Council staff can continue working from home despite ministerial calls

Working from home

Council staff in Suffolk are to continue to be able to work from home - at least part of the time. - Credit: PA

Ministers' demands that civil servants stop working from home are unlikely to be followed up by Suffolk councils which are continuing to support hybrid or agile working for staff.

While many workers have returned to the office on some days of the week, the vast majority are still working from home for some of the time as well.

At East Suffolk Council a survey found that 92% of staff wanted to retain some hybrid working or to work permanently from home. 

And Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have shown so much faith in hybrid working that they have given up much of their office space in Endeavour House, Ipswich.

Their comments came after Jacob Rees-Mogg said ministers needed to issue a “clear message” to their departments that with the end of Covid restrictions in England, officials should be back in the office.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: "We are continuing to look at how we provide fit for purpose work environments for our staff and councillors now and in the future.

"This includes assessing different models of hybrid working, office layouts and engaging directly with our staff and councillors."

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A spokeswoman for Babergh and Mid Suffolk said staff serving the two authorities had already started flexible working before Covid - but the last two years had speeded up that change.

she said: “Work should be something we do, not somewhere we go.  We want to support our people to work when and where they need to, in order to deliver the best possible service for our residents and customers.  

“For some that means working out and about in our districts, for others it may mean working from home or from the office some or part of the time, depending on the needs of the organisation and their own well-being.  There is no ‘one size to fit all.'"

An Ipswich council spokesman said its hybrid working arrangements achieved a balance between business need and employee preference. Each employee has a work location plan and must spend at least a fifth of their time working from a council office.

Some employees have opted to work all their hours at the office and others to mix office and home working where this work pattern suits both the employee and the council.

An East Suffolk council spokesman said: “Hybrid working is one way in which we can answer the Government’s call for local authorities to be lean and efficient.

“Annual travel costs going forward are currently forecast to be £450,000, compared to £700,000 as of March 2020. Increased home working has allowed us to save significant mileage on daily commutes and will help contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.”

Nearly three-quarters of the council's staff had taken part in the survey that showed strong support for hybrid work or working from home.

A spokesman for West Suffolk Council said that during the pandemic many people had found out much work could be done online and save the need to travel - which would be good for the environment in the long term.