Exclusive: GGF survey finds vast majority of public servants still working remotely
While the majority of public servants worldwide are currently working from home, at least part of the time, many governments are urging officials to return to their offices when coronavirus restrictions are lifted
More than three-quarters (78%) of public workers around the world are working from home at least part of the time as the COVID-19 pandemic brings long-term changes to the future of work, according to an exclusive survey Global Government Forum.
The survey, conducted between January 26 and February 19, collected nearly 4,000 responses from officials and public servants in 10 countries. It found that 48% of respondents work remotely full-time, while another 30% work a mix of remote and on-site. Only 22% of those surveyed work exclusively on site.
Canada had by far the highest percentage of government employees working off the office at 70% while 19% have a hybrid work arrangement. However, those numbers could soon change after the Canadian government issued guidance earlier this month to bring thousands of government employees back into office.
Mona Fortier, the president of the Canadian Treasury Board, said departments would be reintroducing staff to offices in gradual phases to ensure compliance with provinces’ individual plans to lift COVID restrictions and to allow staff time to reconcile their working lives in the country to reorganize with regard to childcare and other obligations.
“I expect that organizations will continue to be agile and show the necessary flexibility in their planning to adapt to the evolving public health context,” she said in a statement.
US government increases personal public services
The survey found that the US government has the second-highest number of fully remote employees at 47%, with another 25% splitting their time between telecommuting and on-site work.
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden unveiled his administration’s plan for federal employees to return to work in order to increase the number of in-person public services available through agencies.
“Federal agencies will lead by example by increasing the opening hours of public offices for in-person appointments and in-person interactions during the month of April,” the White House said.
Of the 10 countries surveyed – Canada, the US, the UK, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia – Italy had the lowest proportion of full-time public sector employees at 1%, the second lowest proportion employed in a Hybrid model works. However, the country had a much higher percentage of respondents working on frontline work, including health and social care and education, than the other countries surveyed, which may explain this result.
The Dominican Republic had the second lowest percentage of public sector employees (2%) and the highest number of employees working exclusively on-site (86%).
When it comes to the number of employees working in a hybrid arrangement, New Zealand tops the list at 64%.
In the UK, 31% of respondents work remotely full-time, 21% work fully on-site and 48% a mix of both. Ministers have criticized officials for continuing to work remotely, despite many departments working towards flexible working arrangements well before the pandemic.
Read more: UK government accused of ‘bashing the public service’ in row of teleworkers
In a statement in January, Steve Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Britain’s Cabinet Office, who is responsible for cross-government reform and efficiency, said the civil service “should break away from its reliance on videoconferencing and return to the benefits of in-person, collaborative work.” “.
There is a “clear ministerial expectation” that officers would return to pre-COVID office arrangements as soon as possible, he said.
Around the same time, Alex Chisholm, Chief Operating Officer of the UK Civil Service, wrote to senior management across Whitehall, asking them to support a meaningful and speedy return of staff to the workplace.
Australia wants to “preserve diversity of talent”
The results of the survey show that the Australian Civil Service has the third-highest number of employees working remotely full-time at 40%, while 45% work both at work and at home.
That, too, is likely to change soon. Stephanie Foster, Deputy Government Secretary at Australia’s Department for Prime Ministers and Cabinet, said Global Government Forum in January that the focus of public service is on getting civil servants back into office where it is safe to do so.
“The return to in-person work in offices across the country is an important part of Australia’s return to normalcy and is expected of all Australian government employees. Our goal is to make some of these flexible work practices sustainable — to attract and retain a diverse array of talent while maintaining the elements that keep our workforce productive, promote well-being and foster a sense of connection,” she said.
That Global Government Forum The survey also looked at perceptions of COVID-19 vaccination mandates for public sector workers – look out for the analysis in the coming weeks.
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