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Working from home could be viable option for federal public service: union
OTTAWA -- The president of one of Canada's major public sector unions says working from home could be a viable option for a great deal of federal public servants going forward, even as lockdowns lift across the country.
On Thursday, Ottawa tech giant Shopify announced its offices would remain closed until at least 2021 but most of its workforce would transition to remote work permanently.
Debi Daviau, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) says it's an idea that could work many in the federal government's workforce.
"It's a virtual world and we've proven our ability to be productive while teleworking, so I think this should be an option for public servants," she told CTV Morning Live's Leslie Roberts on Friday.
Daviau said the government's direction on this issue remains unclear, but for workers who have had to transition to working from home in the midst of the pandemic, it has proven successful.
"Productivity is always much better when people are able to work in flexible working situations that suit them," she said. "I think the only concern would be burnout, that people are actually putting in a lot more than their regular working day when they're working from home."
Daviau said public servants involved in administering government benefit programs like CERB have been working "night and day" since the pandemic began.
"The truth is I've never worked so hard in my life since I started working from home," Daviau said. "The work starts immediately and it ends when you go to bed at night."
Some workers, she noted, cannot work from home, for a variety of reasons, including front-line public servants or those who deal with sensitive government files, but she believes a "vast majority" of public servants would take the option to work from home if given the chance.
Daviau says her members are in no rush to return to their office buildings because they still have concerns about workplace safety as COVID-19 infections continue to spread.
"We don't feel confident that adequate health and safety measures have been put in place, such distancing and sanitation of common spaces like bathrooms and kitchens," she said. "We don't see the reason to throw caution to the wind at this point and return people to the workplace when they've been so productive working from home."
Daviau believes the government could save on floor space by limiting the number of public servants who work in office buildings, which would make them easier to clean and offer better physical distancing between workers.