WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4: Government is looking at the possibility of having civil servants work from home, to save money and ease congestion.
It would require a “complete cultural change”, Government Estates and Information Services Minister Michael Scott told us in an exclusive interview.
And although change is not imminent, Mr Scott sees a slew of advantages in cutting down the number of islanders commuting into the city.
The idea has been welcomed by environmentalists and the civil servants’ union is willing to discuss it.
Mr Scott — who is responsible for managing a total of 800 Government-owned buildings — said: “We have to look at efficiencies in managing these buildings.
“Civil servants working from home would reduce the number of offices we would have to maintain and power costs; lighting and air conditioning are huge costs on their own.
The move would also cut down on road congestion, pollution and fuel consumption from commuting.
Mr Scott said his Ministry was looking at ways of introducing more green technology to public buildings, including schools and the prison service, in a bid to cut costs and protect the environment.
“It would bring a complete cultural change — I’m not saying we are going that way soon, but I can see a day when that might come.”
The suggestion was welcomed by Dr Elizabeth Landsberg, the president of environmental charity Greenrock, which celebrated Earth Hour at the weekend with a symbolic “lights out” hour to promote energy consciousness.
Dr Landsberg said: “This is certainly a trend that we’re seeing in other places. It makes a lot of sense, particularly in Bermuda, because if people are not located centrally, it makes for quite a long commute.
“I know Government is making significant efforts overall. Something like this would require significant changes in mindset.
“But a lot of these areas — working from home, using video conferencing instead of flying out to meet someone — comes much more naturally to the younger generation.
“Things like this are the wave of the future and something we’re going to see more of – it’s definitely an initiative we would support.”
Dr Landsberg added that having staff working from home is something the private sector could also look at.
She said: “It requires people to be accountable for their own behaviour. There has to be a level of trust in the workforce, but it’s something to be encouraged.”
Dr Landsberg added that companies considering home working should do their sums and log hours on the road and in the office.
She said: “A strong motivator is working out exactly how much could be saved — that’s the thing that will convince people. If you quantify business trips you haven’t taken, for example, it’s much easier to make a case to senior management.
“When people are aware that it’s not just good citizenship, but that some things can save money as well, it’s an argument that’s hard to resist.”
Bermuda Public Services Union president Kevin Grant said home working would have to be negotiated — with an emphasis on protecting the quality of public services.
He added: “I know this kind of thing is practised in the private sector. If it is a way of cutting costs and at the same time providing quality public services, it’s something we would need to talk about.
“Unions can be reactive, but if we could be proactive, then we would be happy to have discussions. The more dialogue, the more we can sit down and talk about things, the better.”