8 December 2021

The world has changed: Barr sets hybrid work course for ACT public servants

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr: “There will no longer be an operating requirement of compulsory attendance, if you like, at an ACT Government office building nine to five.” Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The days of nine to five, five days a week at the office are over for ACT Government public servants as they embrace a hybrid work model post-pandemic.

Last week, Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the Legislative Assembly that the world had changed and the ACT was changing with it, particularly as the government needed to offer flexible work options to attract the best staff in a highly competitive jobs market.

Asked by Liberal MLA James Milligan when public servants would be returning to the office, out of concern for struggling small businesses, Mr Barr said they would not be all returning to the office because they would be adopting a hybrid working model from now on.

“If Mr Milligan followed the budget statements he would be aware that the government is investing in a number of ACT Government workplaces, new hubs, in town centres,” Mr Barr said.

“We are decentralising our employment, so it will no longer be the case that directorate X will be in location Y. People will be able to work across a number of different ACT Government office buildings and they will undertake hybrid working arrangements that meet their needs and the needs of the business unit that they work for and ensure that they can deliver the services that are required.”

Mr Barr said public servants would be able to work at locations that are most convenient to them, including at home.

“They may well be working out of the Gungahlin ACT Government office building if they live in Gungahlin and that suits them, and they may well be working out of the Woden ACT Government building if they live in the Woden area and that suits them; similarly, in Tuggeranong, in Belconnen, in the city and in Dickson,” he said.

“So there will no longer be an operating requirement of compulsory attendance, if you like, at an ACT Government office building nine to five.”

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Asked by Liberal MLA Peter Cain how many days public servants would be in the office compared with at home, Mr Barr said it was likely to be one to two days a week in the office and the rest at home across most directorates.

“This is a global trend,” Mr Barr said. “The way we will attract and retain the highest quality staff is to have flexibility in working arrangements.

“So we will never go back to nine to five, Monday to Friday, everyone in the same office all together. That world is over, it is done.

“That is the case for all major businesses in this country as well. In fact, I think even the Commonwealth is allowing a degree of flexibility for their own public servants as well.

“The world has changed. The future of work has changed and we must be flexible and allow for hybrid working arrangements.”

Mr Barr said there would be more staff back in the office, but it would never return to what it was pre-pandemic.

“That era is over,” Mr Barr said.

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I see the lawn mowing crew are still working from home.

Good call. I think the tee pruning guys have joined them too.

Flexible work arrangements are a good idea but there are a few pitfalls. When an agency places product over presence there’s the risk that the workforce moves towards contractual arrangements rather than ongoing employment with entitlements and conditions. In addition, what I’ve seen during lockdown, with people working from home home and connecting via Office365, is that staff will often work longer hours (including on weekends) and when they’re sick and wouldn’t ordinarily come into the office.

privatepublic5:01 am 10 Dec 21

A number of ACT Gov friends work from home and not one has had a OH&S review, all are complaining about back problems and cannot afford upwards of 1000aud for a chair. Business and government spend big bucks on ergonomic items for their workplace in lessening the risk of injury/litigation.

And no the local office suppliers (monopoly) sell rubbish.

And that leads me to the point that the federal departments/agencies and business (corporates) are thinking ahead

Well your not exactly aspirational if you work for the ACT public service, so staying at home won’t hurt your prospects.

Paul Webster2:19 am 09 Dec 21

Titch titch, I shake my head. Here we go. Another carriage being added to the gravy train.

HiddenDragon8:39 pm 07 Dec 21

Some time in the next 12-18 months, we can look forward to seeing the first of the inevitable articles about how this latest management brain-wave has not quite worked out as hoped for, and has, among other things, produced an atomised and (even more) alienated workforce. The management consultants who have hitherto made hay with (but not resolved) old chestnuts like “breaking down the silos” will be able to turn their expensive attention to this.

In the meantime, it’s clearly bad news in net terms for the eco-system of businesses which have, for decades, been part of our town centres, but probably good news for traffic during “working hours” on sites such as this.

The dismissive, emphatic language used to defend this policy will also make something of a mockery of squawks from the ACT government about the impact on the ACT economy, or parts of it, of decisions of the federal government regarding the location of employment in, or away from, the ACT.

Ongoing issues with Covid probably justify lower density work environments, however, from a management perspective I can see some big issues allowing people to continue working from home.

One of the hidden risks with working from home is that the employer is liable for any work, health & safety issues in the home office environment.

I worked for a company who had a number of staff who worked outside normal hours. These staff had home offices and we had to inspect their home office every quarter to mitigate this liability.

Any small businessperson must be ruing the day they voted for this lot: no territory public servants buying goods at lunchtime now, all online from interstate and overseas. Work from home 3 days a week? No wonder our rates are sky high and services ever declining with these standards of productivity.

Scottie Zuxkerberg3:09 pm 07 Dec 21

Lovely in theory, but then so too is socialism and all that brings is misery and shared poverty.. This too will be exploited and fail and taxpayers will foot the bill for Barr’s failures…

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