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UNISON has been talking to PCC about their plans for New Ways of working and we have made substantial progress from a place where some jobs were to classified as home working jobs and choice would be curtailed for others classified as flexible workers.

We were concerned with some of the answers at the last Q&A  event, no indication was made then that the closure of Midland House or any other aspect of the Way We Work Program was the subject of any meaningful consultation, and comments like, “you won’t be able to book a desk to write a report or go through your email” indicated the choice will be more limited than the documents we have worked on suggests. We don’t want to accused of misquoting anyone so you can hear the whole thing on Staffroom. Here is the link; https://plymouthcc.sharepoint.com/sites/Intranet/SitePages/Way-We-Work-%E2%80%93-Staff-Q-and-A—17-12-21.aspx The one yesterday did show the progress although we are proceeding on the basis of a couple of unanswered questions about things like  mileage and there is no movement on paying any expenses on home working, but the principal of choice for all has been established.

Unison has been working working hard on this matter and has been clear throughout that a proper choice model is the way to go, whereby staff who are able to work from home should be able to do so as much or as little as the job allows; and we are glad they have agreed to this. But the proposals to close Midland House and Windsor House and with other sites such as New George St under threat too there are fears that there will simply not be the space to allow the people who want to use office space to do so.

So now its over to you. Staff will be pulled into meetings shortly and asked if they are happy with a form of hybid working or with full time home working. Again we have worked on the way these meeting will take place and you should be given the space to express yourself freely but this communication is to encourage you in this.

Don’t feel pressured into giving an answer you think your manager wants to hear or one that fits the perception that there won’t be the room to come in all the time. If they know how much people plan to work form home and how much from the office they can use this information to inform the accommodation strategy.

If you want to commit to full time home working then by all means do so, although you should know there is no financial compensation for doing so at this time. Managers should trust you to do so and should not be expecting you to come in just to show your face.

Similarly if you are happy to work flexibly, great. Make sure that you have the flexibility to stay home/come in more or less in different weeks as your work and personal needs dictate, and that your team has a soft zone so that you can be with them if you want to be even when its not a day for collaborative working. And that you have all the kit you need and a locker in the office if you want one.

Most importantly if you feel that you will want to be in the office most of the time don’t be afraid to say so. There are wellbeing arguments around this and you might be asked about your needs. By all means share what you want to, but you shouldn’t need to plead mental health, bad housing or any other needs to make that choice. PCC are not doing you a favour by letting you come to work. If anything we are doing them a favour every time we lend them free office space in our homes.

There are loads of reasons not to work from home and many of you will have experienced them for yourself by now. Many of you will be using DSE unsafe workspaces or have had to give up part of your home to office furniture. Home internet is frequently unreliable (and they expressly said they won’t pay for your upgrade). The cost of heating etc at home may be far greater than anything you may have saved on your commute, and all those homes being heated all winter will likely more than write off any environmental gains. In some jobs there are confidentiality issues and the psychology of your home no longer being a safe space for those who do stressful jobs can be really damaging. People miss having people around them to vent to, get advice from, or just be supported after a difficult call. Just think all these things through and weigh them up against the benefits you may have enjoyed and gotten used to.

I don’t want to tell you what to say, just to let you know that the right answer is the one that is right for you. So give them that, and if they can’t meet your needs, talk to UNISON