To receive a report from the Director of City Development and Director of Resources and Housing looking at how the Council has developed new ways of working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes home working, taking account of staff well-being, the ongoing changing the workplace programme and use of office accommodation and assets.
The report of the Director of Resources and Housing and the Director of City Development set out the changes that we have seen over the last 6 months in the way that staff are working, the support which has been provided and the approach to home and agile working moving forwards. It also set out the implications and opportunities this has for the estate and the work underway to right size and remodel it to ensure it meets the expectations of staff and supports agile and flexible working and changing service delivery requirements.
In attendance for this item were:
· Cllr James Lewis – Deputy Leader of Council, and Executive Member for Resources
· Neil Evans – Director of Resources and Housing
· Graham Sephton – Head of HR in Resources and Housing
· Mark Mills – Head of Asset Management
The Board was informed of the following points:
· 8,000 staff have been supported to work from home this included looking at the wellbeing of staff working from home and in the workplace;
· Covid safe workplaces to enable staff to work in the office. It was noted that future working in the workplace will change with a greater flexibility on work space to allow more collaboration and team work;
· Surveys undertaken to assess the wellbeing of staff and their experiences of working from home and in the workplace. It was noted that more than half the staff are happy to work from home for more than half the week.
Responding to questions from Members the Board were provided with the following information:
· Staff have had a variety of experiences most enjoying the experience of work from home, although some staff are struggling with mental health issues including the social aspect of working. Work spaces going forward would hopefully address this. The organisation is currently moving in a different direction from the previous 7 months. The latest Pulse Survey taken recently needs to be looked at in a bit more detail;
· To date 15,000 pieces of equipment have been provided to staff which include office furniture and I.T. equipment. Where possible this has been through recycling furniture from offices which are closed and will remain closed. All I.T. equipment has been recorded and is monitored;
· Over the first period of lockdown it was noted that staff worked hard to keep services going and support the community. Often working long hours as they were able to work more flexibly. However, staff wellbeing was being addressed through the wellbeing offer providing support on physical and mental health and also financial support. It was recognised that more conversations were required for the maintenance of staff wellbeing. December and January will see the reintroduction of mid-year appraisals that are more focussed on staff well-being, with managers also offering individual one to one meetings and ‘check ins’;
· Staff were positive on working productively saying that it was as effective as being in the office. Direct contact visits such as estate walkabouts were stopped in the first lockdown. However, issues in relation to this service have been addressed and the walkabouts have now been reinstated as it was realised that this was an important service. It was recognised that a productivity matrix was required to better monitor service delivery in remote settings;
· Civic Hall, and Merrion House were two buildings that, as examples, have been identified as remaining within the Council’s estate. Buildings in other localities will be assessed to check running costs, maintenance issues, to see if can be updated to become greener or likely investment opportunities; It was recognised that some buildings could become multi-functional with front facing services marrying up with back office services;
· Members were advised that the Civic Hall is currently being heated where people are working. It was noted that the Civic Hall will be linked to the district heating system in the future
· Members were also advised of other factors in relation to estate realisation. Flexibility in the existing lease arrangements and whether recent investment had taken place were two factors to consider.
· It is proposed that Housing Offices will provide services for the community in partnership with other organisations such as health partners which will be beneficial to residents as well as services.
RESOLVED - To note the content of the report.