The Deputy Chief Executive to provide a verbal update on plans for returning to work at the South Kesteven District Council Offices.
The Deputy Chief Executive provided a verbal update on the Council’s return to work at the Offices. He noted that it was important to consider that the District was currently experiencing a high rate of Covid-19 infections. At present, it was necessary for staff to work from the offices occasionally, for team building purposes but that staff would continue to work remotely where appropriate.
When considering a return to work at the Council offices, the overriding priority would be the business needs of the organisation. Following this, the impact on individual staff would be considered and finally, individual choice of staff. Most departments would have a blended approach, and this seems to be the best way going forward if possible.
Members raised various questions and the responses were as follows:
· Whether there was any indication that productivity had decreased since home working had been introduced.
It was noted that there was no evidence to suggest that productivity had decreased since staff had begun to work virtually. It was confirmed that performance management would continue, but that in general terms staff productivity had not been affected by home working. It was noted that the danger of continued home working was a loss of staff connectivity to the organisation, rather than a drop in productivity.
· How the Council monitored which staff were working from the office or from home.
It was noted that staff complete daily timesheets which documented when they worked. Whether staff worked from home or in the office was left to the discretion of line managers and would be agreed in advance. Furthermore, all staff entering and leaving the offices were required to sign in and out.
The Leader noted that the Council had become more agile in terms of its working arrangements, allowing for staff to experience a flexible work-life balance. He noted that the existing office accommodation required further work and so he would not advocate for all staff returning at the present time. It was unlikely that staff would return to the offices full time, and this was likely to be the case nationally.
· A concern was raised relating to staff and Members who may be less IT literate and who may face issues with a reliance on technology to work.
It was noted that training courses were available for those needing extra support around IT use. Members discussed how the pandemic had accelerated all age groups’ use and knowledge of IT.
· Whether there were restrictions on the time staff can flexibly work.
It was confirmed that there was no formal restriction on the time staff can flexibly work. It was further noted that although staff are encouraged not to work additional or unsociable hours than they are contracted to, sometimes this was essential to support the successful operation of the Council.
· A concern was raised relating to residents having been unable to get in touch with Council staff.
It was noted that due to the pandemic, there had been an increase in demand for the Council’s services whilst staff levels had remained the same. Senior management was aware of the increase in service demand and were working with all departments to attempt to solve issues prior to residents needing to contact the organisation.