Federal departments are given the green light to welcome more employees into the office after nearly two years of working from home.
“Departments and agencies can now resume their planning to gradually increase building occupancy, while continuing to respect the appropriate use of preventive practices in the workplace,” said Treasury Board President Mona Fortier in a statement. declaration Monday.
These plans had been suspended by the Omicron variant. But there are still details to be ironed out about what a return to power will look like for thousands of federal public servants in the National Capital Region.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” Fortier said. “Deputy Chiefs will continue to develop their plans, informed by their experiences over the past two years and public health advice.”
Many federal workers have warmed to the flexibility of working from home, and union leaders have advocated for that option to remain in place even if COVID-19 measures are lifted.
“The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat continues to support deputy ministers in their transition to hybrid work models, where applicable and operationally feasible,” said Fortier. “I expect organizations to continue to be nimble, and show flexibility where necessary, in their planning to align with the changing public health context.”
The number of federal workers returning to their offices has big implications for downtown Ottawa, where many businesses have lost the lunch crowds they heavily depend on.
And the city’s light rail system built to bring thousands of federal workers downtown has seen lower-than-expected ridership due to the pandemic.
Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward says the union encourages members to defend remote work if, in fact, it’s an option they might have.
“Remote work has become part of everyday life for the vast majority of federal public sector workers and our members want to maintain some kind of hybrid work arrangement,” he says.
Aylward adds that this is just the first step in bringing federal employees back downtown.
“You’re not going to see 100,000 federal public sector workers in downtown Ottawa next week,” he said. “It’s up to individual departments and agencies to determine their own phased approaches to returning to in-person work.”
Other levels of government have released more specific plans. Ontario government requires employees to attend work in person three days per week starting April 4, sources told CTV News on Monday.
Federal Public Service Update occupational health advice Monday also says masks or respirators must be worn in all indoor shared spaces, even when physical distancing is maintained.
And it is updating screening guidelines for when employees should return to the workplace after infection or exposure to COVID-19.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is mandatory for all federal public servants. Boosters are not mandatory, but are recommended.