Federal Health Department staff trialling a new office layout are spending the majority of the week doing their jobs from home as the agency embraces remote working.
Department officials also say its Woden offices will remain about 60 per cent full on busy days as staff - including those not in the trial - keep spending at least part of the week working from home.
The department this month revealed figures from a survey showing public servants in the trial were working an average of 2.7 days remotely, and two days in the office, while 89 per cent wanted the flexibility to work from home regularly.
MPs are considering a proposed $64 million refit of the Sirius building in Woden, where the Health Department has a lease until 2035.
It follows the pilot of the new workplace layout on the building's ninth floor, which involved 480 staff from three divisions, $7.5 million in fit-outs, office "neighbourhoods" including executive level staff and senior executives, more diversity in work settings, and a desk ratio of 1.7 for each employee.
The Sirius pilot survey results showed high take-up of remote working, and were in line with building access and remote login data, which revealed that about 48 per cent of the department's staff were working from home at least part of each day between January and August.
Ninety-four per cent of staff involved in the pilot told the survey they could find a desk easily when they were in the office, 89 per cent said they could find a quiet space when needed, and 87 per cent of staff said they could find a place to work with their team.
Early results from the pilot also showed collaboration was growing, the department told MPs.
The Health Department is using the trial to plan a broader refit of the building, aiming to reduce wasted office space and to increase staff collaboration and productivity.
It has proposed refitting part of level one, and all of floors two to eight, replacing an open-plan design that staff surveys indicated encouraged "silo" behaviours and limited collaboration.
The department said refitting level 10 would be unnecessary, but it would consider using the floor as a surge facility, or for sublease, or for refit in the future if the department's Canberra presence grew larger than expected.
The Health Department will vacate Scarborough House when its lease there ends in June 2025, and will consolidate all its Woden-based staff in the refitted Sirius building.
Health Department first assistant secretary Paul McCormack told MPs at a hearing last week it was accommodating about 4600 staff in Woden offices, up from 3800 in early 2020.
"The growth is a mix of both temporary, related to the Health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing, related to the significant reform agendas under way in aged care particularly and also in mental health," he said.
The department expects its Woden-based staffing numbers to settle at about 4000 from July 2022. Its Sirius building refit would accommodate about 4150 employees over nine floors.
The department expected in the long-term to have about 60 per cent of its staff in its Woden offices on a busy day.
"Typically those days are in the middle of the week, when the collaborative activities - meetings and so on and so forth - tend to be scheduled," Mr McCormack said.
"We understand, from our conversations, that they are the primary things that we consider would be better done in the office than by working remotely."
The Health Department would fund the works - estimated to cost $1816 per square metre - from its capital budget and lease incentives provided by the landlord, Mirvac.
It negotiated a new lease agreement with the company in 2019, six years before its lease expired at the Sirius building purpose-built for the agency in 2010. The department will also fit out a newly-leased office and laboratory premises at Fairbairn Business Park in November 2020, and plans to move all of its Symonston-based staff and 200 Woden-based employees there by June 2022.
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