Council staff with a desk job could soon be told work from home

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HUNDREDS of council workers could soon be working from home after a successful trial run.

And the resulting savings could force the decision to bulldoze the council’s Northgate House headquarters.

A report to Thursday’s resources scrutiny panel said home working and desk sharing would benefit staff and the authority. The council employs around 7,000 staff but only those in transactional roles such as computer users would be suitable.

Report author Coun David Kirton (Con, Hipperholme/Lightcliffe) said, in future, for every 10 suitable staff, the council might provide office accommodation for seven.

Staff would also share desks as they split their time between home and office.

Flexible working would suit staff staying at home to write reports or, for example, environmental health officers, whose work involves work away from a base.

Managers would monitor work produced rather than time staff spend in an office.

“A broader, flexible working initiative presents much greater potential for creating efficiencies and improving staff working conditions,” says the report.

“Staff will need to recognise they cannot necessarily expect to have the same desk every day they come into work.”

Councillor Kirton said it was about adapting to a changing world.

“You see people working on trains and buses with laptops,” he said.

“The workplace is massively changing and while this is not linked to discussions over Northgate House it will link in with it.”

In future, he said parents might take time out for children but continue working into the evenings, or staff may choose to work at home during bad weather.

The council would also be reducing its carbon footprint and staff would safe on transport costs.

The pilot scheme is working well in the revenue and benefits department which has 25 full-time home workers and 11 flexible home workers.

Gary Firth, branch secretary of the Calderdale Unison branch representing 2,000 council workers said: “Home working is beneficial to some employees but we would object to staff forced into home working agains their will.

“It has not got to be an excuse to cut down on desk space.”

The report says the current Asset and Facilities Management project - looking at the best ways to make use of council buildings and resources - depends on flexible working for its success and presents a great opportunity to make some real progress over the next few weeks.

In June, the council confirmed it was considering demolishing Northgate House and the library.

The Gregory Group, which is responsible for the Broad Street development, has offered millions of pounds for the site which has interested Primark.

The company would then build a new library nearby.