The City of Winnipeg is beginning to roll out a flexible workplace program which would keep some city employees at home permanently, even once the pandemic is a thing of the past.
Back in March 2020, 1,800 city employees were sent home to work, but as the transition continues into a new normal, the city says a new way to work is also needed.
The city sent out a survey to its employees who were sent home which received a 93 per cent response rate.
Numbers from the survey show 95 per cent of employees who worked at home want to keep remote options going.
Forty-three per cent say they would choose to work remote for five days a week if given the option, while 52 per cent say they would choose 1-4 days remote.
Winnipeg CAO Michael Jack says the city is willing to listen.
“This is because we want to continue to keep our excellent employees and we want to be able to recruit them,” Jack said.
“This is where the labour market is going and this is where the world is going.”
The city is anticipating that once this project fully rolls out, 500 employees would work remotely five days a week, while 1,100 would work hybrid one to four days per week.
Jack says the initial stage has already begun which allows employees to apply with supervisor assessment and director approval.
A PowerPoint presentation obtained by Global News then says a three-month trial period would begin from June to September, and following that, a review of the trial’s progress would be done.
But a motion at city hall is asking Jack to implement an 18-month pilot project that would allow employees to work remotely a maximum of two days per week on a regular basis.
Downtown Winnipeg BIZ CEO Kate Fenske has concerns about fewer people coming to the city’s centre.
“We don’t want a city that’s a bunch of home offices. What kind of city is that?” Fenske said.
“If we think about the future of our city, how are we going to attract talent moving forward? We know that we need to have an urban, vibrant downtown. If we have a bunch of people sitting in home offices, that’s absolutely a concern for the long-term vibrancy and sustainability of our city.”
Fenske says she doesn’t expect everyone back five days a week, but finding a balance is important to make sure “the city is supporting the city.”
Patrick O’Reilly of Padraig Coaching & Consulting says while it’s important for employees to have a choice, there will be long-term things that will go away if the move to permanent remote learning becomes normal.
“We have to remember that new ideas, innovative solutions, problem-solving, trust-building, all those things happen when people get together,” said O’Reilly.
“We’ve got through it okay for two years, but I think we have to be cautious that even though it feels like a long time, it’s a very short measure on how successful it is.”
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