WaGCG : Wantage and Grove Campaign Group
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group (WaGCG)

Column 5th April 2023

Whats wrong with working from home?

A recent survey investigated the pros and cons of council officers working from home.

The report, published in Planning Magazine, reveals the extent of working from home and what the officers fell about it and how local authority leaders approach the issue of managing staff remotely.

Officers relayed tales of isolation, poor management, and low morale and how the ‘working from home’ culture was contributing to an exodus of staff from local authorities.

I know that when I used to work from home I found it isolating, as video conferencing focused only on the issues of the day and not the larger picture of working as part of a team.

A team works best when people know each other and how they work; that’s much harder to do when you only have contact through videos, telephone and emails.

It’s also difficult to learn from your colleagues if you don’t see how they deal with issues.

Planning magazine based their report on a reader survey of more than 600 professional planners and other anecdotal evidence.

The report found that many more staff are working from home in local authorities than in consultants, law firms or developers.

We know that since our district council has moved out of their offices in Milton Park and moved back into a small part of their old offices in Abingdon, there isn’t enough space for all the staff to work in the office.

We understand that staff need permission to go into the office and must book a desk in advance, so getting a whole team together must be quite difficult.

One senior council officer in Trafford quoted in the report said that during lockdown she saw a loss of productivity, morale and motivation.

She pointed out that people need to be face to face to learn the soft skills which are so important in a team environment.

Defenders of working from home argue in favour of the reductions in costs of office space and the ability to tackle recruitment problems by hiring staff from further away.

As someone who used to speak to council officers regularly, I find that since 2020 it has been much harder to get hold of the people that you need to talk to.

They don’t answer their phones and rarely respond to emails. This is not good customer service.

Is it because they are working from home or just because there aren’t enough staff?

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