Presented to the 99th Annual General Meeting

It has been a busy year since my appointment in December 2017. I have been involved in many files since that time (Employee Wellness and Support Program, Young Professionals, Public Service Employee Survey, Finance, Policy Review, etc) but I want to highlight what in my opinion is the most important to the Institute members right now.

Open Office and Activity Based Workplaces

The Government of Canada has begun introducing open-space office accommodations in some of its work locations across Canada. The objective is to support its vision of the future workplace/workforce:

  • Productive and Responsive
  • Connected and Informed Workforce
  • Results-oriented
  • Collaborative and Innovative
  • Healthy and Sustainable
  • Poised for Success in the Digital Era
  • Workplace of Choice

While the Institute does not disagree with these objectives, it appears that existing implementations leave much to be desired. PIPSC members who have been exposed to the new set-ups have expressed several concerns, such as:

  • “One size fits all” ergonomics
  • Visual and auditory distractions
  • Negative effects on mental health
  • Reduced productivity
  • Lack of workspace
  • Lack of essential tools
  • Lack of privacy
  • Not enough spaces for all employees
  • Many people cannot work from home ergonomically
  • Daily teardown and setup time

The overall argument against open-space office accommodations is that they pose a real threat to our member's professionalism - their ability to do their job. This can only have negative consequences on service delivery to Canadians.

In September we sent a conducted a survey of our members. It showed that:

  • Public service professionals can't give their best service to Canadians because of the changes to workplace configuration imposed by the government.
  • 62% of the professionals say their productivity and efficiency is worse under the new open office configuration.
  • 79% say they have a harder time focusing and concentrating.
  • 62% say access to sufficient workspace for their professional work has been made worse.

When the government first announced their plans for new workplace configurations, the promises sounded good. The workplace was supposed to be healthier and better for work but the implementation seems to have become about cutting costs and jamming people into smaller and smaller spaces.

The result is that public service professionals can't give their best professional service to Canadians. The spaces are undermining professionalism. From mental health to productivity, from collaboration to privacy, on every account our members report that the new configuration has made things worse.

We will be launching a campaign in the near future to help our leaders and members to fight these. I have been in contact with a number of consultation teams helping with their various employers implementation of Open Office and Activity Based Workplaces ahead of the campaign.

If anyone has any questions about any of my files or initiatives please get in touch with me.

In Solidarity,

Sean O’Reilly
Acting Vice-President