Flexibility in the Legislature and the Future of Work

Ways of working for both legislators and staff have changed for the future. In fact, with the growth of remote and hybrid working as well as technological developments, the shifting landscape of labor and the future of work in every industry is increasingly a question. As we face into the new normal, that question is gaining momentum. 

A changing landscape

Remote and hybrid work is now a feature of everyday life and looks to be a mainstay for the foreseeable. Legislatures have risen to the challenge, adopting remote voting, committee hearings, testimony, and bill drafting to ensure continuity in uncertain times. NCSL’s latest Legislative Information Technology survey included videoconferencing, applications for remote participation, and systems to replace paper-based ways of working as just some of the capabilities that states have used, purchased, or developed. 

Indeed, research suggests that there is a greater appetite for remote and hybrid ways of working. A study by Pew Research found that more workers are doing so out of choice rather than necessity with 61 percent of those with a workplace outside of their home choosing not to go in and 38 percent indicating that they are working from home because their workplace is closed or unavailable. Organizations are rethinking their policies to stay competitive in attracting and retaining the best talent.

Another factor driving change is an ongoing trend toward job automation as artificial intelligence and other technologies become a greater influence in our lives. This is not new, but it is a trend that is continuing to evolve.

Crucially, however, work in the legislature is not comparable to, for example, operating a restaurant. As we’ve covered in a previous article, although the scientific features of drafting legislation may be automatable, the ‘art’ aspects are not. Automation is key for flexibility and efficiency but there will always be a need for staff input.

With the growth of automation and artificial intelligence, the shifting landscape of labor and what the future might hold for jobs in every industry is increasingly a question.

Cultivating the best legislators

Although there is uncertainty as to how the future will play out and what the extent of change will be, there are opportunities to advance efficiencies and open new doors to cultivate the best legislators.

As well as cutting down on time spent commuting, for many people a key draw for working from home is that they find it easier to focus on tasks that require quiet work. Some experts suggest that hybrid organizations can maximize productivity by deciding which tasks to focus on at home and which to carry out at the office. In fact, it can vary between roles, individuals and how easily they find it to do such work at home or at the office. Drafting attorneys, for example, may benefit from the quiet of working from home in order to focus on their bill drafts.

As Gartner HR researchers put it in an article in the Harvard Business Review published earlier this year: “Flexibility around how, where, and when people work is no longer a differentiator, it’s now table stakes.”

Legislative technology has a key role to play in underpinning the organization with the capacity for flexibility while safeguarding time-honored legislative processes and improving the working lives of its staff.

Opportunities for legislative technology

Legislative technology has a key role to play in underpinning the organization with the capacity for flexibility while safeguarding time-honored legislative processes and improving the working lives of its staff.

1. Advance efficiency

AI and automation can offer numerous efficiencies to augment rather than replace legislative processes. Drafting attorneys can now work with tools that assist judgment and contextuality by allowing them to access their research and source material within Microsoft Word. AI-driven technology can also increase the efficiency of document turnaround times without sacrificing document integrity.

2. Futureproof the institution in the event of future crises

In a helpful guide to Continuity in the Legislature During Emergency, NSCL highlights the importance of providing the legislature with methods to continuing work: “Planning for a disruption in the operation of state government, and legislatures in particular, has been on the minds of the legislative bodies since the 1950s, during the height of the Cold War, and, in some cases, was provided for in state constitutions even earlier.”

Having the capacity to support remote and hybrid ways of working in addition to robust systems and tools means that there is an infrastructure to maintain continuity and the ability to govern seamlessly in the event of future crises. 

3. Enable greater accessibility and engagement with the public

With remote and hybrid working increasingly the norm, citizens also will be utilizing more remote or digital means to engage with the legislature. Legislative technology can help ensure that citizens can easily engage with what is happening in their state using online tools, promoting greater accessibility and engagement.

At Propylon, our LWB 360 solution equips state legislatures with the flexibility they need to take them into the future.