Report by the Chief Operating Officer.
22.1 The Assistant Director, Human Resources and Organisational Development (HR&OD) and the Assistant Director, Property introduced the report. There has been a large scale engagement with staff across all levels of the organisation about the future ways of working and the move to hybrid working. The report sets out the principles of hybrid working and that Team Agreements will be developed to describe how teams will work in future in order to meet business and individual’s needs. The new way of working supports recruitment and retention, as well as helping to achieve a work life balance. It also supports a reduction in carbon emissions due to the need to travel less and will support any potential future considerations around rationalisation of the corporate office estate.
22.2 There has also been widespread engagement to understand the business needs and physical adaptations that may be necessary to support the new ways of working. A building by building approach will be taken with changes agreed through co-design workshops. There will be less banks of desks, more confidential space, and a different use of meeting rooms, including the use of screens for meetings. All revised layouts will be agreed with Heads of Service prior to implementation. This work will be phased to start at St Mary’s and St. Mark’s House, in Eastbourne, then Ocean House in Hastings and will probably commence in February 2022. The changes at County Hall will follow later in the year and will incorporate any lessons learnt from earlier phases.
22.3 The Committee discussed the report and made a number of comments which are summarised below.
22.4 The Committee expressed support for the change to hybrid working and viewed it as a positive step for staff. The Committee asked a number of questions related to what the Council will do with any spare office space; the use of car parks at County Hall; the level of engagement with staff around the proposed changes; and how the balance between flexible and hybrid working will be treated.
22.5 The Assistant Director, Property outlined that a balanced approach had been taken to office space changes and departmental management teams had been involved. The changes may free up office space, particularly at County Hall, which may provide opportunities for commercial rental income as well as bringing in other public sector partners to drive greater utilisation. There are no changes planned to car parking as there has not been a permanent return to work, which explains the current low usage. The Committee noted that working from home may reduce carbon emissions by reducing staff travel, but the emissions from increased home working also need to be taken into account and deducted when calculating savings.
22.6 The Assistant Director, HR&OD explained that staff had been involved at all levels and particularly in drawing up Team Agreements. It has been made clear that the working arrangements need to be driven by business needs, but there is also an opportunity to meet individual needs such as flexible working. The Team Agreements support individual preferences and aim to balance needs. Staff have expressed that they feel hybrid working is more efficient and they feel more productive. There is an acknowledgment that working from home might not be suitable for everyone and there is still a place for face to face working. Display screen assessments and workstation assessments are carried out where staff are working from home to make sure they have the right equipment, desk, chair etc. Working arrangements will be kept under review and Team Agreements will be reviewed in 4-6 months’ time to ensure they remain valid.
22.7 The Committee RESOLVED to note the report on the Workstyles Review.