Officials telecommuting |  Quebec and Ottawa do not have performance studies

Officials telecommuting | Quebec and Ottawa do not have performance studies

Telecommuting will play a central role in the negotiation of collective agreements for hundreds of thousands of civil servants in the coming months. But it is difficult to know on what basis the discussions will take place: neither Quebec nor Ottawa have carried out a study to evaluate the productivity of their officials at home, after two and a half years of the pandemic, he learned. Press.

Posted yesterday at 5:00 am

Maxime Bergeron

Maxime Bergeron
Research team, La Presse

We have requested “a complete copy of analysis, studies or investigations to measure the performance and/or attendance of telecommuting employees” from dozens of departments, through freedom of information laws. Remark: such a document does not exist anywhere in the government apparatus.

Basically, it is up to the managers of each department to evaluate the performance of their employees, it is explained, regardless of the workplace. A situation that could pose a problem when Quebec and Ottawa decide, or not, to bring their employees back to the office after the pandemic, believes Étienne Charbonneau, full professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP).

“If there is a wall-to-wall policy that is adopted by the upper levels of the Department, as is often the case in unionized workplaces, they will not have an overview of what works or what does not work”, emphasizes the expert, who is currently conducting research on telecommuting.

Étienne Charbonneau considers “surprising” the lack of studies that would have made it possible to know if increases or decreases in productivity have been observed in the last two and a half years. “On what basis are they going to decide whether to return employees to the office in part or in full? In impressions? »

employee grunting

Regardless of how productivity is measured (or not), one thing is clear: the issue of teleworking will be at the center of the renegotiation of collective agreements. Unions representing more than 400,000 Quebec public servants began filing their demands last week, five months ahead of a March 31, 2023 deadline.

“Telecommuting is at the top of the list,” summarizes Guillaume Bouvrette, third vice president of the Syndicat de professionnelles et professionels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ), which represents 23,400 public service employees.

Quebec has applied since April 2022 a framework policy on working in hybrid mode, which requires public servants to work at least two days a week in the office.

Very often, Guillaume Bouvrette points out, employees who commute to the office end up spending a good part of their day in video conferences with their colleagues at home. He also deplores a “profound inequity” in the application of telework rules between the different ministries.

The SPGQ asks that all the rules and conditions surrounding telework be negotiated and included in future collective agreements, instead of being decreed by the employer. “People want more flexibility. The framework policy of the Treasury Board is rigid, two days a week. Each person has different needs. »

The Union of Public and Parapublic Services of Quebec (SFPQ) also denounces an “arbitrary” aspect in the application of the regulations. The two-day-a-week uniform policy displeases many officials, says Christian Daigle, president of the union that has 33,000 members, 85% of whom telecommute.

We want there to be explanations. If they are logical, we will respect them.

Christian Daigle, President of the Quebec Government Professionals Union

The echo is similar in Ottawa, where several collective agreements must be renewed in 2023. The Canadian Association of Professional Employees, which brings together 23,000 economists, statisticians and other federal public servants, calls for the rules on teleworking to be enshrined in future employment contracts. . The current guidelines “lack clarity” and are “arbitrary,” according to chairman Greg Phillips.

« On understanding that from times to autre, il peut y avoir des besoins d’aller au bureau, mais ce à quoi on s’oppose, ce sont les pretextes de besoins opérationnels pour nous demander d’aller au bureau », lance-t -The.

Productivity: not a problem

All union leaders interviewed by Press they believe that remote work productivity has been there since the start of the pandemic. Surveys of its members testify to greater achievement, including better work performance at home.

The president of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel, seems to share this analysis. She said last year that Quebec had not seen any drop in productivity for its employees working from home.

What was the basis for making such a statement? It was impossible to talk to LeBel, but his firm explains that “utility managers must regularly monitor their employees to ensure that they deliver what is expected according to agreed deadlines.”

The “performance indicators”, such as the number of calls received, files processed or meeting deadlines, “are the same whether the employee is teleworking or is present in the office.” The annual report made by the departments since the start of the pandemic also shows that they are “generally more efficient than they were,” we added.

“As the practice of teleworking has been precipitated by the pandemic, the Secretary of the Treasury Board will ensure, in the future, to optimize its data collection to measure the performance and performance of public service employees in teleworking”, specifies Sonia LeBel’s signature. .

Similar explanations are provided by the Canadian Treasury Board Secretariat. “Each department develops its own roadmap” and evaluates the performance of its employees using the same application, stresses spokesman Martin Potvin.

With the collaboration of William Leclerc

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