AS MOST businesses return to ‘normal’ this week Dorset Council says that most of its staff will continue working from home with offices staying closed to the public.

The authority is unable to fit its whole workforce into offices and many other workplaces and comply with coronavirus restrictions.

Over previous years the council, like others, has encouraged ‘hot-desking’ and the sharing of equipment to maximise the use of its buildings.

During the pandemic’s peak period 2,500 Dorset Council staff who would normally be in an office have been working from home with another 2,000 ‘front line’ staff delivering services, often face to face.

Now the peak has passed and lockdown rules relaxed the council says that some staff, but not the majority, have already returned to office working – but offices will remain closed to the public.

The council has also cancelled all full council meetings, but will be meeting in September, and has passed a resolution which says that all of its 82 councillors need not attend meetings, either in person, or online.

Said council deputy leader Cllr Peter Wharf: “Since the start of lockdown we have had around 2,500 employees who would normally be in an office working from home. Others have continued working on the frontline continuing to provide critical services, such as waste collection, highway repairs, civil enforcement officers and social care, and around 250 colleagues were also redeployed to support various coronavirus-related work, including shielding calls, deliveries of food parcels and helping to re-open household recycling centres.

“Once the government announced its plans to re-open offices, we started work to make our offices ‘covid-secure’. To make sure we adhered to the social distancing guidelines, we identified those who had a critical need to be in an office – either because they are unable to do their job from home or their personal circumstances meant they needed to be in an office. The guidance allows around a third of our office-based employees to work from an office space if need be. We have moved furniture and equipment and put in place additional measures (such as one-way systems and hand sanitiser) to keep colleagues safe. Those that needed to work from an office started to return in mid-June...

“The clear message from us to our employees is that if they can work from home, then they must continue to do so. The virus is still circulating and we want to minimise the risk of people catching it – particularly those employees who were shielding, or living with someone with an underlying health issue. We have said that these arrangements will be in place until at least the end of September and this follows advice from central government.

“Our offices continue to be closed to the public for now and people can continue to contact us by phone (01305 221000) or via”