The rise in the number of people working from home could allow the council and other public bodies to sell or rent out buildings or office space that they no longer need.
Fewer officials may need to commute to work – and more of them could work at shared desks and in shared offices when they do head in to public buildings.
The trends and prospects are set out in a report to councillors before a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting in the coming week.
The number of people working from home soared during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the lockdowns and related restrictions ended, opinions have been divided on the merits of working from home versus going back to the office.
During the pandemic more people had to go online – rather than in person to the town hall or other civic buildings – when they were using a growing number of council services.
The switch from in person to online is not new – and sometimes, as with parking permit renewals, the change has not always gone as smoothly as it could have done.
But the trend looks likely to continue and, on Thursday (6 October), the council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to debate a programme known as “Future Ways of Working”.
The mix of working from home and the office is referred to as hybrid working and the council is keen to exploit the trend.
The report, to the Policy and Resources Committee, said: “Our future ways of working must support the needs of our customers and must also balance our use of workspaces in a way that is efficient and sustainable.
“(It must) make the best use of our technological investments and continue to provide our staff with a valued flexible working offer.
“In addition, our flexible workspaces will continue to develop to make collaboration between colleagues and partners easier to best serve the needs of the city.
As part of those changes, officials have asked the committee to approve spending £223,000 on new office equipment and computers that can, for example, use remote meeting software.
They ran a pilot project at Bartholomew House, opposite Brighton Town Hall, where they tested “meeting pods”, “touchdown areas”, “hot desks”, conference rooms and a “collaboration zone”.
Most proved popular – and officials also plan to look at where “booths” can be set up.
Some of those taking part in the pilot project had concern about noise and being able to maintain confidentiality when needed.
The report said: “The Future Ways of Working programme ensured a joined up approach to deliver significant changes to our ways of working during the pandemic – and has continued to develop a model for hybrid working where there is flexibility in where and how work is done, including working at home, which is driven by service and customer needs.
“Customer services are being delivered with a revised operating model developed by the Customer Experience Steering Group which is needs based rather than preference based.
“This model considered the learning (about) hybrid ways of working during the pandemic and the opportunities presented.
“For example, parking accelerated their digital transformation, with 97 per cent of resident permits purchased online compared with 56 per cent before the pandemic.
“Face-to-face appointments are provided where digital and telephone channels are not appropriate to ensure support is in place for those customers who cannot access services in this way.
“Going forward, the council will continue to develop approaches to improve customer experience, for example, exploring ‘community access points’.
“The development of hybrid working will be led by service changes and by ensuring customers are at the heart of everything we do.”
The report said that collecting information about where staff lived and worked would show where there was likely to be demand for the new style workspaces.
There could even be “reciprocal arrangements with other regional public sector organisations to reduce staff travel distance and work journeys by using shared workplaces”.
Preliminary information indicated that 68 per cent of council workers live in Brighton and Hove, 22 per cent live in neighbouring council areas and 10 per cent live further away.
The council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to meet at 4pm on Thursday (6 October) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.
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