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