Canada

Many federal employees hesitate to return to office

The federal government is facing a pushback from employees reluctant to return to the office after working from home for more than two years.

Online forums for civil servants have seen a surge in comments about the possibility of returning to work in recent weeks, with employees comparing notes about hybrid work plans their departments plan to adopt.

One of Health Canada’s manager’s comments urging employees to return to the office, partly to offer more time to employees at a nearby Subway restaurant, has evolved into a series of sarcastic memes online. Did.

Comments by Health Canada managers urging employees to return to the office so local Subway restaurant employees can earn more time, and among federal employees A meme exploded in an online discussion on (Screen capture of Federal Public Service of Canada on Reddit)

Some employees would like to return to work in government or are happy with hybrid arrangements, according to the civil service union, but with Canada experiencing the seventh wave of COVID-19, the majority are I would like to continue working from home.

“When we surveyed our membership, 60% of our members want to work from home, 25% want a hybrid, and 10% are full and want to go back to the office. Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Society of Civil Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents nearly 70,000 workers, including computer professionals, said:

Unions want remote work included in collective bargaining agreements

Carr said the union has been inundated with messages from those involved.

“Right now, 90% of our inbox is about returning to the office, how people are not feeling comfortable, how they have questions about masking requirements, and when they can work in the office. It’s about how I question the need and need to come to the office: the safety of my own home and the efficiency of my work.”

View | Chairman of the Finance Committee on Federal Employees‘ back to work:

Finance Director Mona Fortier on the Future of Civil Servant Jobs

Finance Committee President Mona Fortier explained the steps the government is taking to adopt a hybrid work environment, where many employees work part time in the office and part time from home. I’m here.

Greg Phillips, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employers (CAPE), who has called for a moratorium on returning to the office, said his members have long supported hybrid work. They are rushing back into the office and feel their concerns have not been addressed, he said.

CAPE has more than 20,000 members, including economists, translators, Library of Congress employees, and private members of the RCMP.

“In general, people who don’t want to go back to the office have been quite vocal about it,” says Phillips.

“They don’t even deal with it … they often need accommodation.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — the largest federal union with about 230,000 members — is asking the government to be flexible about returning employees to the office and address their concerns.

In a statement, the union said, “We know most of our members still work remotely and many want to continue to have that flexibility.” It has become a part of everyday life and we will continue to fight to get remote work into collective agreements in this negotiation with the Treasury Department and government agencies.”

‘Hybrid work is here to stay’: Finance Committee

In an interview with CBC News, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said hybrid work is the future of federal public service. She said it’s up to each department or agency to figure out how to make it work while keeping employees safe and getting the job done.

Fortier said: “So we really need to understand that hybrid work will be part of the way we deliver programs and services to Canadians. I know a lot of people believe he’s COVID gone, We are still in the COVID space.”

The latest debate about where civil servants should work was sparked by a memo by Privy Council Clerk Janice Shalett on 29 June urging civil servants to develop hybrid work models that meet the operational requirements of each department. did.

“Now is the time, depending on the public health situation, to test new models with a view to full implementation in the fall,” she wrote.

Charlett said the hybrid work model offers “meaningful opportunities” such as a more nationally distributed workforce and employee flexibility, while bringing people back to the office to enhance idea generation. , said it has benefits such as knowledge transfer and building a strong public service culture.

Different Plans for Different Federal Ministries

With this memo, management has launched plans for employees to begin returning to office after Labor Day and has begun contacting employees to formally communicate the number of days they are expected to work in the office.

Union leaders say the result is a patchwork quilt in which some departments are telling employees to return to the office a few days a week, while others are more flexible. said that

Also, due to the wide range of policies, some departments have increased the flexibility of working from home and asked employees to move to departments that are more willing to work from home, thereby attracting top talent from other departments. He also said he was trying to remove it.

Additionally, some are considering leaving the federal civil service rather than returning to government service.

Online forums, such as Canada’s Federal Civil Service Agency’s Reddit, allow civil servants to compare information on return-to-work plans. While only a handful of people support the move, many sharply criticize the plan to bring employees back into the office, how it’s deployed, or who chooses to return.

man looks out the window
Greg Phillips, president of the Professional Workers Association of Canada, says his members have long supported hybrid work, but feel the current return-to-work plan is too hasty. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

In several cases, commenters reported being told to return to the office only to spend time on video conferences.

“It makes absolutely no sense to commute an hour each day to see people you work with and communicate almost exclusively with (MS) Teams and email,” wrote one.

“We have an email from our ESDC DM — expected to be in the office for at least a while,” wrote another. “Excuse me for shouting obscenities in vain.”

Some complained that the department only announced one plan and then changed it.

“We were asked to sign a telework contract where full-time telework was one of the options,” said one commenter who said he worked for the Department of Justice. telework has been removed from consideration, and the minimum number of days in the office is now two.”

Risk of contracting COVID-19 is a concern for some

One commentator who worked for Statistics Canada replied, “They pretty much said we wouldn’t be forced back if we didn’t want to.” Two days minimum.”

Others’ concerns are the risk of catching COVID-19 from co-workers and working conditions at government agencies.

Leaders such as Phillips say comments on forums such as Reddit are consistent with what they hear from members.

“We see public officials of all kinds comparing memos between what one department is doing and what another department is doing, and it’s wreaking havoc.”

Many federal employees hesitate to return to office

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