The Evolution of Teleworking and Hybrid Policies in the Canadian Government Post-COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated changes in work models across the globe, and the Government of Canada was no exception. A recent study published in the Canadian Public Administration journal titled "Government of Canada's teleworking and hybrid policies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic" co-authored by Professor Eric Champagne Olivier Choinière and Aracelly Denise Granja provides an enlightening look at this transformation.
Adapting to a New Normal
As the pandemic unfolded, traditional work models were no longer viable due to public health concerns. The authors note,
the Government of Canada quickly adapted its teleworking policy, originally published in 1999, to respond to both the public health imperative but also workplace modernization in all sectors of the labour market.
This shift marked a pivotal moment for public organizations as they found themselves navigating uncharted waters.
Embracing the Virtual Workspace
As the government transitioned towards remote work, many employees found themselves preferring the new virtual workspace. Reports from McKinsey & Company, Gartner Research, and Williams, cited by the authors, suggest a widespread adoption and preference for this novel mode of working.
A Decentralized Approach and the Challenges
When health measures started to ease, the Canadian Government opted for a decentralized approach, allowing "managerial latitude for deputy heads and their executives to develop their own return-to-work plans."
However, with this new work model came a host of challenges including cybersecurity, IT infrastructure, staffing and promotion practices, and workplace design. The authors assert that this transition period "call[ed] for stronger links between the various communities (HR, digital, facilities, finance, etc.) to address these emerging challenges."
Balancing Act: Workplace Presence
By December 2022, the Government took a significant step, prescribing
a fixed percentage of workplace presence to implement
across departments, aiming for equitable conditions. Despite resistance from employees and unions seeking more flexibility, the government remained steadfast in its decision.
A Hybrid Future
In conclusion, the authors state that while there is
no consensus on whether the decisions over telework arrangements should be taken centrally or decentralized to the department, organizational or even to the individual level,
the landscape of government jobs is expected to adapt to the changing environment. They foresee the Government of Canada moving towards a hybrid workforce model. Despite some constraints, the authors believe that "the pandemic has had an undeniable impact, and we do not foresee a real possibility of a complete reversal."
While the full implications of this shift are yet to be seen, the findings of this study provide a compelling snapshot of the ongoing transformations within the Canadian public sector and the future of work in a post-pandemic world.