Monday 28 September 2020

Along with most colleagues I have been working from home since March. I was already working flexibly so I did not think it would be too much of a challenge to work from home for five days per week and in some ways I was looking forward to it – no three hours a day commute!

Flexible working allows a mixture of office and home-based working giving the best of both worlds. You are meeting and interacting with your colleagues in the office whilst at the same time being able to have some quiet time working at home.

However, it has not always been easy tied to the dining room table looking at a screen for seven hours plus per day. It can on occasions be a lonely and intense experience.

For some colleagues they may be in accommodation that is unsatisfactory for prolonged working although the Corporation has done its best to supply all types of IT and other equipment to help.

To ensure that there is good communication there is a regular email from the Town Clerk/Chief Executive and my Chief Officers (and his SLT) present a weekly Teams meeting for the department. My section has two Teams meetings a week, one being business the other a mixture of business and just catching up. My section’s meetings are something that I look forward to during the week as they provide an opportunity for a less formal and entertaining engagement with team colleagues!

Technology has been the key to allow the massive expansion of homeworking and overall, it has worked very well. The use of Teams (and Zoom) has meant that meetings are effectively taking place. Yes, there are times when colleagues are on mute and they are merrily chatting away, and everyone says, “you’re on mute!” but these things lighten the mood.

There are bound to be lessons for both public and private sector organisations in the way IT has allowed remote working and future operations.

The mental health of staff is something that the Corporation has had a particular focus on during this time  - with not only the meetings/emails I have mentioned but also on line training is available for managers and staff, the encouragement of talking to managers and other colleagues, plus of course the existing employee assistance scheme.

COVID-19 is a continuing threat. I expect we all know someone (or heard of someone) who has contracted virus.

So as there are moves to encourage a return to the office albeit on a less than full week basis, we must continue to be mindful of the precautions to take to keep everyone safe and well.

Paul Dudley, Corporate Risk Manager, City of London Corporation and ALARM Board Director.

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