So I was an HEO, so there will be some differences but I'm happy to answer a few of your questions.
I'd also really really recommend having a read through of the Civil Service Competency Framework
- relevant to all levels, and gives more specific detail about the competencies required at specific grades.
General disclaimer that what it's like will vary a lot depending on specific role/department/team (I absolutely loved my team/division, but even within my department there are areas I really would have hated to work in!). But in general, it's a very good place to work. Civil Service tend to be very professional employers in my experience. I actually had to stop for health reasons, but right up until I left my line manager and lead analyst were brilliant, incredibly supportive, pushed me (nicely!) towards achievements I'd never have thought I could do.
EO is an absolutely respectable level to go into after graduating!
Re. types of tasks and responsibilities for EOs, definitely have a look at the Competency Framework. Basic summary of it (and bearing in mind I started at HEO, so can't be 100% certain on actual EO experience):
- Be aware of the relevant issues relating to their team/department (similar for all grades, HEOs + above should be aware of emerging/wider issues)
- Be interested in expanding knowledge through training etc (higher grade difference is that there may be more expectation that they will actively seek out training opportunities)
- Suggest ideas for improvement (so there is the responsibility for making changes and how to improve services)
- Less responsibility for decision making than higher grades (obviously), but still responsibility to speak to the right people, ensure unbiased decisions are made, explain decision-making etc
- Less leadership/management responsibilities than HEO and above (though a good employer should aim to give opportunities for this)
In practice, things may not differ too much, the main differences are likely to (at least initially) be how much leadership is expected.
Working hours pretty good in my experience, again may well differ in departments - when I was at DWP there was some 'controversy'/debate about the new working agreement for flexi time and pay, but things change. My hours were 36 a week; outside of London was 37 a week (London pay zones an hour less because of often longer travel times) - 7hr 12min a day. Nice thing with flexi hours was you could do longer some days and shorter other days. We filled in time sheets, so often there'd be weeks with some long days, and then you'd be up on hours and could finish early (e.g. during England matches in the Euros the office was pretty empty!) Or e.g. I had some weeks where I had a lot of travelling - Stirling, Coventry, Doncaster, Nottingham, Bath, all sorts of places. That made for a couple of 10 hours days, so then I had some short days later in the week, or late starts to even out. And Friday afternoons are very very quiet!
Work is enjoyable.
Again, will differ in role/department! But it's interesting stuff, so many opportunities and interesting work, and as cliched as it sounds, it is so good to be getting involved with work which really does make a difference to people's lives.