at the annual iNetwork conference on 18 November to share their work from Phase 1.

December 2021

The University is now analysing the research data .They are hoping to have their phase 2 report finished by the end of March.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is due to roll out the Risk Assessment tool from phase 1 in January.

February 2022

March 2022

The project is awarded £350,000 in follow-on funding through the Continuous Funding Model.

Building on the findings and insights gained through Phases 1 and 2, East Riding of Yorkshire Council (the lead partner) will use the funding to deliver a digital risk management tool and supporting resources. This will include an online diagnostic tool for managers to identify members of the workforce who may be subject to unsustainable levels of stress. 

The benefits of Phase 3 for local authority staff will include:

  • Improved levels of staff retention as a consequence of enhanced wellbeing
  • Improved and enhanced staff wellbeing as a result of more structured conversations between managers and their staff
  • Overall improvements to organisational performance (both financial and operational).

We will be working closely with the team to gather data on the impacts and benefits that all three phases of the project have had on local authority staff.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and The Stationary Office (TSO) sent out an eBulletin to 100,000 HSE contacts nationally to introduce the new Stress Indicator Tool that the project created.

They are holding two webinars (inMarch and in April) to talk about the new developments and demo the tool in action, which the Future Work Design team are also contributing to.

HSE already has eight organisations paying for licences to use the tool, and 32 quotes out. The quotes include NHS Trusts, councils, universities, fire and rescue services, a major UK airport, and a large central government department.

The University of Hull are finalising the phase 2 report. The team expects this to be circulated by the end of March.

The team kicked off their new phase 3 of work with a kick off meeting and the discovery stage is now underway.

The team also met with their LDCU Collaboration Manager, and LDCU’s Economist, to discuss their impact and evaluation expectations for the next phase of work.

April-May 2022

The team kicked off their third phase of work and the discovery phase is now underway.

The team at the University of Hull are continuing to work on what the digital tool will look like. This has included conducting a market assessment of similar available tools and compiling a list of the criteria they would like the tool to include.

Meanwhile, the team continues to work on measuring their outputs and benefits. They recently had a meeting with the Stationary Office and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about which questions they should ask people who download the Risk Assessment tool, in order to gather the required metrics.

The partner councils will be recruiting participants ready for the focus group sessions in the final week of May. The groups will discuss how wellbeing and one-to-one conversations with managers are currently happening and what they involve.

They are also recruiting six local authority managers from each partner council, who will trial a range of pilot methods. The sessions will take place w/c Monday 6 June.

25 May update:
The project’s Phase 2 output is now complete and has been shared with partners, and will be published on the project website and Local Digital website soon.

The operational delivery and HR staff from the four councils met to agree the staff demographic for the focus groups and confirm dates. They are looking for staff who are managers, because they have experience of both providing and receiving personal development and wellbeing support.

In other news:

  • the team is close to confirming the brand/promotional partner that will help with the design of the final outputs for Phase 2
  • a press release about the project being awarded continuous funding through the Local Digital Fund has just gone out
  • the project has been invited to present their work and progress at a Socitm network event (more details to follow)

June 2022

The objective of this phase of the project was to understand the use of Microsoft’s Viva Insights tool and whether the use of a daily diary could help support staff wellbeing.

While the results of the research were not conclusive, they did reveal some useful insights into the need for organisational change (including changes in management perspectives and the demands put on staff) in order to achieve positive outcomes for staff.

Microsoft has also said that they may use these learnings to make changes to the Viva Insights tool going forward, so the team is still optimistic about seeing a positive impact.

Reading the project’s report ahead of their planned Office 365 roll out to staff has also helped East Riding of Yorkshire Council to prepare and know what to include and exclude in the process.

Meanwhile, the University of Hull has narrowed down which method they will use for the digital risk management tool. They have also been researching similar tools, but haven’t found one that is both digital and uses psychology inputs, as this tool will.

All of the method validation workshops for the digital risk management tool have now been arranged and the first one took place on Monday 20 June. These sessions will allow the project to sense-check the methods that have been chosen (following research by the University of Hull team) and to gather feedback on any challenges they can foresee as well as what worked well.

A digital platform planning session has been arranged for the team to discuss what platform the tool will be on — for example, an app or a link to a website — and how people will access the tool on that platform.

The team is also preparing to present the project at the LGA Conference 2022 on Thursday 30 June, on the Spotlight Stage. Find out more and register for the LGA Conference.

Project lead, Eddie Niblett (East Riding of Yorkshire Council), hosted a talk on ‘Tools to support staff wellbeing’ on Tuesday 21 June, which shared learnings from both phases of the project — register to watch a recording of the talk.

The team will also be speaking at the Local Digital Yorkshire and the Humber Roadshow in Leeds on Thursday 14 July.

August 2022

The team now has a marketing plan in place to market the digital risk management tool to councils. With a range of digital content (blogs, videos and podcasts) planned, the project has reached an exciting milestone.

The team held their concept testing workshop on Wednesday 17 August in-person at the University of Hull. Part of Phase 3, the aim of this session was to explore a stress risk assessment process, with a particular focus on 1–2–1 meetings. The workshop included a series of mock 1–2–1 sessions, to trial the latest version of a tool they are developing.

Following successful and insightful research, the team will now develop the tool.

September 2022

Following their Method Testing Workshop, the team have decided on the digital risk management tool they want to proceed with. The technical team will begin the process of developing the tool, whilst Fiona (Occupational Psychologist, University of Hull) writes an end of phase report detailing how the project team made their final decisions.

October 2022

The team has now completed the handover between the University of Hull design team and the technical build team. After analysing the functionality, the features and the build process, it has been agreed that a web based solution would be more advantageous considering the challenges councils face in downloading apps.

At the start of October, the project team gave a presentation on their comms and marketing plan that they created with Eski. They are now looking to hold a workshop to discuss the branding of the tool.

November 2022

The technical team has continued building the tool and completed a successful demonstration.

An image presented at the demonstration.

Following the demonstration, partner councils can now provide feedback on the tool so far.

In early November, the team held a branding workshop to name the tool and decide how it will be communicated externally. The outcomes were successful and suggestions are being finalised.

December 2022 - January 2023

Due to some project delays, with the research and build taking slightly longer than expected, the team have produced a refreshed project time plan and funded project end date: the end of May 2023.

Meanwhile the team has decided on branding and what logos to use for the tool. 

The technical build team are continuing to build the tool, regularly demonstrating progress at Show and Tell sessions with the rest of the team. These sessions are great for feedback and to answer any questions that the build team are stuck with. The team will soon be testing the tool with users within the partner councils.