FUTURE Dorset Council staff could be working for the authority from anywhere in the country – or even the world.

Internet working is now being considered as a way of solving on-going recruiting problems, although would only be suitable for a small number of staff.

The council currently has around 2,500 of its staff working from home, a move which is said to have worked well. It has just reported a drop in overall sickness levels to below the figures normally expected at this time of the year. Another 2,000 staff are classed as ‘front line’, needing contact with the public.

Corporate director for development Aiden Dunn told an online committee that the idea of recruiting staff from elsewhere, without them necessarily, being required to move to the area, is being thought about.

He said that it had the advantage of overcoming one of the key reasons why people do not apply for jobs in Dorset – the high cost of housing.

Studies in the past by recruitment consultants have also shown that younger staff have cited the county’s lack of night life and social scene as a deterrent to moving here, although for others the ‘quiet life’, countryside and beaches is part of the attraction.

Mr Dunn said that the council saw retention and recruitment as a major part of its aim to be an ‘employer of choice.’

He said that the recent Covid crisis may benefit the council as public sector jobs were again being seen by many as a good alternative to employment in the private sector.

Mr Dunn told an audit and scrutiny committee that the council had learnt that many staff do not need to be in a council office: “Perhaps what we have learnt over the past ten weeks is that for staff who are office-based, they don’t always need to be in the office.

“Will it enable us to cast our net further afield, so that rather than needing people to re-locate to relatively expensive Dorset are we able to recruit more people and have them working virtually…what will the modern office look like post-Covid will be an interesting factor as well..

“The jobs market, the employment market and the nature of work, especially office work, is going to be changing in the coming weeks and months. We as a council need to be on top of that if we are to be the employer of choice.”

Cllr Simon Christopher said that recruiting and retaining staff needed to be one of the council’s key priorities– a better alternative than relying on more expensive agency staff. He said it also needed to be mindful of the age profile of its workforce with many coming up to the age where people like to retire. He said for some departments it could soon become a major issue. He asked that the council strive to shorten its aim of being an ‘employer of choice’ in a shorter time than the current five-year target. He suggested May 2024 as a target.

He also asked the council to ensure that it looked after staff and had measures to support those in stressful roles.