The Public Sector WFH Debate Rages On…

We previously discussed comments made by the government’s efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, who publicly called for the “rapid return” of civil servants to their desks in Whitehall now Covid-19 restrictions have ended.
The move drew criticism, with his actions dubbed "passive-aggressive", "patronising", and "Dickensian". Critically, union leaders expressed concern that such headlines could negatively impact the perception of working in the public sector. 

Since then, Rees-Mogg has made further comments. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he suggested a link between civil servants avoiding the office and the dates of Lord’s Test matches, stating: “We're going to have to compare notes with the Met Office. We need to have the evidence on Lord's Test matches and all that.” 

Not only do comments like this impact the image of public sector working for prospective candidates, but they also send a dangerous message to those already in the sector. As a recruiter specialising in sourcing digital, data and technology professionals for the public and non-profit sectors, we have seen a rise in the number of candidates pulling out recruitment processes for public sector jobs as well as an upturn in candidates looking to switch to the private sector in recent weeks. 

While Rees-Mogg’s cricket comments were reportedly said in jest, the current movement in activity demonstrates the damage they have potentially had on worker confidence and how they perceive their contributions are valued.

In reality, accelerated digital transformation across the public sector meant many workers could continue to work uninterrupted throughout the pandemic, resulting in a productivity upturn. Despite this, the issue of presenteeism remains. A report from the Institute of Employment Studies revealed that "managers and professional staff saw the benefits of long hours working in improved promotion prospects and/or in providing for greater job security". 

There’s also the prevalent issue of burnout in the public sector, particularly in health and social care. Rarely a month goes by without a new story or report detailing that people are leaving in their droves due to long hours and working conditions. Furthermore, with inflation hitting 9%, public sector wages and proposed increases are failing to help workers keep up with rising living costs.

Unsurprisingly, commuting contributes to employees' desire to work from home. A survey conducted by hybrid workplace platform Hubble found that, of those who lived less than 15 minutes from their offices, only 56.4% said they had a positive experience of WFH, compared to 84.2% of those who live over two hours from their office.

With expansive skills shortages having a detrimental impact on public sector hiring, Rees-Mogg's latest comments will likely have employers clutching their heads in despair. It's clear that investments in elevating the public sector employer brand must be made quickly to reinforce the extensive benefits that a career in this field can offer, which you can read more about here.

What’s Next? 

As a technology talent provider for the public and non-profit sectors, Global Resourcing will follow all developments in home working closely to determine the impact any moves may have on our clients and candidates and help them adapt accordingly. 

Follow our blog for the latest news and insights into public sector technology and digital transformation. Alternatively, if you have any questions or want to learn more about how we help public sector and non-profit organisations solve their talent and diversity challenges, connect with our specialist digital, data and tech experts on +44 020 8253 1800 or send us an email.

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