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Harlow Council officers “enjoy working from home and preparing home cooked meals” says specially commissioned report

Harlow Council / Tue 23rd Aug 2022 pm31 12:58pm

HARLOW Council officers really enjoy working from home as it enables them to “spend more quality time with family with parents at home when children return home from school and the ability to be able to prepare home cooked meals” states a specially commissioned report.

The report is set to go in front of the Harlow Council’s Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday August 30th.

The scrutiny committee should see committee members (councillors) asking further questions to the council officers who wrote the report.

The report (see below) details the change in working practices for council employees since Covid broke out in “March 2019” (sic).

https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/documents/s20987/Homeworking%20Report.pdf

The report states:

As restrictions have eased the Council has adopted a phased approach to returning to the office based on staff safety and evidenced increased productivity in some areas of the Council achieved through remote working practices. 

From 4 April 2022 hybrid working was introduced for all staff whose roles allowed it, with working patterns introduced on a team-by-team basis to match business needs. This practice was reviewed during July 2022 after initial three- month period had completed.

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Usage statistics from the Council’s customer relationship management system and website show that unique online transactions per day have increased by 50 percent since pre-pandemic levels as residents are now able to access more services online or via telephone than ever before. Take up of the Council’s digital tenancy portal for housing tenants, and self-service for all residents has also increased.

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Work Life Balance was reported to have been impacted positively with many reporting increased mental wellbeing because of less stress, more quality time with family with parents at home when children return home from school and the ability to be able to prepare home cooked meals. Many employees reported that on balance working from home had a significant increase in how happy they have been throughout the period of the pandemic despite the uncertainty that surrounded them.

Other benefits include more flexibility to the working day, more autonomy over workload, less absence from work either because from home they feel well enough to continue to work or as a direct result of not being in an office with germs circulating freely. Some reported enjoyment through embracing new process and technologies and the increased opportunity for online learning.

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The staff survey found that 61 percent of those who had worked remotely felt more productive during that time and 31 percent reported to have similar levels of productively to working in the office. This is supported by the Coronavirus Internal Recovery Action Plans which show services continued to run, where restrictions allowed, without any negative impact despite majority of staff fully remote working.

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Analysis of Performance Indicators (PIs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Council services since remote working was introduced due to covid pandemic show no negative impact on performance levels for teams where remote or hybrid working was in place.

Performance in areas of both customer services for call waiting times and revenues and benefits teams was impacted by the increased demand on services due to the covid pandemic, by quarter 4 of 2021/22 the impact on KPIs for revenue and benefits services had improved to pre-pandemic levels of service. KPIs related to complaint response times were also impacted during covid pandemic and performance levels have not yet returned to target levels. This is due to increased numbers of complaints in relation to services not delivered via remote working.

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The year-on-year reports for sickness absence at Quarter 4 including short- and long-term absence per FTE (Full Time Equivalent) were 11.42 days (2019/20) prior to lockdown, reducing to 5.03 days (2020/21) with a slight increase up to 6.97 days (2021/22) with the hybrid return to work demonstrating that working from home has resulted in a 37 percent reduction, mostly on short term sickness absence levels when comparing 19/20 to 21/22.

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Statistics show that the majority of resident contact to the Council via Customer Services teams is for Housing or Revenue and Benefits services. Analysis of customer enquiries and complaints received over the past two years shows that no specific complaints or enquiries have been received in relation to staff working patterns impacting residents experience of service delivery, nor has there been a significant impact in performance which would demonstrate an impact on resident experience of receiving services differently to previous working practices.

The report concludes

The Council recognises the need to develop modern working practices to enable employees to maximize their performance and productivity to deliver the Council Plan, whilst maintaining a good work-life balance. In addition, modern technologies are making it easy to access information remotely, work from a variety of locations, whilst promoting a more joined up service. Hybrid working builds upon previous flexible working policies and supports a culture of working wherever, whenever, and however is most appropriate to get the work done.

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13 Comments for Harlow Council officers “enjoy working from home and preparing home cooked meals” says specially commissioned report:

Bee
2022-08-23 16:38:43

What a pity they didn’t ask residents what their experience has been, pretty sure the report wouldn’t have been quite so glowing! Whilst we all made some allowances during the pandemic for poor customer service from organisations like the Council, there is no reason for this now. Personally, I don’t want want to have to speak to a Council officer whilst their kid is screaming in the background and this has been my experience!

Cris evens
2022-08-23 17:23:01

If the staff still hit the targets I don’t see a problem I work from home at times and I’m more productive, not have to engage in chatting colleagues that break me down and no sickness no duvet days. Plus during the hot weather i used my own electrical fan rather than my employer. So shut the civic centre, everyone work from home and the millions savings can be passed through the council tax

View from Afar
2022-08-23 17:49:42

Harlow Council officers “enjoy working from home and preparing home cooked meals” says specially commissioned report: I bet they do!

Captain A Knight
2022-08-23 18:48:26

I have nothing against staff working from home at all. If the service provided is as good as when they work in the office, then why not? It seems that the evidence often suggests staff are more productive when working from home. Its got to provide a better work-life balance for the staff and means less commuting, which is better for the enviroment. Overall it sounds like its a good thing. However, it must be available for all staff and not just for some. I understand at Harlow that some managers are quite keen to work from home themselves, but don't allow their staff to do the same - which seems like discrimination to me!

Jerry
2022-08-23 19:30:58

I am sure that refuse collectors, electricians, plumbers, brick layers, gardeners, drivers etc. etc, would also like to work from home but it's only those who sit in front of computers all day who are that lucky.

A
2022-08-23 20:32:08

As long as the council officers fulfill their duties properly then I see no issue with them working from home. Not sure a specially commissioned report was required here, though. Hybrid work is here to stay and schedules should be decided by individual teams/managers as they surely know how best their team functions. RE: Jerry and refuse collectors/electricians etc - I don't see what your point is? It is a career they chose and although these are absolutely key/vital roles, why should those that can work from home (be in hybrid or otherwise) be forced in, clogging up the roads with extra traffic etc. if they are fulfilling their duties just fine?

A
2022-08-23 20:33:58

Certain people love to constantly tell the public sector to emulate the private sector more - and hybrid working is just one of these ways.

Mike
2022-08-23 23:25:00

its a fact that customer service has nose dived since people started working from home across all sectors , im totally fed up with it

Catherine
2022-08-24 07:16:22

I think they should get back to the civic centre and do the job they are getting paid for , we all have to go about our business daily and the service is very poor we get from the council now people should be able to visit the civic centre with their problems like they used to , people with disabilities the deaf who are unable to have a conversation on the telephone and disabled people who like face to face conversations about any problems they have , get them back to work and do what they are being paid for

Theman
2022-08-24 08:01:33

Next stop. Outsource the jobs to India. Remember if you can do your job away from the workplace then your boss will find someone cheaper and as well qualified in a another country to do it( or Wales) Look around at all the problems we have in society and how they started with something that seemed like a good idea at the time years ago.

jarrett
2022-08-24 08:39:21

Bet they won't be as keen by the time we have had a couple of energy price caps raised.

B
2022-08-24 09:56:06

Part time hours full time wages with no child care or travel expenses. They have done really well out of the pandemic

Bee
2022-08-24 18:33:37

How the hell does a report get to Scrutiny Committee and no-one has picked up that the report records lockdown stating in March 2019. These reports are supposed to go through a number of layers of approval before becoming public. Let’s hope the ‘scrutiny’ members ask how this happened and remind officers how poor this looks reputationally

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