How to encourage healthcare workers to choose bank over agency. PART 1


Would you rather be given £100 today or £100 in a month’s time?

We humans are complex beings. Whilst we like to see ourselves as autonomous and logical creatures, it turns out that we have some inherent cognitive biases. Take the question above – you’d take the £100 today, why wouldn’t you? 

But what about if the question was whether you’d rather have £100 today or £120 in a month’s time?

Most of us would still choose to take the £100 today. This is as a result of the cognitive bias called ‘hyperbolic discounting’ – where people naturally choose smaller, immediate rewards over larger rewards in the future.  (As shown in US lotteries where winners regularly choose a smaller lump sum rather than receiving the full jackpot over a longer time period).

So how does this relate to the NHS and encouraging healthcare workers to choose bank over agency?

As widely reported, the NHS is grappling with a staffing crisis. Seeking better work-life balance, more and more staff are choosing to leave the NHS. As a result, organisations have become reliant on expensive recruitment agencies to plug the gaps. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that these agencies are able to offer clinicians flexibility in hours worked, a higher hourly rate and – pertinent to this blog – faster access to accrued earnings.

The rest of the team at Patchwork and I are on a mission to change the status quo – unlocking a different model of flexible working that is more sustainable for the health service. We don’t demonise agencies – we recognise that they play a useful role in the temporary staffing ecosystem, especially for when vacancies arise last minute (in the same way that I am happy to pay a premium rate for same-day-delivery of flowers when I inevitably forget Mother’s Day each year). Instead, we have created a Bank First model that enables the NHS to make use of the same benefits that agencies have traditionally provided, allowing us to ‘level the playing field’. 

So how are we using ‘hyperbolic discounting’ to redress the balance of bank vs agency?    

One way is from revolutionising the speed of payments for bank workers as agencies have typically benefitted from a faster pay-cycle. Where many bank workers have had to wait until the end of the month to get paid, had they chosen to work through an agency they would have been paid weekly or even on the same day. Thanks to our partnership with financial wellness company, Wagestream, we can change that. We’ve introduced instant access to earnings through our platform, allowing a clinician to be paid as soon as a shift has been completed. 

This adds to the other ‘immediate response’ features built into Patchwork (including instant bookings and chat functionality) – which when assimilated together, provide workers with a greatly enhanced bank experience. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of my blog for more on this!

So as NHS organisations look to make working bank a more attractive offering – let me reframe my initial question: would you rather be given £100 right now or £100 in a month’s time? – As a healthcare worker myself, I know which one I’d choose.

Patchwork and Wagestream partner to help NHS workers access wages flexibly

Full press release

Health technology company Patchwork, a workforce pioneer which collaborates with hospitals to solve the NHS staffing crisis, has announced a partnership with the income streaming solution Wagestream. This move will allow clinicians booking shifts through the Patchwork app to track and access their earned wages when they need it – without having to wait for payday.

This partnership will further Patchwork’s mission to bring greater flexibility and empowerment to the NHS workforce. Incorporating Wagestream into the Patchwork platform means clinicians can choose when and how often they get paid, keep track of their earnings in real-time, and access budgeting tools. This collaboration aims to bring greater financial empowerment and wellness to thousands of healthcare workers. 

Patchwork is already used across 30 NHS hospitals by over 10,000 clinicians and the platform has facilitated 1 million shift hours since launch. By integrating Wagesteam’s market-leading solution into their offering, healthcare workers booking shifts through the Patchwork app will now be able to access their wages as soon as they’ve been earned and access financial education in real-time, providing additional support to a vital community of clinicians and staff.  

Patchwork also hopes that this added feature encourages more clinicians to book shifts directly through their hospital bank, thereby saving the NHS millions in agency fees.

Patchwork CEO, Dr Anas Nader, comments;

“Adding the power of Wagestream to our platform is another step towards creating a more flexible, streamlined, and dynamic working reality for NHS clinicians. We are seeing increasing numbers of healthcare workers leave the NHS citing poor work-life balance. Our technology is trying to redress this trend whilst removing the traditional financial burdens that temporary staffing can place on Trusts.

“Offering temporary health workers financial stability is incredibly important and a crucial move towards parity of experience between contracted and flexible staff. We conducted a thorough review of the market and it was clear that Wagestream not only offered the best product, but that they also shared our values. We are both looking to reduce friction, increase empowerment, and create a progressive working world that works for everyone.”

Wagestream CEO, Peter Briffett, comments: 

“The opportunity to partner with Patchwork enables us to continue to deliver our mission of providing financial flexibility and giving clinicians within the NHS greater control: connecting flexible pay as an important pillar in the wider move towards flexible work. 

“The financial wellbeing of NHS staff is of paramount importance and through this partnership we see the opportunity to increase financial stability and freedom for healthcare clinicians.”

Wagestream charges users a fixed transaction fee of £1.75 per withdrawal, in exchange for instant access to their cash.

The Wagestream feature is now being rolled out nationally and is available to all Trusts who use the Patchwork app to book shifts. 

What we have learnt from data in the NHS

Data. We’re drowning in it. Yet in a world intensely focused on its potential power, there’s little thought given to how we go about making sense of it. Outside of sophisticated technology companies, most of us are unaware of how to truly unlock the power of data. This is especially true when it comes to the NHS…

Data in the NHS is hard to access, hard to understand and even harder to make useful.  But if we are to meet the challenges the modern health service faces, we must learn to uncover, connect, translate and present the stories this data can reveal.

I have worked on numerous improvement projects where the starting position is based on information that is anecdotal, fragmented and disconnected.  Even where there are existing systems in place, data can be difficult to extract and compare. This can make drawing conclusions nigh on impossible.

 Weeding out manual processes, engendering a culture of data awareness, and making basic data analytics skills and techniques much more widely available across the NHS is essential if the health service is to survive and thrive in the coming years.

Thankfully, the NHS is making strides towards unlocking these stories.  We have recently seen some great leadership from NHSI on helping Trust Boards to focus on trends and longer-term patterns through the use of Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts.  This allows for considered decisions by focusing on long term patterns, rather than the knee-jerk reactions to short term events.

There is also a role here for HealthTech providers to be part of the solution.  System interoperability is quite rightly a key aim in the most recent government plans.  However, how many HealthTech systems provide their users with clear and concise reporting on key trends and indicators?  Systems with random excel data dumps, or pretty but static, complex and ultimately meaningless charts won’t cut it any longer and shouldn’t be acceptable to Trust decision-makers.  

HealthTech providers should not only help users access the data within their systems, but also be on hand to help them understand and consume this data, especially at the most senior levels within the organisation. It is only when senior stakeholders can access, understand and hold the data to account that we will see meaningful decision-making, and sustainable change. At a time of unparalleled pressures, it is this clarity which the NHS so desperately needs.

Patchwork raises £3m to solve the NHS staffing crisis

First published in Business Insider

Manchester, UK – A rapidly growing healthtech start-up on a mission to solve the NHS staffing crisis and bring flexible working to thousands of clinicians has secured £3m in a funding round led by Praetura Ventures. The round included additional backing from BMJ, the publisher behind The BMJ,  and some existing angel investors. 

Patchwork, which has offices in London, Manchester and Liverpool, was founded by NHS doctors Anas Nader and Jing Ouyang in 2016 to help hospitals fill vacant shifts more cost-effectively and to stem the tide of clinicians leaving the health service due to poor work-life balance.

Healthcare staffing is a growing and costly problem for the NHS; the number of staff quitting over long hours tripled between 2012 and 2018, and the NHS spent £2.4bn on staffing agencies in 2018 to fill the gaps.

Patchwork’s market-leading technology focuses on transforming the power of NHS Trusts to recruit temporary staff, cutting out the expensive agency middle man. Through tailored portals for NHS Trusts and a simple, hassle free app for clinicians, Patchwork is able to dramatically drive up the number of clinicians booking shifts directly with their hospital. As a result, NHS Trusts keep their hiring in-house; saving millions in agency fees whilst ensuring wards are safely staffed. Plus, clinicians looking for more flexibility are able to take on shifts that suit them, improving retention and staff satisfaction, without creating a financial burden for their hospitals.

More than 10,000 clinicians across over 30 hospitals already use the Patchwork app, with over 1 million shift hours booked since launch. 

This investment was led by Mark Lyons and Louise Chapman of Praetura Ventures. David Foreman, managing director of Praetura Ventures, will join the Patchwork board as a non-executive director.

Praetura Ventures, a firm committed to providing capital and strategic support to early-stage businesses across the north of England, has invested £1.9m in Patchwork as part of the £3m deal. 

This funding will enable Patchwork to accelerate  growth and foster partnerships with more NHS Trusts across England and Wales. With the support of the team at Praetura Ventures, Patchwork also plans to further invest in the development of its proprietary software to enable the roll out across different staff groups within the NHS and support future expansion into the GP and private medical sector.

Anas Nader, co-founder of  Patchwork, said: 

“Those best placed to solve the challenges facing our healthcare system are the people who have worked on the frontline. Jing and I both struggled to maintain a healthy work-life balance as junior doctors, and we watched countless colleagues step away from full-time practice and into the world of locum agencies as a result of the daily pressures faced by medics. We felt there must be a better way of doing things; one where the NHS could staff wards safely and affordably, and where healthcare workers could find the right working balance for them, without the need for an expensive middleman. That’s why we created Patchwork. 

“We’re so proud of how widely our technology has already been embraced across the NHS and the impact we’re having on the lives of thousands of clinicians. We are therefore delighted to welcome Praetura Ventures as an investment partner. Their philosophy of providing not only financial support but strategic expertise is exactly what we were looking for. Their experience in the healthtech sector, alongside the continued support from BMJ, our partner, will also be crucial as we scale. We’re looking forward to partnering with them as we continue to save the NHS money and create a better work-life balance for healthcare workers at a critical time for our health service.”

Mark Lyons, director at Praetura Ventures, added: 

“The staffing issues facing the NHS are never far from the headlines and there is a significant amount of political and social pressure to reduce costs and maintain quality of patient care. There’s no doubt that this is not an easy task, but Anas and Jing have established a business that is proven to help.” 

Patchwork was initially launched in collaboration with  Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust. By working in partnership with the NHS, Patchwork has been able to develop proprietary software that improves efficiencies and enables NHS Trusts to increase the number of shifts booked by bank workers. Chelsea & Westminster Hospital saw 90% of shifts filled directly through the hospital’s own staff bank as a result of the Patchwork platform, compared with 35% when using legacy systems. This meant a cost-saving of over £1.2m per year. 

“We were impressed by the amount of traction that Patchwork has gained in the market in such a short period of time and there are many more exciting opportunities for the business to explore in other areas of healthcare. We’re confident in the team that Anas and Jing have built and are looking forward to supporting them as they embark on the next stage of their growth strategy,” added Mark.

Manchester-headquartered Praetura Ventures has raised over £50m from investors since its launch in 2011. Another high-profile, health-focused technology business backed by Praetura Ventures is Dr Fertility, the fertility-focused MedTech platform that is helping to address the problem of unreliable information about fertility.

Anca Babor, Director of Strategy at BMJ, said:

“We have been an early investor in Patchwork since 2018 and, as the first institutional investor, we are pleased to have been part of the Patchwork journey so far. The Patchwork team has achieved a lot in the past two years and we look forward to continuing to support their ambitious growth plans.” 

Irwin Mitchell LLP provided legal advice to Praetura Ventures, with commercial due diligence provided by PMSI and technical due diligence by Intechnia.

Patchwork was advised by Invictus Strategy Associates.

Women in Health Tech Supper Club

Last week I attended our first Women in Health Tech Supper Club event, with my colleague Celine. The focus of the evening was mental health, which included an interesting presentation by Dr Nihara Krause around the strides her apps are making in reaching out to young people in need of mental health support.

Along with giving me the opportunity to connect with some truly fantastic women, over the past week, the supper made me reflect on one key thing in particular: the importance of empathy.

Nihara spoke about how her experience with working for hundreds of schools, speaking to parents, children and teachers about mental health led her to found stem4 and develop Calm Harm amongst many other award-winning apps. This made me reflect on our journey at Patchwork.

There is one word that differentiates sympathy and empathy: experience. If you have experienced something first-hand, you can empathise, you understand the problems, you have walked in those shoes. Whereas if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you can at best, only sympathise.

At Patchwork, empathy is one of our main company values. While that is mainly around how we interact with each other and those we partner with, I really do think it stems deeper than that. It comes from the origins of Patchwork; of doctors being frustrated with the current system, the lack of flexibility and extensive administrative burden. The very design of our app and Employer Hub is built from empathy: wanting to give both the healthcare workers and managers an easier way of working.

That further resonates with who we hire at Patchwork. We hire those who can empathise with the problem we’re aiming to solve. Along with our founders who themselves are doctors, the very first employee of Patchwork, Hank, was a Project Manager and ED volunteer at Chelsea and Westminster, our brilliant coder within our Product team, Omolola, was previously a mid-wife,  and our recent recruit Ana, has come all the way from Australia where she was a nurse. Every single person within the team has a passion for healthcare, which allows us to always consider our technology, always with that lens.

Beyond being an extremely thought-provoking supper, the evening was so uplifting and it was really encouraging to see such diverse, talented, driven women in health tech. Excited to attend the next one!

For those interested in joining the network, please do reach out to Brigitte and Jasmine. For those wanting to know more about supporting young people with mental health needs, I strongly recommend exploring Nihara’s apps: Calm Harm, Clear Fear and Combined Minds.

The new NHS Head of Flexible Working isn’t there because of millennials, it’s a crucial step in tackling the NHS staffing crisis

As we head into our next decade, we are excited to see the effects of the new NHS ‘Head of Flexible Working’ appointment, recently announced as 2019 came to a close. The new role will aim to respond to the rising tide of staff leaving the profession in search of better work-life balance. The new flexible working lead – Jane Galloway, who joins from the NHS London Leadership Academy – has a tough but critically important job on her hands.

Some news reports of this crucial appointment however rather flippantly claimed that millennial medics who aren’t prepared to match the work ethic of their predecessors are the reason such flexible policies must now be driven forward. But this is a simplistic response to a complex problem that has been years in the making.

Flexible working isn’t sought after by a group of work-shy junior doctors who fancy the luxury of a four-day working week. It’s desperately needed by healthcare workers of all ranks who are exhausted to the point of burn out. For many of them, flexible working would be a way to maintain the careers they love whilst staying physically and mentally healthy; and undoubtedly improving the patient experience.

We all know that our NHS staff are coping with unprecedented levels of demand against a backdrop of squeezed budgets and creaking infrastructure. In such circumstances and despite the best efforts of many NHS Trusts, it’s no wonder that the number of staff leaving the profession for good has tripled in recent years. Nor that the number of junior doctors taking a temporary or permanent break from full-time practice after their F2 year has tipped over the 50% mark for the first time. Tough hours, unrelenting demand, and gaps in the rota combine to create conditions that can push the most dedicated of clinicians to the brink.

That’s why we mustn’t dismiss the new seriousness with which flexible working is rightfully being taken by the NHS. This appointment isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to ‘snowflake’ demands, but a crucial step in the mission to tackle the NHS staffing crisis.

We must applaud the NHS for making this appointment, thereby validating and elevating calls for a more flexible approach to work. As the working world around us has evolved, the NHS has been surviving on practices rapidly approaching their sell-by date. This has thus far pushed clinicians into a binary choice of full-time contract versus locum work: the former often bad for the health of individuals; the latter a strain on NHS finances. As the impact of these realities has become increasingly acute, so too have calls for a fresh way of thinking.

As we look to a new decade, we must acknowledge that time is running out to reverse the current trends in staff retention. As the new Head of Flexible Working takes up this much-needed role, Trusts, managers and clinicians must work together and ensure their first-hand understanding of the situation is acknowledged. We must all collaborate and work in partnership to implement meaningful, innovative solutions to this crisis; putting an end, once and for all, to those leaving our NHS for good. Here’s to transforming flexible working.

Patchwork in 2019. Reflecting on an exciting year of meaningful partnerships 

With Christmas fast approaching and a new decade on the horizon, the urge to reflect on the previous 12 months seems as inevitable as the proliferation of mince pies in the office kitchen. And whilst I generally try to avoid falling into festive tropes, 2019 was such an important year for what we’re building here at Patchwork that it feels remiss to pass up the opportunity to take stock of how far we’ve come since January. 

Our mission at Patchwork has always been clear: bring flexible working to healthcare organisations in a way that truly works for them and their clinicians. This year, we’ve been privileged to partner with ten new healthcare organisations across the UK to make this vision a reality. I say partner specifically because these are true partnerships. We are not a software tool that is purchased, parachuted in and then left for teams to grapple with. We work closely with healthcare organisations to understand their specific challenges, then tailor our product to address them. All whilst bringing our own experience as a team of healthcare workers. Without this level of collaboration and grassroots insights, technology will fail to make a true impact. It’s a privilege, therefore, to now be partnered with a total of 16 organisations, across over 30 sites, and manage over one million hours of flexible bank shifts a year – all to transform staff banks in a sustainable, impactful and nuanced way.  

This year has also seen us make huge strides with the Patchwork offering. Our engineers and data specialists continue to work tirelessly to improve our platform, introducing new services, and ensuring we’re hedging against future challenges so our healthcare partners don’t have to. 2019 has seen the release of Patchwork Insights, a powerful tool for organisations looking to unlock the power of their staffing data. We’ve also partnered with leading e-rostering systems, ensuring our software is interoperable with all major workforce systems. And we’ve continually added features and released updates to our product to help our partners save time, money, and aggravation so commonly associated with healthcare staffing. We were also delighted to join the 2020 cohort of Digital Health.London’s Accelerator, a brilliant programme speeding up the adoption of digital health innovations in the NHS. 

2019 has also seen the exciting transformation of our team and our movement into a new home to be part of the vibrant innovation scene within London’s Old Street. We’ve grown from a team of 14 to a mighty 36; creating a cohort of passionate, committed individuals who my co-founder Jing and I are so proud to call colleagues. From software engineers to customer success and implementation specialists, we know that investing in our team is the only way to create the impact we are striving for. 

And we’ve been delighted to share such a year of successes with our expanding team, including winning two awards at the prestigious HSJ Partnership Awards with our partners Chelsea & Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust, and two North Excellence in Supply Awards with our partners Aintree University Hospital.  

The time-critical staffing challenges facing the NHS are well publicised within national media.  But with increasing encouragement and the latest endorsements around flexible working, we are thrilled to see the blossoming of change. 

We’re so hugely proud to call ourselves leaders in this flexible working transformation, and are excited for the new partnerships we’ll announce in 2020. Here’s to an exciting next decade, where we must work together, to finally bring temporary staffing into the modern age, and create safe and sustainable environments for our staff and patients. 

Together, let’s transform flexible working in healthcare.

Patchwork reveals new product: Patchwork Insights

Patchwork is dedicated to improving temporary staffing through technology-enabled solutions. We are constantly seeking to improve the Patchwork experience and are therefore extremely excited to announce the release of Patchwork Insights

Patchwork Insights centralises and makes sense of organisations’ mass of temporary staffing data. The platform offers real-time insights and intuitive reporting; unlocking data-driven decision making.

What can it do?

  • Financial dashboards help organisations to keep better track of actual and forecast outgoings for temporary staffing as well as the likelihood of meeting targets
  • Temporary staffing performance indicators allow managers to quickly assess potential ward cover issues and monitor adherence to recruitment targets and NHSI standards
  • Collaborative dashboards allow Patchwork partner organisation to power their collaborative staff banks via a virtual ‘command and control centre’ to best manage resources and overall performance 

How does it work?

Patchwork Insights draws data directly from Patchwork’s temporary staffing solution to give up-to-date management information tailored to each user’s unique requirements. Users can view data to compare and contrast performance across the organisation, enabling identification and monitoring of best practice. 

Patchwork’s Customer Success Analytics Team also monitor your insights to provide ongoing, tailored recommendations. 

Here are two examples of Patchwork Insights in action:

Trust A (a large multi-site acute Trust) 

Trust A’s overall medical spend had become unmanageable. Through the use of Patchwork Insights, the Trust quickly identified an extremely high reliance on incumbent agency staff within the haematology department. Patchwork worked with the Trust to rectify the issue with targeted recruitment campaigns (using partners at the British Medical Journal) to grow the staff bank with specialist haematology staff and supports with converting the long term agency staff to bank. The Trust has since been able to dramatically reduce the use of premium agency staff.

Trust B

Trust B has spent over £400k bringing in additional resources to cover shifts which have been left vacant due to doctors booking annual leave. However, as part of the Junior Doctor contract, annual leave should be built into their existing rotas. This means that doctors within the department should be swapping shifts to ensure adequate cover, rather than outsourcing to temporary staff. Highlighting this within Patchwork Insights has allowed the Trust to focus improvement efforts in the departments where it is needed most. This, in turn, is helping to refine rostering practices and avoid the need for temporary staff and the associated costs.


Unlock the power of your data and revolutionise your temporary staffing processes with Patchwork Insights.

To celebrate the launch of Patchwork Insights, we are offering all organisations a one-off complimentary bank health check with our analytics and transformation team. If this is of interest, please get in contact with our team to discuss the details using the details below.

[email protected]

020 39831470

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust partners with Patchwork to modernise staffing

Press Release, as featured in Health Tech News and Digital Health News.

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust has partnered with technology company Patchwork to roll-out a new clinical staffing solution for their medical workforce. The technology, created by a team of NHS clinicians, is set to increase bank fill rates, reduce staffing costs and help streamline administrative processes.

Patchwork is an award winning solution that instantly connects clinicians to vacant bank shifts through an app, enabling Trusts to reduce costly reliance on locum agencies and to offer staff better access to flexible working. 

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust provides healthcare in hospital and the community to 258,000 people across Southport, Formby and West Lancashire. The app is currently being rolled out across two Trust sites. 

Jennifer Pennifold, Head of Resourcing at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust “Ensuring we are creating the best working environment for our clinicians is one of our top priorities. We’re therefore excited to be partnering with Patchwork to introduce a more robust and cost effective approach to temporary staffing. We’re looking forward to rolling this technology out across the Trust and working closely with Patchwork to modernise our approach to safe staffing on wards.”

“Ensuring we are creating the best working environment for our clinicians is one of our top priorities. We’re therefore excited to be partnering with Patchwork to introduce a more robust and cost effective approach to temporary staffing. We’re looking forward to rolling this technology out across the Trust and working closely with Patchwork to modernise our approach to safe staffing on wards.”

The Patchwork system automates elements of the bank shift booking process, allowing it to be streamlined. Patchwork also gives clinicians who book through the app priority over agency staff who might have put themselves forward for the same shift, meaning the most cost-effective solution is always prioritised. The overall process reduces the administrative burden for staff and clinicians, whilst enabling better financial controls for the Trust.

The platform was created by two NHS junior doctors – Dr Anas Nader and Dr Jing Ouyang – who wanted to modernise how clinicians could seek out and book temporary shifts after experiencing issues with hospital banks first hand. Their technology is already being used across 12 NHS Trusts, over 25 clinical sites, with more than 10,000 medics benefitting from the platform. Every month, Patchwork matches on average  8,000 shifts on our platform, which otherwise Trusts would be desperately working to fill.

One Trust using the platform, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, saw between 85% and 90% of shifts filled directly through the hospital’s own staff bank as a result of the Patchwork platform, compared with 35% when using their legacy systems. This represents a cost benefit for the Trust of £1.2m+ per year.

Dr Anas Nader, NHS doctor and CEO of Patchwork Health, commented:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust. They share our vision when it comes to improving and modernising NHS clinical staffing. We will be working closely with them to drive up bank fill rates, ensure safe staffing on wards, reduce spend on locum agencies, and offer a better work-life balance to all their clinicians. Having lived these problems first hand, we know why innovative solutions are needed to tackle some of the entrenched issues around flexible working in healthcare .”



What can the public sector learn from start-up culture?

First published on on the 10th of October, 2019 by Dr Anas Nader, NHS doctor and Founder/CEO of Patchwork.

A mini-golf course in the office. Fridges overflowing with free drinks. The incessant need to make every noun a verb.

There’s a fair amount that can be ridiculed in start-up land. However, it would be foolish to downplay the revolution occurring before our eyes. Last year a record 660,000 new companies were registered in the UK, with a 14% increase in the number of tech start-ups. And with WeWork and the co-work movement snapping up prime real estate across the UK, start-up culture is quite literally changing the map.

But it’s not just the physical landscape that’s feeling the start-up effect.

Employee benefits like unlimited holiday, working from home, and free mental health support are increasingly commonplace. Many in the start-up world realised that a company’s best resource is its people and have set out to protect this.

Promoting employees’ wellbeing is a business boon twice over: stopping talent loss to competitors and boosting individual productivity. This knowledge is now transforming every sphere in our economy.

Well, almost every sphere.

Whilst start-up influence is shifting how we do business across multiple areas, the public sector has been left behind. This comes at a time when the it is facing crisis.

Sky-high churn rates, low morale, and dwindling resources are putting staff under huge amounts of pressure. And whilst their counterparts in the private sector are taking advantage of flexible hours, work-from-home policies, and the latest software, our public servants are operating in workplaces stuck in the past.

That the public sector workforce is under strain isn’t a particularly new diagnosis.

Take NHS staff, for instance.

We’re used to seeing a regular stream of reports about doctors and nurses stretched to breaking point and numbers dropping from the payroll. This year charity the Health Foundation found that the number of personnel leaving due to poor work-life balance has almost trebled in the past seven years. While we can all agree that is a hugely worrying trend, not enough action is being taken to innovate within these workplaces and make them healthier places to be.

So, what would a start-up-inspired HR revolution of the public sector entail?

No-one is advocating for a surgeon to have access to free beers as soon as the clock hits 4pm, but one way the public sector can empower its workforce and reap the benefits is through greater attention to professional development.

Working in a start-up is fulfilling as you get to work at the coal face of a business and see your actions have a tangible effect. By contrast, the bureaucracy of the public sector can quickly lead to apathy and disillusionment.

Whilst standardised procedures are of course important in sensitive public work, this does not mean that we cannot streamline processes to free employees from superfluous paperwork or entangling procedures.

Helpful contributions
Helping individuals make contributions to their field – allowing teachers to trial new learning methods or supporting doctors to make tomorrow’s health tools – is another way to learn from start-up culture. Encouraging innovation empowers employees, whilst harnessing their first-hand experience to enact real, lasting change.

Finally, the public sector would do well to learn from start-up culture’s visible appreciation of its employees and team atmosphere.

It’s easy to stereotype this as branded T-shirts and prosecco on Wednesdays, but this culture of appreciation goes deeper. For all its flaws – which every industry have – start-ups cannot continue without a common mission, shared values and strong team relationships.

Employee appreciation and bonding are crucial in reinforcing these and this is a lesson the public sector must learn as it seeks to build a happier, healthier, more cohesive workforce. Individual departments and workplaces should consider implementing a system of employee rewards and benefits, from simple team lunches to physical recognition of great company work.

Public sector workers can often feel taken for granted and this can start to erode the passion for their institutions in which they work.

The modern workforce is evolving at a rapid pace. To ensure we turn this change into real progress, innovation must be allowed to thrive in every sector.

Start-up culture was born in the private sphere, but it would be a disservice to our brilliant public sector to contain its benefits and stymie the impact such lessons could have on the wider world of work.