Digital doctors hired by Whitehall to fix IT issues as civil servants stay home

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has hired British tech firm Actual Experience to spot system malfunctions and ensure that specialist staff working for the Department across the country are able to do their vital jobs more efficiently and easily.

Sources say many of the Department’s 10,000 staff, who include vets and farm inspectors, are supposed to work remotely.

But Government figures suggest many civil servants across Whitehall departments have resisted demands that they return to the office following after getting a taste for home-working during the Covid pandemic.

In the final week of May just 50 percent of staff were working at the Foreign Office’s headquarters in Marsham Street, Westminster.

The data shows 53 percent of staff at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were to be found at the department’s offices in Parliament Street and 56 percent of Home Office staff were working at their Marsham Street HQ.

Data shows 67 percent of DEFRA staff were at their headquarters, also in Marsham Street.

The highest turnout was in the Ministry of Defence, where 92 percent of staff were in the main building.

Figures are published “to indicate the progress being made by departments in returning to the workplace in greater numbers”, according to the Cabinet Office.

It’s not clear exactly how many staff are working from home as some may be based in satellite offices.

Former Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg last year attempted to end civil servants’ remote working culture, including by leaving notes on empty desks with the message: “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”

The UK economy is losing an estimated £60 billion a year through lost productivity through poor internet services, partly due to the increase in home working, according to Actual Experience. Domestic broadband services are rarely fast or reliable enough for work use, the firm says.

Co-founder Dave Page said: “I am delighted that DEFRA is taking the importance of digital working seriously. Improving connectivity and the digital experience of employees will drive the department’s productivity forward.”

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