This report accompanies a short presentation on the results of a survey on the working arrangements experienced by colleagues whilst we have been responding to the pandemic. The survey aims to capture feedback on the current experience and thoughts from the workforce on how we take good practice forward into our new ways of working, and how we can eliminate any concerns colleagues are facing.
Members considered a report which accompanied a short presentation on the results of a survey on the working arrangements experienced by employees whilst the Council had been responding to the pandemic. The survey aimed to capture feedback on the current experience and thoughts from the workforce on how to take forward good practice into new ways of working, and how any concerns employees were facing could be eliminated.
The comments of the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee on this paper were set out in a supplementary agenda.
Members welcomed the report and the proposed way forward. The following issues were discussed:
· Annual Leave – given the difficulties some staff had experienced in taking annual leave this year, it was queried whether the Council would allow extra days leave to be carried forward into the following leave year. The Head of HR advised that, as a result of the pandemic, legislation had been introduced to allow employees to carry forward additional leave. The team had produced a calculator to assist with this. Staff had been encouraged to take leave.
· Productivity – regarding the intention to explore how Microsoft Analytics could be used to understand the frequency of collaboration and focus time, how this would operate in practice and how it could be applied fairly, given the many different jobs across the Council, was questioned. The Head of HR advised that Microsoft Analytics produced weekly reports summarising activity. The system allowed managers to see how people were managing their time and could analyse work patterns and automatically encourage staff to take leave. It could help individuals to manage emails and pre-populate blocks of time in a calendar for focus.
The point was made that there might be some resistance to this from staff if they perceived it to be a means by which Managers were closely monitoring their activities. The Head of HR assured Members that this was not the Council’s intention and the approach was one of trust and autonomy. Managers would receive summaries but not in relation to individual cases, which would only be seen by individual employees. The Head of HR confirmed that Microsoft Analytics would not be used in performance reviews or in disciplinary matters. In response to a question whether the program could be turned off by an individual, the Head of HR said she would look into to whether that was possible.
The importance of off the cuff conversations in the workplace was mentioned and how this could be replicated in this new way of working was queried. The Head of HR acknowledged this point and commented there were several ways to foster informal conversations and employees were being discouraged from automatically setting up Teams meetings to communicate with each other. The plan was to set up collaborate, relaxed spaces in Gun Wharf where more natural conversations could take place.
· Repeating the survey– whether there were plans to repeat the survey, possibly in a different time of year, was queried. The Head of HR commented that the survey had been extensive and specific areas would now be examined in greater detail. There was no date yet to carry out another survey, but she recognised that the time of year it was done could impact on the results.
The Committee noted the report.
(In accordance with Council Rule 12.6, Councillors Khan, Mahil and Prenter asked that their votes in favour be recorded.)