A row is brewing at the York Council as officials are refusing to reveal how many staff are still “working from home”. For much of the pandemic, many opted for the home working option with the Councils expensive new offices virtually mothballed. The open plan nature of the new offices caused concerns about virus transmission rates.
Working from home does have advantages for both staff and employers. More flexible working hours can be a boon for those with children while pressures on transport systems are also eased.
At a recent meeting, Council officials declined to say publicly how many spare desks there now are in West Offices.
Several other organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau, NHS, Public Health England, Network Rail, the Probation Service and North Yorkshire Police also occupy parts of the building
When the offices opened in 2013, the Council trumpeted its “one stop shop” service for residents. Available services included those dealing with Benefits, Council Tax, Business/training, Education/learning, Environment/waste, Planning/building control, Housing & Parking/concessionary travel. Many of these services are also now available “on line”
Some critics have claimed that the building is “half empty”. Even if that is an exaggeration, there is a need for some action not least because of spiralling energy costs.
The Council have already apparently been hawking redundant workstation spaces to other organisations including Great British Railways, the proposed North Yorkshire Mayor and other public services.
There is another point.
The most effective managers are those who regularly “walk the job”. They need to be seen by staff and, critically, also by customers. The only way to do this effectively is by spending a lot of their time where services are delivered to the public.
The absence of this sort of commitment fosters a “jobsworth” attitude and customer care soon suffers.
For that reason alone, the authority needs to make clear which of its services are being managed and delivered remotely.