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Council considers new hybrid working policy to encourage staff back to the office

10 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Photo Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

A local authority is set to rubberstamp a policy change to encourage council staff back into the office, giving managers more authority to request staff return to council buildings to work.

Conwy council’s cabinet will meet at its Bodlondeb HQ on Tuesday and consider a new hybrid working policy with a greater emphasis on working at offices – although staff will still be able to work from home.

The policy change follows Conwy looking to sell Bodlondeb in a bid to get more staff working from its multi-million-pound Colwyn Bay office at Coed Pella.

Conwy’s hybrid working guidance was approved by cabinet in April and June 2022 with the model subsequently rolled out to office-based staff as well as councillors.

The policy set out the core principles, enabling some staff to work from the office or remotely from home, depending on business and customers’ need, after COVID contributed towards a shift in culture in 2020.

But the key changes to the updated policy include the removal of paragraphs relating to COVID-19.

The updated definition of hybrid working will also place increased emphasis that staff are office based but have the flexibility to work remotely, clarifying the expectation that managers set the model for expected office attendance.

Central services

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Cllr Chris Cater, cabinet member for democracy and governance, said: “It’s important to note that most of our staff are not office-based. They work in our schools, leisure centres, libraries, on recycling/refuse rounds, and many other community focused locations, so it’s vital that our central services are organised as efficiently as possible to support that work taking place in our communities.

“The hybrid working policy formalises the guidance we have had in place since July 2022 for office-based staff. We’ve updated the definition of hybrid working to emphasise that staff are office-based, but have the flexibility to work remotely, and to clarify that managers set the expected balance of office and remote working.

“There’s a clear emphasis in the guidance on teamwork, co-operation and team agreements to set clear expectations and boundaries. The policy highlights the importance of good customer service arrangements and prioritising office attendance when there is a new starter within the team and for key meetings. The policy also acknowledges that remote working can greatly increase service continuity for the authority.”

He added: “Adopting hybrid working has also been about driving forward our efficiency and decarbonisation commitments. Coed Pella and Bodlondeb offices form the majority of our office footprint. There are significant financial pressures that everyone within the public sector is facing at present, and through our office accommodation strategy, we are already reviewing rationalisation of our estate.”

Last month, Conwy’s chief executive Rhun ap Gareth denied the council encouraged staff to work exclusively from home.

“We are not encouraging staff to work exclusively from home,” he said.

“It is hybrid working. It is office and home working. You have members of staff who will be full-time in the office. You will have members of staff who will be working on specific days.”

The council claims hybrid working reduces commuting and carbon emissions, improves staffs’ work/life balance, and supports Welsh Government’s long-term ambition for 30% of workers to work at or near home.

Originally the policy was developed on the understanding that Conwy would build on its experience of hybrid working and the guidance would therefore be formalised as a policy once experience had been gained.


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Jeff
Jeff
7 months ago

Really cannot understand the desire to face people into the office if the same job can be done from home. It’s good for moral, good for the soul and I found a far better work life balance and met all KPI.

Really worry now when councils rent their HQ.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
7 months ago

Home / hybrid working is such a simple concept that some people just don’t get. You force people into the office, they’ll just leave and work somewhere more progressive. This has nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with micromanaging, power dynamics and not knowing what to do with devalued real estate.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

As someone who’s worked from home for over 30 years, I think there’s a strong element of control freakery in forcing people into offices,

Morgan
Morgan
7 months ago

You know what’s better for the planet? Not demanding people commute to an office. Get some local co-working spaces on the go for people that want to work outside the home and quit spaffing resources on special office buildings.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
7 months ago

Innovation typically when people trust each other and share ideas about work, often informally over coffee or lunch or just bumping into one another moving around the office. Some of the most innovative organisations in the world such as Google and Disney Pixar require employees to spend at least 3 days a week in the office. Another point against working from home is how do new employees get to know and trust their colleagues, and understand the organisation’s culture when working remotely. People are not robots that can sit at home in front of a screen. People need other people… Read more »

Morgan
Morgan
7 months ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

Days spending time with the team are fine. Multiple days every week is wildly excessive. There’s plenty of value in spending time with the rest of the team and broader company every now and again but this “office time is super valuable” stuff is the line being pedalled by companies that can’t get out of their long term office leases.

Taking team cohesion seriously and providing proper time for work social time is much more effective than this antiquated presenteeism stuff.

Brian
Brian
7 months ago
Reply to  Morgan

I don’t believe in presenteeism – it is harmful and sometimes leads to micromanagement, a form of bullying. The need to be in work in-person obviously depends on the type of work being undertaken.

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