Ongoing homeworking will erode government skills, minister claims

Written by Beckie Smith on 1 August 2022 in News

Kit Malthouse tells podcast that he believes officials ought to spend three or four days a week in the office

Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

Too much remote working could dent civil servants’ skills and ultimately damage public services, Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse has said.

The number of civil servants working from home is a “problem”, Malthouse said – but his comments to Chopper’s Politics Podcast showed a greater acceptance of hybrid working than his colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg.

While the government efficiency minister has shown little tolerance for officials spending any time out of the office – interpreting half-empty buildings as evidence that people are not coming into the office at all – Malthouse said he wanted them to spend at least three days a week with their co-workers.

But asked by podcast host Christopher Hope, the Daily Telegraph's associate editor, if civil servants working from home could damage the delivery of public services, he said: “Over time, it will because they won’t be as skilled. My personal view is I would think it would be a bit odd if you weren’t spending three to four days a week in the office.”

Related content

The Cabinet Office minister, who stepped into the role following a wave of resignations that ultimately toppled prime minister Boris Johnson earlier this month, said he was especially concerned about younger staff working from home.

“There’s a critical issue I think, at the heart of this that we have to face, and that is our obligation to young people,” he said. “Young people cannot learn remotely if they’re sitting in their bedroom, in their little flats as a junior civil servant, they do not pick up the nuance, the skills, the informal mentoring that more senior officials and indeed politicians can provide.”

He added: “Young people need to see a variety of senior people and to learn from a variety of people and they need to encounter you. And to be perfectly honest with you, young people found it very soul-destroying being stuck at home – it was quite depressing.”

High-profile attacks on civil service work-from-home arrangements have lessened in recent months, but Malthouse’s comments demonstrate pressure remains on departments to ensure staff are spending a minimum proportion of their time in offices.


About the author

Beckie Smith is deputy editor for PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @beckie__smith.


Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Scottish data chief: ‘Collective intelligence fosters the wisdom of crowds – instead of the madness of mobs’
13 March 2023

Newly appointed senior leader discusses the importance of information standards and governance, as well as ‘informed public discussion’

Worsening skills shortages threaten government digital transformation, NAO finds
13 March 2023

Auditors praise the ‘fresh approach’ of CDDO but warn that unit’s work across government could be compromised by access to expertise

Government predicts £1.8bn savings over next 15 years from shared services drive
10 March 2023

Cabinet Office issues projections of impact on implementing software ‘clusters’

Phone-bots and social-media alerts – Cabinet Office unveils £1bn plan for tech-powered efficiency savings
8 March 2023

Specialist unit for assessing spending decisions awards £500k to support central department in use of automation and digital