County Council plans for just 25% of staff working full time at office desks

Just a quarter of Essex County Council staff should return to the authority’s HQ full time while the rest stick to hybrid working from home and county hall, a review has suggested.

The county council is reviewing its office requirements post-COVID given it expects about three quarter of its workforce will be working at least partly from home by 2022

With nearly 6,000 people of its total 7,700 staff to be working under a hybrid model, the county council adds that it does not yet know what shape the new working arrangements will necessitate but could lead areas that are no longer required in county hall.

Even before the pandemic, county council buildings had a 50 per cent occupancy rate and by Autumn 2022 it wants to “to redefine the purpose of buildings and create spaces staff need and will utilise”.

The authority said it wants to “support the change journey” to enable effective flexible working and end up ion a position to “right-size” its estate portfolio.

However, a spokesman added that there is no question of seeing “for sale” signs outside county hall.

The spokesman said: “We don’t know how much excess space we may have if any at all – part of this dynamic is getting the space right.

“It might well be we find that because we need to devote more areas to meetings and creative space we need the same level of accommodation. We don’t know.”

Whilst the final strategy is being developed and agreed, in preparation to test the right-sizing of the main hub at county hall the county council has hibernated part of the building which will see savings of £125,000 for 2021/22 and £250,000 for subsequent years if maintained.

In Colchester, the county council plans to sell Stanwell House and vacate Essex House by end of September 2023 by invoking its break clause

Children’s, Families and Education will be moving from Stanwell House and Essex House into Rowan House owned by Colchester Borough Council.

The spokesman added: “Where we are is working out directorate by directorate on a departmental basis what the requirements are going to be going forward. What people we need in and how frequently.

“That’s the stage we are at the moment. From there it’s a natural progression to consider your office spaced accommodation- have you got the right space and are you going to meet the need of that part of the business.

“We are at the start of the process. It will not be rushed, we don’t have to rush it. We want to get it right but that work is just starting.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter