Happy National Public Service Week? Six months into RTO productivity is down, workers are dissatisfied, and most meetings are still virtual

Ottawa, June 12, 2023 – Today is the first day of National Public Service Week, a time meant to “recognize the value of the services rendered by federal public service employees.” But recent data pulled from a survey of members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) shows that the majority of these employees are not feeling valued – particularly when it comes to Return To Office (RTO) policies. 

“Six months into the implementation of a one-size-fits-all return to office order, our members report that the policy has undermined their productivity, increased their cost of living, forced them to waste time in traffic – and it hasn’t improved collaboration,” said PIPSC President Jennifer Carr. 

Seventy percent of survey respondents reported being dissatisfied with how RTO policies were implemented – citing issues like the commuting time and cost, work-life balance, and environmental impacts as top concerns. 

And contrary to the Treasury Board’s rationale behind the order, positive outcomes are hard to identify. Sixty-one percent of respondents said productivity has gotten worse, and most respondents said the impact on collaboration is at best neutral. 

Furthermore, 80% of meetings are still happening virtually. 

“Public service professionals have been ordered into an office to be part of a Zoom or Teams call they could have dialed into from home,” said Carr. “The proposed benefits of returning to the office are nowhere to be found.”

One key issue is that, in spite of having been issued a RTO directive, the majority of federal employees no longer have dedicated offices to return to – in fact, 65% of respondents are still sharing workstations. 

“At PIPSC we support the principle of “presence with purpose”: being at the office when justified by operational needs. We continue to advocate for what was promised: a hybrid-by-design approach that considers employees’ unique circumstances and job requirements,” said Carr. “It’s time for the government to work with us and develop a modern workplace that includes flexible work arrangements, properly equipped work spaces, and a high priority on health and safety.”

PIPSC represents over 72,000 public service professionals working for the federal government as well as some provincial departments and agencies. In May 2023, PIPSC conducted an online survey of more than 68,000 of its members working for Federal Departments or Agencies, to assess how the members feel after returning to the office. More than 17% responded to the survey.


For more information: Johanne Fillion, 613-883-4900 (mobile), jfillion@pipsc.ca