Council expects just 25% of staff to return to office full-time

Could County Hall win more powers for Essex?

County Hall in Essex will face changes as 75% of staff work mostly from home - Credit: Lucy taylor

Bosses at Essex County Council are only expecting 25% of employees will return to the authority's HQ full-time as part of new flexible working arrangements.

It will mean a review of the use of council buildings as the rest of the staff stick to hybrid working from home and county hall.

With nearly 6,000 of its total 7,700 staff to be working under a hybrid model, the county council says it could lead to areas that are no longer required at its HQ.

Even before Covid, its buildings had a 50% occupancy rate and by autumn 2022 it wants to “to redefine the purpose of buildings and create spaces staff need and will utilise”.

The authority said it wants to “support the change journey” to enable effective flexible working and end up ion a position to “right-size” its estate portfolio.

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However, a spokesman said there is no question of seeing “for sale” signs outside county hall.

The spokesman said: “We don’t know how much excess space we may have if any at all – part of this dynamic is getting the space right.

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“It might well be we find that because we need to devote more areas to meetings and creative space we need the same level of accommodation. We don’t know.”

A final strategy is still being drawn up but the county council has hibernated part of its HQ, which will see savings of £125,000 for 2021/22 and £250,000 for subsequent years if maintained.

In Colchester, the county council plans to sell Stanwell House and vacate Essex House by end of September 2023 by invoking its break clause

Children’s, Families and Education will be moving from Stanwell House and Essex House into Rowan House owned by Colchester Borough Council.

The spokesman added: “Where we are is working out directorate by directorate on a departmental basis what the requirements are going to be going forward. What people we need in and how frequently.

“We are at the start of the process. It will not be rushed, we don’t have to rush it. We want to get it right but that work is just starting.”

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