Municipal government employees in Ottawa will have a degree of flexibility in their work settings after the COVID-19 pandemic but won’t be able to work from home indefinitely, according to city manager Steve Kanellakos.
Speaking to reporters after city council on Wednesday, Kanellakos said the city is in the process of phasing back to in-person work at its main administrative buildings where just over 4,000 people work. About half of those employees are already back in the office in some capacity, he said.
Employees based out of city hall or other municipal buildings on Constellation Drive and Ben Franklin Place will continue to have “flexibility” after the pandemic, Kanellakos said.
“We are moving to a hybrid workforce, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
This means working with individual employees to assess how often they’ll need to be in the office and whether they have a drop-in space or need a fixed desk.
This won’t mean, however, that employees will have the option to work only from home or some other remote option.
Kanellakos said workers will still be expected to come into the office as their managers need for events, meetings and other on-site collaborations.
“It won’t mean that people will be permanently able to stay at home and never be able to come into our municipal buildings or come into work,” he said.
“I certainly don’t support that, that there’d be this permanency of, you never have to show up or you can go down to Jamaica… and never have to come into the office.”
Kanellakos also noted that the vast majority of the city’s workforce, roughly 75 per cent, has been working in-person throughout the pandemic, he said. This includes employees from parks and recreation, waterworks and other departments largely requiring on-site work.
While roughly 96 per cent of Ottawa’s municipal workforce is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some 592 city workers were placed on leave as of Nov. 15 for not complying with the city’s mandatory vaccination policy.
“That is tough medicine, but it’s the right thing to do in my opinion,” said Mayor Jim Watson during Wednesday’s press conference.
Watson, who has said he’s lobbying Treasury Board president and Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier to bring federal public servants back to their downtown offices, also said he’s working with the city clerk’s office to return to in-person council meetings in the new year.
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