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#return-to-workplace

Open letter to employer surpasses 10k signatures

By Return to Workplace

As some departments continue to move ahead with forcing public servants back into the physical workplace, support for the open letter written by public servants against imposed hybrid return to workplace arrangements has surpassed ten thousand signatures.

The campaign “GoC Together” was launched only several weeks ago, continues to gain momentum and also recently launched a Twitter account @GoCTogether to keep followers updated on the progress of its campaign.

So far, there has been no response to the letter from any senior leader in the public service, including the Clerk.

Public servants and the media have been largely attributing the Clerk as the reason for the imposed hybrid return to replace arrangements, as the Clerk asked deputy heads to experiment with hybrid scenarios earlier this summer so they could be implemented in the fall.

Clerk’s annual report on the public service

The Clerk recently released their annual report on the public service, which highlights accomplishments across the public service over the past year, including challenges and a vision for the future.

In it, the Clerk did reference hybrid work stating, “By building on what we learned during the pandemic and blending the best of our traditions with emerging approaches, including a combination of in-person and remote work, we will create a new hybrid workplace that delivers the best results for Canadians.”

However the Clerk also concluding the report by saying, “it would be a missed opportunity if we went back to the way things were in 2019.”

Many public servants have been asking the Clerk to clarify their direction to deputies around return to workplace from earlier this summer, as public servants have been finding the Clerk’s messaging contradictory and deputies have been interpreting the Clerk’s direction that they must get public servants back into the physical workplace as soon as possible with imposed hybrid arrangements.

Training for EXs on hybrid work and teams

Meanwhile, APEX (the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada) is offering training for executives on hybrid work and teams this fall. The sessions are:

  • Hybrid work is the future of work (September 21, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST)
  • Thriving in remote and hybrid teams (September 28, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. EST)
  • Leading in a hybrid workplace (October 5, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. EST)
  • Everyday resiliency in ever-changing times (October 26, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. EST)

EXs interested in these sessions can find the registration details here.

Heritage’s video on hybrid work spaces

A video by the department of Canadian Heritage about hybrid work spaces was recently making the rounds online:

The TikTok style video titled, “Hot Tip Tuesday: Exploring hybrid work spaces – part 1” featured public servants dancing awkwardly in the workplace to music and swirling chairs around in boardrooms with strobe party lights.

Public servants on social media were generally critical of the video and commented that it was out of touch and did not take the concerns that public servants have about their health and safety, seriously.

The video was uploaded in June and has since received over 3,000 views.

Treasury Board suspends reporting COVID-19 cases

Earlier this month, Treasury Board confirmed that as of June 22, 2022, it was suspending its reporting of COVID-19 cases within the federal public service.

Reaction from public servants online was that of frustration and concern for health and safety, given that many are being forced back into the physical workplace during cold and flu season and there will no longer be any reporting of cases.

The final total amount of reported COVID-19 cases across the public service was 32,474 since reporting began with the disclaimer that, “the total number of cases may not reflect an accurate count due to the lack of availability of tests.”

Other links:

About GoC Together

Contact GoC Together

29th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Support for no imposed hybrid return to workplace continues to gain traction

By Return to Workplace

It’s a growing situation: public servants becoming increasingly frustrated and vocal over the pressure and rush to put in place telework agreements for forced hybrid work arrangements.

But where is the pressure and rush coming from?

Clerk faces criticism

Public servants and the media have been largely attributing the Clerk as the reason for the pressure, who asked deputy heads to experiment with hybrid scenarios earlier this summer so they could be implemented in the fall.

As a result, deputies have been putting pressure on employees to put in place telework agreements for hybrid work arrangements and have taken this to mean that there must be mandatory minimum days spent in the physical office per week for each employee, all the while without meaningful consultation and input from public servants.

Meanwhile unions have been vocal in the media about their disagreement that this has been rushed and they haven’t been consulted, and top doctors such as the medical officer for the City of Ottawa reiterating that we are in a 7th wave of COVID-19, key indicators are on the rise, and it’s time to take this wave seriously.

Public servants react

Through all of this, public servants have said they do not feel safe.

In an open letter published to their employer last week, they asked that a hybrid arrangement not be imposed on all public servants but rather let each employee, “in discussion with their respective managers, choose the work configuration that best suits their work objectives.”

Support for the letter has garnered over 3,500 signatures in mere days.

Calls for the Clerk to clarify

In discussion threads on social media over the weekend, public servants asked the Clerk to clarify their comments to deputies in writing and ease the pressure to hastily put in place forced hybrid arrangements for the fall which is only weeks away.

They also pointed out contradictions in the Clerk’s messaging between their last annual report on the public service which frequently referenced the unprecedented productivity of public servants throughout the pandemic, working “tirelessly” and “sacrificially” but yet the Clerk has been in a rush to get public servants back into the workplace arguably for optics over facts and meaningful consultations and input from public servants.

“The pandemic has provided insights into the future of how we could work. We can achieve permanent and productive change, if we are determined to identify and exploit those insights. A big question going forward is which practices will we decide to keep and which will we return to. As the pressure eases, and in time it will, the natural inclination will be to “snap back” to our previous state. That should not happen.”

Clerk of the Privy Council, 28th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service

IRCC reportedly puts hybrid on hold

Over the weekend, public servants have been posting online that some groups at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) were reportedly informed recently that hybrid return to workplace plans have been put on hold following concerns from public servants.

Public servants commended IRCC for its leadership and wondered if other departments will soon follow suit.

Sign the letter

For those who may be interested, the letter can be signed here.

The letter does not ask for anyone to identify themselves, only a confirmation that they are an employee of the Government of Canada and that they support the letter.

GoC Together also invites public servants to share their stories around return to the workplace with them.

Other links:

About GoC Together

Contact GoC Together

28th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada

Public servants issue open letter to employer regarding return to workplace

By Return to Workplace

As the medical officer for Ottawa continues to reiterate that we’re in the 7th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, key indicators are on the rise, and it’s time to take this wave seriously, some federal departments, despite this, have been forging ahead with their return to workplace plans for federal public servants by rushing to put telework agreements in place for hybrid work scenarios.

And while almost everyone has offered their own hot takes about federal public servants returning to the workplace such as city Mayors, pundits, businesses, the media, and politicians, a coalition of federal public servants are now putting their own perspective forward in an open letter to their employer.

Under the umbrella, “GoC Together,” the coalition has launched a website where the open letter can be found and a call to action for all public servants to sign the letter if they agree with it.

Titled, “An open letter to the Government of Canada regarding the future of remote work for federal public servants,” the letter has already acquired over 2,000 signatures.

“Tone-deaf, out of touch” senior management perspectives

Over the summer, several departments have held department-wide town halls where return to workplace was discussed with “tone-deaf, out of touch” messaging from senior management frustrating public servants.

At the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), one Director spoke about the benefits of return to workplace from their perspective which included the importance of supporting minimum wage workers such as those at the restaurant chain, Subway.

Reaction by public servants at PHAC was swift, who criticized the Director’s example. Criticism was so strong, other senior managers from PHAC defended the director on social media which led to comments like this:

The Deputy Minister also had to issue an email to all-staff about the criticism online.

At Global Affairs Canada, return to workplace was also covered at a town hall there with the Associate Deputy Minister sharing they found cycling and public transit too frustrating so they bought a car.

The Associate Deputy Minister’s comments were also referred to as “out of touch” with the concerns of most public servants around their health, safety and return to the workplace.

The open letter being aligned with the Clerk’s 2021 annual report on the public service

In the Clerk’s most recent annual report on the public service, the Clerk identified three main points:

  • anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service;
  • the health and well-being of public servants over the last year; and,
  • the future of the public service and an acknowledgement that things will never go back to the way they were before COVID-19.

These three points support and correspond directly to the arguments that public servants have been making about their preferences around return to the workplace.

On anti-racism, equity and inclusion, public servants who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour have shared online that the return to the physical office does not evoke a sense of unity and inclusion for them but rather is a reminder that they are intentionally excluded and don’t feel safe.

As well, public servants who have expressed support for the letter said that remote work has also meant more opportunities and more inclusiveness for those across the country:

The letter directly addresses health and well-being of public servants which the Clerk raised:

“We want the opportunity to establish a harmonious work-life balance. One that simultaneously promotes productivity and personal well-being. We want to be treated respectfully. This not only means being heard, but also having our opinions taken into consideration in a meaningful way. Perhaps most of all, we want the freedom to choose the way we work. Each of us is intimately aware of our responsibilities and the environment that is most conducive to our optimal performance. Our commitment to serve the public is unwavering. Trust us to do our jobs the best way we can.”

The letter ends with a request to not impose a hybrid arrangement on all public servants but rather let each employee, “in discussion with our respective managers, choose the work configuration that best suits our work objectives” and invites public servants to contact their union and Member of Parliament.

Sign the letter

For those who may be interested, the letter can be signed here.

The letter does not ask for anyone to identify themselves, only a confirmation that they are an employee of the Government of Canada and that they support the letter.

GoC Together also invites public servants to share their stories around return to the workplace with them.

Other links:

About GoC Together

Contact GoC Together

Departments permitted to resume return to workplace plans

By Return to Workplace

Earlier this week, Health Canada updated its guide to workplace re-entry for the public service so that departments can now resume their return to workplace plans with their employees.

At the end of last year, departments were asked to pause their return to workplace plans following growing concern for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In Monday’s statement, the President of the Treasury Board said:

“Departments and agencies may now resume their planning to gradually increase building occupancy, while continuing to respect the appropriate use of workplace preventive practices. It is my expectation that organizations will continue to be agile and demonstrate flexibility as necessary, in their planning to align to the evolving public health context.”

– Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board

February 2022 update: guide to workplace re-entry

In the latest update in its guide to workplace re-entry for the public service, Health Canada outlined that while building occupancy can gradually be eased:

  • masks should still be worn indoors;
  • physical distancing is to be maintained;
  • departments should follow domestic and international travel advisories; and,
  • there are an updated list of screening questions for returning employees who have been exposed or infected by COVID-19.

The February 2022 update:

To support a gradual return to the workplace, departments and agencies can resume gradually increasing building occupancy with appropriate use of workplace preventive practices as laid out in this guidance. Organizations should maintain the flexibility to adjust to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Masks:

Medical masks or respirators should be worn in all indoor shared spaces, even when physical distancing is maintained.

Medical masks or respirators should be worn outdoors when working in crowded settings or when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Travel:

Departments and agencies should follow domestic and international travel advisories.

Screening:

Screening questions have been updated to reflect updated guidance for when an employee returns to the workplace following infection or exposure to COVID-19.

The President of the Treasury Board also said there will be no, “one-size-fits-all approach” for returning to the workplace and that Treasury Board will continue to support departments, “in their transition to hybrid work models, where applicable and operationally feasible.”

The statement also said that, “officials are providing guidance and best practices to promote a coherent approach while respecting the different operational realities of federal organizations. [Departments] will continue to develop their plans, informed by their experiences of the past two years and public health guidance.”

President of the Treasury Board statement regarding the evolving public health situation

Health Canada’s guide to workplace re-entry for the public service

Departments asked to pause return to workplace plans

By Return to Workplace

Late yesterday, Treasury Board issued a statement saying departments were being asked to pause their return to the workplace plans for public servants out of growing concern for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In addition, Health Canada revised their workplace re-entry guide for the public service, “in light of emerging evidence on the Omicron variant of concern, and the potential for increased transmissibility, decreased vaccine protection against infection, and higher risk of reinfection.”

Updates to the guide included recommendations that:

  • Departments should review current occupancy levels;
  • Departments should consider increasing remote work, as required;
  • All public servants receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their turn;
  • Public servants wear masks indoors in all shared spaces;
  • Public servants avoid non-essential international travel; and,
  • Public servants avoid participating in any discretionary large gatherings, such as conferences and training events.

The statement went on to say:

“I thank the many public servants, in various roles, who are working onsite and remotely to serve Canadians. As has been the case from the outset of the pandemic, federal public servants can be confident that every measure continues to be taken to protect their health and safety in the workplace. We know that having a vaccinated workforce means that not only are workplaces safer, so are the communities where public servants live and work.

It is my expectation that organizations continue to align their plans with the current public health context, taking into consideration their respective operational needs and obligations such as ensuring Canadians’ access to information and providing government services in both official languages.

As the heads of their organizations, deputy heads are responsible for the safety and well-being of their employees. The Government of Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to support public servants and their mental health. I would like to remind employees and managers of the wide range of services and supports available to them, including the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program.

As the country’s largest employer, the Government of Canada will continue to engage with partners, stakeholders, and local communities as we continue to operate in a rapidly changing environment.”

– Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board

Other links:

Treasury Board statement further to the evolving public health situation and the COVID-19 Omicron variant

Health Canada’s guide to workplace re-entry for the public service