OTTAWA -- City of Ottawa employees hoping for a future of permanently working from home: think again.

Municipal workers will be expected to come into the office when their bosses ask them to, city manager Steve Kanellakos said Wednesday.

“I certainly don’t support that there be this permanency of,,,you never have to show up, or you can go down to Jamaica and work out of Jamaica and never have to come back to the office,” he told reporters. “I don’t think that’s the way to run a city.”

About 75 per cent of the city’s 17,000 employees haven’t worked from home during the pandemic because their jobs require them to be out in the field, not in an office.

But for the more than 4,000 people that work out of the city’s three main administrative buildings—City Hall, 100 Constellation Drive and Ben Franklin Place—the city is working toward a hybrid model.

“Hybrid means that you’ll be required to come into the office when your boss needs you to come in … and that you will also be permitted to work from home when required,” Kanellakos said.

Some employees might be required to come in one to two days week depending on their role, he added.

“We’re going to be flexible with our employees to try and determine how many days a week they need to come back.”

Just under half of those employees are already back in some form or are on their way back to starting in January, Kanellakos said.

“We’ll be growing that as we proceed into the new year,” he said. “We’re moving at a really good pace, at a safe pace, to get our employees back in some form in our administrative buildings.”

The federal public service has been slower in developing a plan to bring workers back to the office. Most public servants are still working from home, and there’s no clear timeline on if and when they’ll come back.

Mayor Jim Watson has said he’s working with Mona Fortier, the new president of the Treasury Board, to get federal workers back into offices downtown.

Council could return in January

Although Parliament resumed this week in-person, Wednesday’s council meeting was held as they have been for the past 20 months: Watson sitting in the council chamber and councillors joining on Zoom.

But the mayor said he hopes council can return to in-person sessions early in the new year.

“The latest briefing I received was that the clerk is looking at us coming back sometime in January,” he said.

The return would need to be cleared from the clerk and Ottawa Public Health, he said.