26 September 2023

CANADA: Cautious approach to office working

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A trickle of Canadian Federal Public Servants have returned to office work as COVID-19 restrictions begin to be eased.

The more than 200 volunteers are returning to designated workplaces in the Ottawa area as part of the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) Pathfinder Project.

The project is open to all PSPC employees in the capital, but only a small portion of the approximately 145,000 people in the region who work for the Federal Government are to take part in its initial phase.

Spokesperson for the PSPC, Gabriel Leboeuf stressed that participation was voluntary and flexible.

“Employees who want to participate must register and reserve their work station in advance,” Mr Leboeuf said.

“The workplaces were designed according to activity-based workplace guidelines, including non-assigned spaces and collaborative spaces,” he said.

“Employees will be able to choose to work at one of these locations or work from home, depending on what is more convenient for them.”

Mr Leboeuf said for those who returned to work, cleaning and hygiene protocols were in place, including physical distancing and masks.

The PSPC spokesperson said there would also be mandatory training and COVID-19 self-evaluations before arriving at work.

“While PSPC will continue to support remote work for most employees, the Federal Government is preparing for an eventual and gradual reopening of workspaces,” he said.

“For now, the directive remains to continue prioritising remote work for employees wherever possible, and we do not have a target date for the full return to the workplace,” Mr Leboeuf said.

Meanwhile, the future of work in the Ontario Provincial Public Service could look much different.

A Government plan to bring Public Servants back to the office includes significant provisions for a flexible or hybrid work schedule, offering employees options to work from home.

The plan is expected to include a phased-in approach that would see management come back to the office beginning on 16 August, with other workers reintroduced to workplaces at later dates.

Ottawa, 2 August 2021

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