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‘No talking at work’ warning to returning Ipswich council staff

PUBLISHED: 19:00 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 06:54 16 September 2020

Staff are preparing to return to Grafton House.    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Staff are preparing to return to Grafton House. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

As Ipswich council staff prepare to return to their offices in Grafton House, they’re being warned they will be unable to talk to each other face-to-face while they’re at work.

They’ll also be unable to bring their own mug into the office for coffee, they’ll have to sanitise any umbrella they use – and are being advised to wear several layers of clothing during the autumn and winter because it might be quite cold in the office!

The advice is being given as the council prepares to welcome up to 160 of its 500 office staff back to their workstations – and Conservative opposition leader Ian Fisher said the advice being given to staff made it look as if the borough did not want people to return to the workplace.

He said: “This all looks very draconian. You won’t be able to get up to talk to colleagues, you can’t take in your own mug, it’s going to be very cold in the office. It makes it look as if the council wants people to stay working at home so it can rent out more of its office space.”

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Mr Fisher said he had been contacted by staff who wanted to return to the office, but who felt that these conditions would make them feel unwelcome.

MORE: Council staff still working from home

A spokesman for the council said the authority was following government advice that had been given to all large employers about making offices Covid-secure. He said: “There’s no question of banning people from talking to each other, but the way the desks are arranged people will not be able to sit within eight feet of each other.

“You won’t be able to hear each other because you’ll be too far away, you can’t raise your voice because that risks spreading the virus, and you can’t just get up and wander around the office because need to know where everyone is for the track and trace. That’s what being Covid-secure means.”

The council was advising people to wear several layers because with fewer people in the office and fewer computers switched on there would not be so much heat generated. Turning up the heating was not an option because that would make life unbearable for people sitting near a radiator.
The spokesman said borough managers intended to review the working arrangements in March next year – or if the government reviewed its advice on Covid-secure workplaces if there is a change in the shape of the pandemic before then.


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