The proportion of local authority staff working from home during the coronavirus pandemic reached 82% compared with 5% previously, according to a new report by public sector IT association Socitm.
The research, based on more than 2,500 responses in May and June, found that 46% felt that their work-life balance had improved as a result of homeworking.
One respondent enjoyed not having to commute and fewer distractions while working, as people couldn’t come to their desk. But 54% disagreed, with some saying they had to take on extra work as a result of staff being on furlough or adapting to unfamiliar work.
Many staff had been thrown into using digital tools, with 83% using office collaboration or video conferencing tools compared with 30% before lockdown. Half of respondents experienced an issue with remote working tools, with specific problems including slow home internet connections, inadequate firewall capacity for virtual private networks, outdated software on both personal and organisational laptops and capacity problems with online tools.
The research also found that many local authorities had done little to prepare their staff to use such tools. Just 22% of respondents had received additional training on using them – although this has varied widely, with one council having trained 61% of users – and only 9% had been involved in designing or planning new software since lockdown.
Long term change
Despite the difficulties, former Socitm president Sandra Taylor – who in May moved from Dudley Council to become assistant director for IT and digital at Worcestershire County Council – said that she felt that local authorities will change as a result of their hurried shift to homeworking.
“We have catapulted staff into the digital age,” she says in the report. “What is happening is probably the most seismic change in modernising the public sector any of us have experienced, and after months staff will not want to go back to how they worked before. When we emerge from this, from an IT, modernisation and transformation perspective things will be better.”