The Deputy Leader (non-statutory) presented the report which set out the impact of moving to near 100% homeworking for the council, following the government lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Committee members thanked the Deputy Leader and Chief Executive for the report and thanked the Chief Executive and council staff for their work during the lockdown, and particularly for the support that had been delivered to businesses.
Committee members commented on the following:
· Committee members found the data contained in the report very useful and noted the data regarding carbon reduction.
· Committee members noted that productivity had increased with working from home. Members commented that this demonstrated that the council was not just coping with the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic but was performing better due to working from home.
· The committee noted how well officers had transferred and adjusted to working from home and gave credit to the management team for managing this transfer.
· Committee members noted and found it encouraging that former remote workers felt a greater sense of inclusion since other staff had been working from home.
· Committee members acknowledged that working from home was not for everyone but presented a great opportunity for better well beingthose it suited in terms of better wellbeing.
· Committee members thanked the Chief Executive and HR for proactively collecting this data before the Scrutiny and Overview Committee had requested it.
· Committee members commended ICT for the support they had provided.
· A decline in staff taking regular breaks between surveys was noted and committee members suggested this needed to be monitored, to ensure staff were taking regular breaks and were not working more than they ought to.
· Committee members noted that communication had continued between different parts of the organisation despite the working from home arrangements.
· Committee members requested that this review was carried out again after six and 12 months.
The committee was informed by the Chief Executive that:
· Staff would continue to be surveyed, but the next survey would be done after the initial move back to the office had taken place.
· Working from home had been a challenge, particularly for those with small children at home. Some officers had been starting work at 5.30am to work around their children’s needs. Staff had been told to do what work they could and the organisation’s flexibility had been rewarded by staff putting in 100% effort.
· It was recognised that while working from home had its benefits, it did impose on officers’ lives. Some officers did not have the space or suitable working arrangements at home and needed to return to the office. Whilst the council had offered equipment to make working form home easier, some staff did not have space at home for additional equipment.
· Some staff wanted to return to the office and the arrangements being made for staff to be able to do so safely were explained. Fewer than 50% of desks would be available in the office and services would organise how these would be allocated. It was anticipated that the majority of staff would split their time between working from home and the office and the move back to the office would be phased. Some staff would continue to work from home indefinitely.
· The organisation had set up opportunities for staff to take part in training and workshops to help prevent them feeling isolated while working from home; yoga and meditation had been offered in addition to more formal training. Staff had also been encouraged to take part in social activities online via the staff intranet, virtual pub quizzes and coffee mornings.
The Scrutiny and Overview Committee thanked the Chief Executive for this report, which it noted.