26 September 2023

CANADA: Cautious start to office return

Start the conversation

Canadian Federal Government Departments have restarted plans to bring thousands of Public Servants back to their offices, as Provinces lift pandemic restrictions that forced them to work from home.

The Treasury Board issued new guidance outlining the terms for Departments and Agencies to resume the plans that were abruptly halted when the Omicron variant took hold around Christmas.

President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier said the return to the office was under way, but increasing the occupancy of office buildings would be phased in slowly while Departments prepared their workplaces; including with new or updated precautions such as masking and social distancing.

“Departments are asked to consider local public health conditions, such as outbreaks and rising infections, as they stage office re-openings,” Ms Fortier (pictured) said.

“It is my expectation that organisations will continue to be agile and demonstrate flexibility as necessary in their planning to align to the evolving public health context,” she said.

Sources from several Departments, who were not authorised to speak publicly, said the return would be phased in over several months to give employees the chance to rearrange their lives in terms of practical matters such as finding child care.

They expected the move to be more or less complete by September.

The sources said the Departments were planning this return around a shift to a hybrid workforce, a mix of employees working in the office and at home.

However, the big question is whether Departments have the technology to handle a workforce that will be divided between remote and office locations.

Co-founder and workplace strategist at Agile Work Evolutions, Meredith Thatcher said wanting to return was one thing, but having the agreements in place with each employee, necessary technology in the office and bandwidth to the buildings, as well as clarity around pandemic, health and safety guidelines, was another.

Another big worry is whether the lifting of restrictions will trigger another surge in the pandemic.

The Federal Government’s latest guidance still requires all Public Servants to be double-vaccinated but only recommends booster shots.

Employees must, however, wear masks indoors, even when physical distancing, and outdoors in crowded situations or if distancing is impossible.

Those who aren’t fully vaccinated or have approved vaccine exemptions are to be screened and forced to take rapid tests to help prevent anyone with the virus from going to the office.

Ottawa, 3 March 2022

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.