Remote working to become permanent for most council staff

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A RADICAL shakeup of working practices could see only 5% of council staff permanently based in an office.

New proposals set to be implemented over the next six months will see Cheshire West and Chester’s entire workforce gradually move to three new models of operating, as changes enforced by lockdowns are adopted permanently.

The plans will see all council employees divided into three categories:

Agile workers – staff who are based at home.

Hybrid workers – staff who will work between home and the office or on the road.

Fixed – Staff who are permanently based on site.

The bulk of the workforce (65% – around 2,000 people) will be agile workers, 30% will be hybrid and 5% will be fixed.

A transitional phase of working will run until February next year when the new model is due to start.

As part of the plans, the number of buildings used by the council will also be reduced. It will retain three ‘hubs’ in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Winsford. But staff will no longer work from Goldsmith House, Nicholas House, Tarvin Professional Centre and The Forum.

The move comes following the rollout of temporary remote and hybrid working during successive lockdowns, but which is now set to be made permanent, with the proposals due to go before the council’s overview and scrutiny committee next Monday.

A report to the committee said there would be an initial outlay of £1.93 million required to modernise the remaining offices, but with savings of £5.9 million expected over the next decade.

This would include savings on mileage, office space and running costs, and £1m raised by letting surplus space in Nicholas House and Wyvern.

The report said elected councillors will be supported to work from a range of locations.

The changes follow a consultation process with staff, with 89% of respondents saying new ways of working had increased or maintained their productivity, with 78% saying it had had a positive impact on their wellbeing,

The report said: “Through the pandemic, around 70% of staff and all elected members worked from home and a range of other flexible locations.”

It added: “This is a significant change programme designed to improve productivity, responsiveness, efficiency and workforce wellbeing.

“Building on previous successful flexible working programmes, it will ensure the workforce are supported to work from a range of locations, modernise staff accommodation and release surplus assets.”