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Town considers remote working options for new administration centre

June 10, 2021   ·   0 Comments

New Tecumseth Council discussed possible new working arrangements for Town employees and the impact of remote working for Town employees during a Committee of the Whole working session on May 31.

The information was in reference to the design of a new administration centre.

“From the onset of the pandemic, the priority was to provide the highest value in the services that we provide to the community while at the same time protecting the health and well being of our employees and our community to the highest degree possible,” The Town said in a statement. “Given the current space constraints and the utilization of space in various Town administrative areas, various measures were required to be implemented very quickly such as installation of Plexiglas, redesigning traffic patterns within the buildings, a more robust cleaning protocol and enabling many of our employees to work remotely.”

Any decisions regarding remote working will not affect whether the project proceeds.

“While the formalization of remote working arrangements has no bearing on whether the project proceeds, it may impact the ultimate design and utilization of the space. In addition, pursuing a hybrid working model may provide greater flexibility to incorporate other community groups and organizations,” the statement said, adding that “future employment opportunities including a hybrid model which would see each eligible employee working both in the office as well as remotely.”

The working sessions discussed various forms of remote working including, working from home, remote working alternate working arrangements, and mobile working.

A presentation by Town CAO Blaine Parkin reported some options that were being considered.

“We’ve faced a lot of challenges but there’s also been a lot of opportunities that have come out of this and will continue to come out of this if we learn from it,” Mr. Parkin said. “I think that’s an important way of looking at what we’ve been through notwithstanding the challenges, the potential for growth, and for learning the way we do things and how we might look at doing them differently.”

Mr. Parkin said many Town employees have expressed an interest in continuing with some form of remote working arrangements.

“We’re always looking for ways to continuously improve the way we do things, the level of efficiency, and the value we provide our community,” Mr. Parkin said. “This is no different than any other things that we continuously look at for those improvement opportunities. Obviously, we want to ensure and efficient use of our new administrative space.”

Research into possible new working arrangements included looking at reports and what other municipalities are doing as well as a detailed survey with Town of New Tecumseth employees.

The findings produced a lot of positive feedback regarding remote working including reduced commuting time and associated costs, greater flexibility in hours, improved work/life balance, more comfortable working environment, and greater ability to concentrate and focus.

There were also drawbacks to remote working that have been reported.

Those include social isolation and loneliness, diminished collaboration, communication and innovation, reduced opportunities for networking, and greater challenges with bringing in new employees.

The surveys revealed that for most employees working remotely, the list of challenges with regard to actually getting the job done was actually pretty low.

Management teams reported that keeping their teams informed and engaged was fairly easy.

Of course, not all employees are able to work remotely. Many town jobs require employees to be on site to get the job done.

“Based on the research conducted, the question is not whether it will work but what is needed to make it work,” Mr. Parkin said, adding his recommendation that “Council direct staff to develop a formal remote working policy and implementation plan based on a hybrid model.”

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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