Posted: 09.07.20 at 16:46 by The Editor
The Vale of Glamorgan council is considering shedding some of its office space as staff say they prefer working from home.
During the coronavirus lockdown, many office workers have started working from home instead, including at the Vale council. As the lockdown eases, the question remains of whether to go back to normal.
More than half of council workers said in future they want to have a mix of working from home and working in the office, in a recent staff survey. Only 14 per cent said they wanted to go fully back to working in the office.
But poor communication, particularly from bosses, was raised as a problem with the shift to working from home, as well as issues with IT.
Rob Thomas, managing director of the council, said the long term switch could mean getting rid of some office space.
In a report to cabinet, which will meet on Monday, July 13, Mr Thomas said: “With such a significant number of staff indicating the desire to work more flexibly in the future, policies and processes should be developed to support a flexible approach to working conditions.
“For some areas, changes to more ‘remote’ ways of working were not always positive, with some requiring face-to-face interaction to be most effective.
“But the consensus view was that a blend of face-to-face and virtual ways of working were most likely to be effective in the medium to longer term. This could lead to the rationalisation of office accommodation in the future.”
Cabinet next Monday will be the first meeting in public since March, as the coronavirus lockdown prevented councillors from meeting in person; while the Vale has lagged behind other councils and the Welsh Government in returning to transparent decision-making.
Public meetings will be held virtually, via videoconferencing technology, and recorded for residents to watch online. Emergency powers granted to the managing director meant he approved key decisions during lockdown, rather than elected councillors. A list of his decisions has been published every fortnight, with sparse details.
Staff at the Vale council also felt there has been a lack of information during lockdown with only 35 per cent saying they had “enough opportunity to engage in two-way communication, in order to obtain information and ask questions”.
Only 54 per cent of those surveyed said council bosses were “sufficiently visible and accessible” during the crisis, and 51 per cent said senior leaders “role model behaviours asked of staff”.
The survey received 1,126 responses or 44 per cent of council workers.
The results also revealed the impact of Covid-19 on mental health. Less than half of council workers said they had “good or excellent” mental health, with one in ten saying their mental health was “very poor or poor”.