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“Public Sector Work After the Pandemic: Will It Embrace a Fresh Direction or Revert to Old Ways?”


Written by Eric Champagne, Araceli-Denis Granja, and Olivier Choinier

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Three years after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, many Public health restrictions have been lifted and organizations are asking workers to return to the office.

The hoped-for return of pre-pandemic societal norms versus a decline in employees who want to continue enjoying the benefits of working from home has sparked a debate about what the future job market will look like.

Hybrid and remote arrangements have become popular during the COVID-19 pandemic They became vital tools for the continued functioning of society, the economy and all levels of government.

These arrangements have enabled thousands of employees to keep their jobs, companies to continue to operate and the public sector to continue providing essential goods and services to citizens.

Radical changes in the way we work

Thus, the pandemic has caused sudden and profound changes in traditional business models.

While some thought these changes would be permanent, a partial and gradual return to the traditional workplace has begun.

Does this simply involve adapting the full-time remote work model fueling the pandemic to current times, or does it suggest a full return to the pre-pandemic way of working?

We explore the behavior and decision-making process of the Government of Canada In terms of remote and mixed work environments before, during and after the pandemic.

Our analysis resulted from a thorough review of several official government documents, including new information released through access to information requests and additional informal observations and insights from the field.

The development of remote work

A year before the outbreak of COVID-19, the federal government started experimenting with supply “New and flexible (shared) workplace solutions” for employees in 14 departments who can work remotely.

But prior to 2020, the number of Canadian employees who worked at home full-time was statistically low: Statistics Canada’s 2016 General Social Survey reported that Less than four percent of employees have been working from home most of the time.

This indicates that although remote working was already recognized as a viable employment option by some organizations prior to the pandemic, it was not until COVID-19 that it was used efficiently as a widespread work arrangement.

As a result of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has provided guidance to departments and agencies to outline how the public sector can best provide remote and hybrid working arrangements for their employees in an effort to normalize this new way of working.

There is no direct contact with the citizens

The pandemic has dramatically changed the way public sector employees work, especially in the federal government, where a wide variety of jobs do not require direct interactions with the public.

As Evert Lindquist, Public Administration Researcher at the University of Victoria, noticeRemote and hybrid work models have been accelerated by government digitization:

“Many governments have set up digital service agencies, created open data platforms, embraced social media channels, set up innovation labs and declared their commitment to ‘open government’.

in the public sector, Telework has become a way for governments to continue working remotely during COVID-19.

Once the pandemic has stabilized, the Government of Canada initiated a gradual, partial return to the designated workplace, initially giving departments plenty of leeway to try out different hybrid models and a chance to make their own choices with few restrictions.

But this strategy – based on flexibility and management discretion – did not last long.

The Treasury Board Secretariat imposed new rules on departments in December 2022, including the requirement that public servants work 40 to 60 per cent of their usual monthly schedule at the specified workplace. These rules been criticized by many who believe they mark the beginning of a return to the pre-pandemic way of working.

Remote work as a negotiation issue

All of these changes in a short period of time have created uncertainty and even mistrust on the part of federal government employees toward their employers—so much so that Remote work is now a central issue in negotiations for a new collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). They represent 120,000 employees.

The ability to continue working from home is a moot point, especially in terms of staff who were hired during the pandemic because they did not have a physical office and only worked from home, especially those in rural areas.

Federal government and federal employees navigating uncharted territories.

On the other hand, those who currently work remotely want to maintain as much flexibility as possible in their work patterns.

On the other hand, enshrining the right to telework in a collective agreement will significantly limit the employer’s ability to enforce back-to-office mandates in the long term. It can also lead to inequality and competition between those whose jobs can easily be done remotely and those who provide services directly to the public.

Multiple issues in play

In addition, there is uncertainty about the long-term impact on the quality of teamwork, the management and design of government buildings and the psychological impact of isolation on staff. There is more at stake in these negotiations than salary issues.

Although rules have tightened recently and remain a major focus of the current bargaining process, the Government of Canada has shifted dramatically when it comes to the role of remote and hybrid work before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis has irrefutably transformed the workforce across all sectors, and a complete reversal of pre-pandemic business models is not likely.

Although many policy and administrative decisions about remote work loom large, we argue that workplaces will continue to evolve in the months and years ahead.

Introduction to the conversation

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.Conversation

the quotePost-pandemic work in the public sector: a new way forward or a return to the past? (2023, April 28) Retrieved April 28, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-post-pandemic-sector.html

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