Above: Chief Staff Officer, Commander Dr. Daryl Dendyal
BitDepth #1375 on October 10, 2022
When the Prime Minister announced after reading the budget last week that the government is not following a work from home (WFH) policy, it was a nationwide rejection of the concept.
This decision should represent a collective decision by the Cabinet that claims to pursue digital transformation, but has now declared that the productivity problems that the public sector has faced under covid19 restrictions are insurmountable, at least at this time.
This followed a statement by former Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambarat in March that the policy of the World Health Organization is being followed.
In July 2022 Minister for Public Administration Alison West promised that government policy for the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) would be completed by the end of the year and be circulated to all ministries.
If West and Ramparat are true to their word, the policy of the WHA government is “no.” Which will be the most succinct government policy statement ever issued.
What is the government giving up by refusing to consider the WFH’s arrangements for public servants with any seriousness or enthusiasm?
The Telecommuting Improvement Act of 2010 codifies how telecommuting is performed in the United States public service.
Among the specifications you specify is the difference between teleworking (the employee is required to inform the office of a rare but specific schedule) and telecommuting, where the home becomes the office, and the headquarters is visited only when needed.
In a webinar in June 2021, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asked these very relevant questions.
“What has been learned about telecommuting in the past year? How do public servants expect to work in the future? How can governments design new policies today to bridge the gap?”
At an AMCHAM webinar in July 2021, Director of Personnel Daryl Dendall outlined the situation facing the public service.
“In the first wave, there was a huge loss in productivity, because the system wasn’t there. Over the course of a few months or so, a lot of people started using and understanding the importance of maximizing the technologies available to them and there was a better understanding of how to use what was there to keep working, But there are still major challenges with monitoring and assessing what happens when people aren’t [present] in any workplace.
Is the Prime Minister right when he points out that “some people don’t even work in the office?”
The inability to establish an effective relationship between employment presence and measurable output is not just a problem in WFH scenarios.
Remote monitoring solutions such as mouse click, push-button monitoring and remote document monitoring have only created environments of annoyance and resentment that parallel the ‘next masa’ response to in-person supervisor monitoring.
When performance indicators are present in the workplace and agreed between management and work, the style and achievement of work changes fundamentally.
The OECD found that “the association of presence with productivity is being superseded in most knowledge-based (and office) workplaces with an emphasis on outcomes and outcomes.”
“Modern management should care less about the number of hours in the office than with the quality and quantity that an employee can produce, no matter where he does it.”
Focus on the factor
Leader Dendial noted that an important feature of remote work is the ability of workers to drive themselves.
“Public perception and the perception of public officials if they are not properly monitored and evaluated, what will they do when they are in their own space, in their own environment? Will they lead the work as we expect them to?” said Dendial.
Not every worker will be able to work remotely. Some jobs require an in-person presence, but among knowledge workers, the assumption has to start from the situation in which teleworking can be done.
Working remotely is not the easiest. Employees face the dual challenge of completing tasks while ensuring that they are part of the organization’s formal and informal knowledge transfer networks.
WFH’s successful implementations reflect the importance of ensuring that everyone feels part of the workforce.
Public Service Challenge in Trinidad and Tobago
Commander Dendial noted that the Personnel Office is assessing jobs in the public service to identify skills gaps, and considering ICT training necessary to adapt the public sector to a planned digital transformation exercise.
A public service IT survey suggested that 42 percent of responding ministries could do remote work before the covid19 shutdown, but they did not. Ninety-two percent have the necessary ICT staff and are looking to hire more.
But the Personnel Office found that the ICT skills available in many ministries were not at the level or profile required for the proposed digital transformation upgrades.
It is also worth noting that under current law, only permanent secretaries are eligible to work remotely due to their designation as accounting officers.
Any change in law must be accompanied by the implementation of a government policy for public officials. As it stands, that is not likely to happen.
The OECD found that “Trust is an essential aspect of a positive workplace culture. In some cases, remote work may have helped improve trust by demonstrating that presence is not a prerequisite for productivity.”
Unfortunately, the government’s statements about WFH suggest that it discovered something different at the TT Public Service. This should be a matter of urgent investigation and analysis.
Effective remote work isn’t really about the fantasy of working at the beach with an iced drink by your side.
Being able to schedule work around subordinate responsibilities, work at your biological peak and work in personally inspiring environments with clear goals is a more compelling motivator.
Inability to offer remote work as an option for the type of employees you hope to attract to digital transformation will compound poor wages compared to the private sector, arbitrary traffic congestion, limited advancement opportunities and crippling bureaucracy as disincentives for the exact type of talent. It can transform the public service.
#public #service #work #remotely