Scrutiny Working Group hears 87% of staff ‘Like working from home’

The Workforce Scrutiny Working Group met on 29 March 2021 to look at the impact of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of staff; how the Council is supporting this; issues around home working; staff sickness; staff turnover; use of agency staff and pressures.

The Working Group received an update on the  position the Authority was in before the pandemic regarding agile working and heard that overall it was ‘good’.

The Working Group felt that mapping was important and has requested baseline data across departments and comparative information for the last 3 years, to see if there are more or fewer staff in total and where the changes have occurred. The Working Group heard that there has been a lot of activity on Track, Trace, Protect (TTP) and volunteering and the Working Group was impressed with how the workforce responded to the crisis with staff eager to be involved and help out where they could including at food banks.

The Working Group noted that the Health and Safety Team were able to put in place a large amount of support for the wellbeing of the workforce.

The Working Group queried Trade Union (TU) engagement and insight and were pleased to hear that meetings with Unions were held weekly during the height of the pandemic and are now held two-weekly. Issues raised were addressed at these meetings.

A staff survey carried out in the summer of 2020, a few months into the pandemic has found that 87% of staff said they liked working from home. The Working Group queried if staff have found it harder to work from home as time has gone on and officers said they felt everyone has found it harder as time has gone on, not necessarily due to working from but because people have been confined to their homes.  Working Group members were informed of intentions to follow up with another staff survey in a few months, now that restrictions are lifting, to see if feelings have changed. The Working Group raised the issue about when offices re-open and meetings start again in person. The Working Group asked about staff stress and anxiety of meeting face-to-face, especially with the public. Officers confirmed that they are in the process of assessing what the risk will be and are putting appropriate measures in place to ensure staff have appropriate equipment and social distancing in place between members of staff and the public.

Staff stress and anxiety was discussed and the Working Group queried whether the Authority employs psychologists in the Wellbeing Team and if more could be employed. Officers confirmed ‘Talking Therapists’ are employed and that front line staff have found this service invaluable. Officers felt this was something that needs to be reviewed when we come out the pandemic, under Workforce Planning.

The Working Group also discussed issues including:

  • Opportunities for Psychological First Aid run by Occupational Health and Corporate Services, offered to front line staff in social care
  • The effects of staff working from home on members of the public who may not be computer literate and how Local Area Coordinators and the Third Sector have helped people who had to shift to online channels and needed help
  • The future of agile working beyond the pandemic
  • The Working Group’s suggestion of offering positions with the Authority to agency workers who have worked through the pandemic.

The Convenor of the Working Group, Cllr Cyril Anderson has written to the relevant Cabinet Members to reflect on the findings of the Working Group and to request further information.

Please click here to view this meeting, read all reports and letters sent and received from Cabinet.

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