CALLS have been made to review how working from home has worked for Hartlepool council officers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs noted while some officers have enjoyed working from home, some struggle with it, with councillors raising awareness of the mental health impact.

As part of the Covid-19 recovery plan, council chiefs said they will look at creating a ‘hybrid model’ to allow people to work in the best manner possible.

They added this could allow the council to reduce the requirement for office space in the coming years.

Council chief executive Gill Alexander told the finance and policy committee the welfare of officers has been a ‘real concern’ following the outbreak of Covid-19, with people responding differently to new working methods.

She noted the council managed to implement ‘very quickly’ the ICT infrastructure to support home working and managed to get to the point where 40 per cent of staff were working from home.

The chief executive said: “Many officers really like working from home, we’ve had many emails from staff saying this has really worked for them and they would like us to think about how we take this forward for the future.

“But there’s been others where it just hasn’t worked for them. 

“If you’re an introvert it might work for you, if you’re an extrovert actually you need people around you to keep you stimulated, and we have to recognise not everyone’s the same.

“We do need to have a more hybrid model which will allow people to have the contact they need.”

Councillors stressed it was important when working from home officers are supported.

Cllr Jim Lindridge said: “The key to this is to get the best out of them by still having that conversation, whether it be on Microsoft Teams, because you can feel isolated working from home.

“It’s easy to be isolated even though you’re on Teams because you miss that little one to one interaction, the body language and such like, we really need to be on the ball to make sure we’re safeguarding the staff to get the best out of them.”

Cllr Sue Little noted how situations would be different for each officer and the council must take into account their welfare.

She said: “A lot of our officers live by themselves, they could have quite stressful jobs where driving to work could get them all het up, or driving home could calm their tempers down.

“A Teams meeting on a regular basis should be a priority of all managers, I know some of the teams now are really really stressed out with what’s happening with Covid and everything.”

Chris Little, director of finance and policy, said they have already begun looking at the pros and cons of home working and if in future it could mean less office space is needed.

He said: “It’s got some benefits, but it’s also got lots of disbenefits.

“People are starting to pick up on some of the mental health problems that it potentially causes for some people, some people have really struggled working from home and just can’t wait to come back working with their colleagues.

“Some pieces of work just don’t work effectively, working in teams is helpful.

Work as part of the recovery plan will include looking at how buildings can be adapted to allow people to work from offices, and also looking at improving infrastructure and support for those working from home.