One of the big sticking points preventing a deal between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) workers and the federal government is how much work has to be done within the confines of a traditional office.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended our work norms.
Some jobs, you obviously can’t do from home. It’s hard to pound nails or pour concrete from the comfort of your couch, and countless jobs, from manufacturing to firefighting to just about everything in health care, require in-person work.
But there is a large and growing cohort of jobs that involve the manipulation of data – words, numbers, code, video – and is done entirely on a computer.
We have long had the ability to work from home, but the old norms weren’t broken up until the pandemic made it necessary.
Now there’s a concerted effort by many employers to get their workers back in the office.
There are some solid reasons for this, including the ease of face-to-face meetings – who among us actually enjoys Zoom? – and there are some reasons that are more subjective, such as the idea of having a “workplace culture.”
And on the other side of the ledger, there’s the advantages that accrue, mostly to the employees. Commuting less frequently saves time and money, and the ability to spend more time with family is a big plus.
And employees who came to enjoy those benefits of the work-from-home lifestyle aren’t going to give them up without a fight.
For those who are unionized, like PSAC, that means this issue will keep coming up, contract after contract.
And for those who aren’t in a union, it means some will vote with their feet. In a tight labour market, employers who allow partial work-from-home schedules will have an advantage in hiring.
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