Federal workers begin return to office today

Unions say buildings not ready for staff, logistics not considered by government

Federal workers begin return to office today

Federal workers in core public service who are working from home have started their return to the office journey today.

Ottawa, in mid-December, adopted a hybrid work model for all federal government workers, requiring them to be in the workplace at least two to three days each week, or 40 per cent to 60 per cent of their regular schedule.

“Creating a new work model was always going to require learning and evolution. This new approach is about refining how hybrid is applied,” said the government back then.

Some 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees will be holding strike votes at the end of January, and remote work is one of the main sticking points.

Nearby employers such as Foot Locker appreciate the development. 

“The federal government is the largest employer in Ottawa, and this will have a positive impact for our local economy,” said Michael Doucette, district manager, via LinkedIn.

‘Not ready for that’

However, there are not enough workspaces available for federal employees to return to the office, according to federal unions.

"In my opinion, the workplace is not ready for that," Jennifer Carr, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) president, told CTV News. "I don't believe that the Treasury Board took into consideration the logistics that are required for returning to the workplace."

The federal government has done a lot of downsizing in the National Capital Region and "lost a lot of buildings" for federal workers, said Carr. She noted that some employees returning to Statistics Canada did not have office spaces, and PIPSC has received reports of employees working in cafeterias and lunchrooms.

In December, PIPSC demanded a halt to the plan to bringing workers back to the office.

“The federal government has dropped the vaccine mandate for workers and other workers are forced into close contact. That becomes a deliberate workplace safety hazard and will be tested via the laws currently in place,” James Dawe, former supervisor/moderator at Answers.com, said via Facebook.

Working from home for extended periods could negatively impact public servants’ careers, according to the former head of the federal public service.

And despite the perceived benefits, the hybrid work model can have ill-effects on workers’ productivity and job satisfaction, Laura Putnam, CEO of Motion Infusion, previously told Canadian HR Reporter.

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