Thousands of Dorset Council staff to keep working from home

Thousands of Dorset Council staff to keep working from home

Published by George Sharpe at 1:30pm 12th May 2020. (Updated at 1:32pm 12th May 2020)

Dorset Council is telling its staff to carry on as they are – following the weekend’s announcement from the Prime Minister and Monday afternoon’s further details.

The authority has roughly half of its 5,000 staff working from home with more than 2,000 considered to be in ‘front line’ roles where social distancing or protective clothing are needed.

The council says it is auditing all of its buildings which are normally open to the public to see where they can be adapted for social distancing. This includes reception areas at main council buildings, service department, libraries and registration services.

Dorset Council Car park
Fewer cars parked in Dorset Council's car parks with staff working from home

“We need to make sure they are properly equipped for social distancing. Until then, we must stress that things are not going to change until we are satisfied it can be done safely,” said a spokesman.

“Right now, officers and members are looking at the latest guidance as we await further details. We are in conversation with partner agencies about opening up car parks for beauty spots and beaches, as well as public toilets and while we don’t have the answers right now, we do know our response needs to a joint one with our partner and voluntary organisations.

Agencies across Dorset will continue to work together to support communities.”

The council is also considering what to do about practices such as ‘hot desking’ where staff shared workspace and how to manage social distancing in offices which are relatively tight on space. One option being looked at is staggered shifts, or for some places, staff working from the office only on alternate days.

Many of the council’s existing staff, where they also have caring responsibilities, have been successfully working from home at times which fit around those needs rather than following the traditional working day. For some this has meant working during the evenings or weekends.

Last week’s online Cabinet meeting heard several councillors say they were determined not to have so many meetings in the future where councillors and staff needed to travel to be in the same room, at the same time.

Cllr Ray Bryan
Councillor Ray Bryan wants some of the more environmentally-friendly changes to be kept

Cabinet brief holder for the council’s climate change policies, Cllr Ray Bryan, said the emergency had opened up the council to new, more environmentally, ways of working which he wanted to retain, where possible.

by Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter