Public servants yet to receive clear plan for return to workplace

As vaccination coverage continues to climb in Ottawa, there is talk about a return to the workplace for many businesses come the fall.

But Ottawa’s largest employer has yet to lay out a plan.

The federal government has provided some information and updates on a return to office buildings for public servants, but it has been limited and only on an individual department basis. 

“We don’t have any real concrete answers,” said Chris Aylward, President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“Where exactly am I going to be working in October, November, or December? Will I be home, back in the workplace? That uncertainty is causing a lot of anxiety.”

Downtown businesses suffering

The empty building across the downtown are taking a toll on surrounding businesses.

“It’s definitely been a challenging situation to be in,” said Radha Chaudhary, Executive Chef at Aiana Restaurant.

The O’Connor Street restaurant opened just before the pandemic looking to bring in business from federal workers. Their return can’t come soon enough. 

“That would be significant. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of individuals coming back to work. Being right by the LRT station, it is a very high foot traffic area when the offices are in session,” said Chaudhary.

All of the uncertainty surrounding a return to in-person working in all sectors across the country has taken a toll.

A report from LifeWork’s monthly mental health index shows 25 per cent of Canadians are unclear about their employer’s plan for a return to work places.

Twelve per cent don’t believe their employer has a plan. The two groups reported the lowest mental health scores this month.

“We are finding that those Canadians who don’t have that clarity on what the return will look like, their mental health is much more compromised than those who do,” said Paula Allen, Senior Vice-President at LifeWorks.

Treasury Board not planning fixed date

In a statement to CTV News the Federal Treasury Board said, in part “Many public service employees will continue to work remotely, and effectively, for the foreseeable future. The principles of prudent, gradual and phased-in access to worksites continue to guide us, so neither an announcement nor a fixed-date approach are being considered or planned.

“The President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Digital Government both received a mandate from the Prime Minister to work with public sector unions to explore options for increasing flexibility in the work arrangements of federal employees.

“In the meantime, as with many private organizations, research is underway to determine what form post-pandemic workplace flexibility will take, including exploring options to increase flexibility in the work arrangements of federal employees.”

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