Civil servants have worked harder than ever during the pandemic

21 January 2022

Elements of the press have been reporting about pressure from the government for civil servants to “return to the office” to “show an example to the private sector”.

These reports make assumptions that diverge significantly from the actuality of the situation.

Detailed discussions are taking place between unions and the Cabinet Office, departments and agencies about the return of staff to workplaces. A significant number of workers have not been able to work from home during the pandemic due to the nature of their work and operational requirements.

Other staff have been working a blend, including office attendance as well as working from home. For many that will be a model that continues to work most effectively- for the employer and the member of staff. Ensuring we maintain operational delivery, keep staff safe and support their wellbeing should be a common endeavour which underpins these discussions.

Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said:

“Wherever they have physically worked- our members in the civil service and wider public sector have made an outstanding contribution to keeping us all safe, protected and supported. To suggest that staff have not been working hard whilst working from home is a nonsense not borne out by the facts. Working hours have increased- and in fact many staff feel they have been “living at work” with increased levels of stress and burnout.

“It is Prospect’s expectation that government employers will indeed be leading by example, not by mandating arbitrary place of work requirements but by taking an approach based on balancing operational requirements with the needs of staff. I will not be taking lectures on hard work from someone whose definition of a work event appears to involve cheese, wine and a garden.”

Garry continued: “We know from our surveys of members- that they value the opportunity and flexibility of hybrid working. Many are heartily sick of exclusive hope working and many increasingly struggle to differentiate between home time and work time.

“There are problems of social isolation, people whose accommodation is not optimal for home working, many miss the camaraderie and spontaneous engagement and creativity of an office environment and particularly for younger workers or those new to organisations- how they build networks, social capital and organisational knowledge. Through a pragmatic and managed approach we can develop a world of work where everyone benefits.”

Public Services

From protecting our rivers to keeping us safe, Prospect members do vital work across a range of professions.