Council cashes in on rent income after office space freed up by homeworkers

East Suffolk Council's headquarters in Lowestoft

East Suffolk Council's headquarters in Lowestoft - Credit: Thomas Chapman

A council says it continues to function well as it revealed the impact of the move to increased working from home - including extra income from renting out office space.

The benefits of working from home and its impact on East Suffolk Council was discussed by council leader Steve Gallant and chief executive Stephen Baker at a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee at East Suffolk House in Woodbridge last Thursday, May 19.

East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant

East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant - Credit: East Suffolk Council

Mr Gallant said: "In March 2020 we followed the government's directive to work from home where possible, and since that time the council has evolved as the majority of its workforce has moved away from traditional office based working to a more flexible approach.

"This evolution goes way beyond us, with flexible working opportunities now becoming the norm."

The report to councillors includes advice and guidance from the health and safety team, the HR team as well as data and evidence gathered from the workforce over the past two years - including a survey last year that asked their views on 'how we would like to work'.

Mr Gallant added: "Since then we've introduced an agile working guide, a desk booking system and have run briefing sessions on how we can work in agile ways.

"In respect of savings, the important thing is this is a significant reduction in the carbon footprint, the time and cost saved on the commute to work - and for individual staff members childcare savings, with more availability to drop off and pick up from school."

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Councillors heard how increased homeworking has freed up space for Port Health staff to use the Annex at East Suffolk House in Woodbridge - with Port Health paying the council "market rent for use of this space at the rate of £130,000" each year.

Mr Baker praised the staff for their response to the Covid pandemic and "their reaction to the need to adapt to this particular workstyle," adding: "It has evolved, and now we are moving into something which is a long term change, and indeed something which potentially has long term benefits and much wider repercussions."

The report added: "The evidence collected over the last two years is overwhelmingly in support of the move to a more hybrid approach to working.

"The council continues to be a highly functioning organisation and the needs of the workforce are being met."