The year 2020 saw the biggest workforce transformation in living memory. Canadian government leaders made drastic moves to keep "business" going and employees safe during the pandemic. That included sending swaths of people to work from home and doubling down on technology solutions to keep them productive.

68%

of Canadian public service leaders agree their organization’s employees just faced the largest and fastest human behavioural change in history due to COVID-19.

36%

of Canadian public service organizations invested in digital collaboration tools to support their remote workforce during COVID-19.

Many Canadian public service entities approached these changes as short-term solutions to a temporary problem. In reality, they are part of a longer-term solution to some persistent challenges.

Post-pandemic, the model of returning to work will be transformed. Rather, employers and employees are moving into a new future, one where work can be done from anywhere.

What does this mean in practical terms?

Think back to the early days of "bring your own device" (BYOD) when organizations first allowed employees to bring their own preferred laptops or smartphones into the office to perform their work. Employers had to implement new policies and tech solutions for a wide range of devices, enabling that flexibility while mitigating the risk of devices that weren’t entirely within their control. But it also gave employees a chance for a better work experience and ultimately saved companies money.

Now we’ve moved beyond BYOD and into BYOE: employees are bringing entire environments to work.

84% of Canadian public service leaders agree that remote work opens up the market for difficult-to-find talent and expands the competition for talent among organizations.

It’s a shift that public service organizations helped set in motion with rapid pivots to keep operating during the height of the pandemic. But even as organizations around the world embraced these and other pivots to keep moving, they usually didn’t have time to appreciate the larger ramifications of the shift.

As they move forward into this new future of work, public service organizations face two key realities.

  • Remote employees have spent over a year experiencing the flexibility and benefits of working from home; they’re increasingly reluctant to return to offices. And there’s evidence that remote work can support long-term needs, with 74% of respondents saying they believe productivity improved or stayed the same during the pandemic.
  • Effective strategies to support this new reality are now critical for meeting public service goals. Some individuals and families may still need more of a traditional "human touch" – whether interacting in person or via remote technologies.

The good news? Downsizing the real estate footprint can help Canadian governments address fiscal challenges. What’s more, the talent pool is also significantly larger when public employees are not required to live in the Ottawa.

Virtual work, real outcomes

Three years from now, successful government organizations will be the ones that resisted the urge to race everyone back to the office in favour of rethinking their workforce model – balancing workforce benefits and mission outcomes. The most effective public service organizations will be physically distributed, creatively connected, empowered by technology and able to innovate from anywhere.

About the Contributors

Mark Lambert

Managing Director – Federal Public Service, Canada


Dave Telka

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Public Service, Canada


Breffni Brennan

Managing Director – Technology Strategy for Canadian Public Sector


Laura Clements

Managing Director – Consulting, Talent & Organization, Federal Public Service, Canada


Laura Matthews

Director – Strategy & Consulting


Rod Kelly

Managing Director – Canadian Software Engineering Lead

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