Councils make move to cut office space across Suffolk
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Despite the removal of Covid restrictions and more people being encouraged to return to office work, councils across Suffolk are looking at making changes to working arrangements permanent in the post-pandemic world.
The joint administration at Babergh and Mid Suffolk, which is based at Endeavour House in Ipswich, is set to hand back much of its floorspace to its county council landlord later this year.
That decision has been accelerated because a break-clause after five years was inserted when the councils' administration moved to Ipswich in 2017 and managers have decided that flexible working between the office and home will be the norm in the future.
A spokesperson for the two councils said: “This project isn’t simply about changing our office around.
"It’s about our culture, and the environment, tools, systems and policies we need in future in order to meet the needs of our employees, and deliver the most effective and efficient services for our residents."
While they may be the first, Babergh and Mid Suffolk are not the only Suffolk councils to look at reducing their office space.
On the other side of Russell Road Ipswich council owns its Grafton House HQ and lets out more than two floors of the six-storey building to tenants.
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A spokesman said: "In terms of our usage, we are working with our Grafton House based staff to establish what space we will need in future once our hybrid working model is fully in operation.
"This might lead to a reduction in our office accommodation requirements but we are at too early a stage to be sure and cost savings could only be delivered by leasing out any spare space."
Suffolk County Council is to look at its future office needs - but acknowledges there are big changes on the way.
A spokesperson for the council said: “We are already working on how we will provide office accommodation for staff as part of our future ways of working review.
“Like most offices across the county, we anticipate this will involve more hybrid working arrangements but at all times the needs of the council and residents need to be paramount.
“At the moment we do not have any plans to reduce office accommodation at Endeavour House or anywhere else. This is under constant review as it always is.”
East Suffolk Council has offices in Lowestoft and Melton and is looking at how working patterns will change - but flexible working seems certain to remain.
A spokesman for the council said: “We are considering the longer-term options for our workspaces and the adaptation of current arrangements to reflect a new style of working.
“The introduction of hybrid working has allowed us to review capacity by allowing some staff to relocate. We want to allow our people to be as flexible as possible, while still connecting with colleagues and utilising office space when required.
“Our future office space will not support full working weeks for everyone, but will feature a range of differing environments and unite the organisation for meetings.”
A spokesperson for West Suffolk Council, said: “We are keeping working arrangements under review. Due to the continued guidance and impact of Covid as well as the need to protect services we are still operating under our business continuity plans.
"Like many in the public and private sector we operated a flexible work policy before and during the pandemic and we are planning to see more staff returning to our offices in the near future.”