Ipswich office staff set to continue home working - despite calls for return

Major employers like Willis (from where this was taken) and Axa are some way from working with full

Major employers like Willis (from where this was taken) and Axa are some way from working with full offices. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Many of Ipswich town centre’s largest employers are expecting most staff to continue working at home for months – despite the Prime Minister’s calls for more people to return to work.

Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House headquarters is still largely empty. Picture: SARAH LUCY B

Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House headquarters is still largely empty. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Insurance giants Axa and Willis have found that staff have worked successfully at home since the start of the lockdown.

While some people are returning to their offices, they are not expecting most to return while social distancing rules apply.

Suffolk County Council has very few people working at its offices – and while more may start to go to what was their normal place of work over the next few months, they are not expecting a mass return because many people have successfully worked from home.

The news will come as a blow to town centre managers, who hope that a return of workers to the town centre will bring life back to businesses in central Ipswich.

MORE: Boris Johnson urges people to go back to work if they can

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A spokesman for Willis Towers Watson said: “We are very lucky that the majority of our colleagues have been able to work from home during the pandemic with little impact on their ability to perform their roles.

“Nevertheless, we are planning a carefully phased return to the office for colleagues in our Ipswich office. The date for this is still under consideration but will not be before September at the earliest.

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“With proper social distancing measures in place, we will start to see the return of a limited number of colleagues where there is a particular need for those colleagues to do so.

“After that we aim to broaden it out to others but that is still likely to be a minority of colleagues in the medium term.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said office staff had been working effectively at home since the lockdown began.

While preparations for some to return to the offices are under way, there is no timetable for the move and the present arrangements will continue in the coming months.

She said: “We are busy getting all our offices ready to ensure staff can return to work safely.

“Our reception areas remain closed and residents are encouraged not to drop into the offices as there will not be anyone available to see them. Residents need to use the Council’s website to find information and request services.”

At Axa, some staff who wanted to have returned to the office – but that is their choice and most are still working from home. They are not expecting all staff to return to the office soon – and expect some to continue to work from home for at least part of the time.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “We have reopened our Ipswich site for employees who prefer working from the office.

“We have followed UK government guidelines in preparing our building to ensure that social distancing measures can be adhered to.

“Only a small number of colleagues have returned currently and we expect that number to grow progressively, at a cautious and measured pace. We can’t really give a figure yet.

“After lockdown, many of our people want to work partly from home and partly from the office, and we’re focusing on this hybrid model that has emerged.

“There are practicalities to consider to make sure it brings out the best in terms of customer service and work/life balance.”

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