Flexible Workplaces

Every worker is different. Some work well in an office with lots of activity. Others work best in silence. 

Technology and new ways of working allow employees to increase their mobility. Improved work life balance and reduced transportation costs are two benefits of working outside the office, or "teleworking." The most common form of telework is working from home. Flexibility in the workplace also supports inclusive environments, opening possibilities people with disabilities.

Guiding Principles for Mobile Work Options

When considering mobile options, including internally and externally mobile work (see below), consider these guiding principles. You will be more successful in achieving work goals, safer from risk and more confident about mobile work plans.

Note that

  • Participating in a mobile work arrangement is voluntary and requires the mutual agreement of the employee and supervisor. It is not an entitlement
  • Open, ongoing communication about performance, team goals, workplace environment, scheduling changes, training and technology are key
  • The suitability of mobile work options will vary according to specific operational requirements or employee circumstances. Employees must be performing satisfactorily prior to being approved and must maintain their performance
  • Mobile work options support the health and safety of employees
  • Mobile work options safeguard the safety and confidentiality of information

 A Telework Agreement (DOCX, 95KB) must be signed by you and your supervisor for any mobile work arrangements. The agreement requires an occupational safety inspection, emergency preparedness and the employee's training in information security.

Not every mobile work option is for everyone. The fit of job duties, operational requirements, employee personality, performance goals and work style must be right.

Below are the different mobile work options and information about working with mobile colleagues. Talk with your supervisor about what could work for you.

Internally Mobile Worker

Internally mobile workers do not have a dedicated workspace at the office or at home. They work from various spaces in the office and sometimes at home depending on the day's needs.

Workpoint (PDF, 3.4MB) defines the internally mobile worker as "an employee who is at their desk less than 60 percent of the work day, does not have a dedicated workspace but does require access to a physical space in the office to interact with direct reports or clients.”

Some internally mobile workers work in the office every day, while others also telework for part of the week. Not every job is best supported by the employee working at the same fixed work station every day.

Internally Mobile Work Example 1
Jan is a facilities manager and is often on the go, meeting with different people or responding to issues. She works at a variety of mobile work areas through the week.
To be successful in her job, Jan needs a laptop and a place to sit, and the ability to take her work to meetings with stakeholders. Sometimes she has confidential meetings or phone calls to make, and for those she books a meeting room or goes to a private room set aside for private calls.  Being in the same work station every day has no particular advantage for her since she has a locker in which to store her papers, laptop and other belongings. Jan prefers the freedom of working in multiple locations depending on whom she needs to work with that day.
Internally Mobile Work Example 2
Project managers Carlos and Barb are both internally mobile workers using a "shared assigned space."  They share an office, but are seldom there at the same time. Carlos works from home Mondays and Wednesdays, and Barb usually works from home Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  Sometimes Barb needs to come in for meetings on one of Carlos' s office days; when she does, she uses a mobile work area between her meetings.
Carlos and Barb have found they need an office some days of the week to hold confidential project meetings. But neither needs an office full time, so they take turns using the office during the week. When they're working from home, they connect with their project teams via Live Meeting, Office Communicator, Lync and conference calls. One thing they've found is that they need to give clear instructions in their meeting invitations so that people attending know what kind of meeting it will be and aren't caught off guard. Barb and Carlos both notice that the telework days help them to focus on certain tasks in their job that require concentration, such as doing project status reports.

 

Externally Mobile Worker

Workpoint defines the externally mobile employee as one "whose work does not require a dedicated workspace, spends short amounts of time in the office in favour of working from home or other external locations, and uses mobile devices as their main point of content. This may include more traditional scenarios in which the employee works primarily from their home."

If you and your supervisor agree to an externally mobile work option, including an occasional one, you must establish a mutual understanding of the arrangement.

Externally Mobile Work Example 1
Katja's job involves visiting job sites and consulting with industry. She is often on the road. She has little need for face-to-face meetings with the people in her office.  She does her work in multiple locations outside of the office using a tablet, VPN and her Blackberry. She does not have a dedicated workspace in the office. Katja maintains relationships with her supervisor through regular check-ins and virtual meetings and contact with other team members at her offsite meetings.
Externally Mobile Work Example 2
Keith works several days a week at home and travels to meet with public servants at other locations. He works in the office once a week. He uses a laptop, VPN and a cell phone to do his work.
His job requires him to work at his computer doing analysis and writing. His quiet home environment supports this part of his work, while his laptop and cell phone enable him to work when he travels to other cities. Keith also needs to be part of regular team meetings. These meetings are scheduled for his day in the office. Sometimes he comes into the office on different days for a meeting to accommodate other people's schedules.
Externally Mobile Work Example 3
Cory works from home full-time using DTS and the telephone. 
He checks in with his supervisor every morning and at regular intervals through the day using Lync, but doesn't need to have regular contact with team members to do his job. His position requires him to enter data that is received via email and the telephone. His employer measures his performance by the accuracy and the volume of data entry, and by his customer service skills when dealing with the customer via email and/or on the phone. 

 

Occasional Telework, or Occasionally Working Outside the Office

Some staff work away from the office on a temporary or occasional basis. They work for a portion of their work week at an alternative or remote work location, such as their home, and spend the remaining time at the office. An employee may work from home once in a while because of circumstances (such as a snowstorm) or according to the needs of a project (the need for intensive writing to a tight deadline). 

Key to occasional telework is the supervisor's advance approval. If you anticipate working away from home due to circumstances, schedule a conversation with your supervisor.

Example of Occasional Telework
Lara normally works at the office as a resident worker but occasionally works from home.
Lara's job duties would permit her to work from home, but she prefers not to because she thrives on social contact with her colleagues. However, Lara lives on a hobby farm outside of town and sometimes feels nervous commuting during winter storms.  As a precaution, Lara talked in the fall with her supervisor about working from home during a snow storm. She sought permission from her supervisor and made sure she was set up to work from home. 

 

Out-of-Province Working Arrangements

Because employees who live or work in another province are normally subject to different tax rules and employment legislation, out-of-province working arrangements can create unanticipated obligations and liabilities for the employer.

For example, workers compensation coverage may not be available or the employee needs to be equipped for the different health safety requirements of the jurisdiction they are located in.

Such an arrangement is supported only in rare and exceptional circumstances, must be approved by an assistant deputy minister and undertaken only for a short time.

Resident Worker

A resident worker is an employee who has a dedicated workspace in a particular location for their exclusive use while at work. Many staff in the public service are resident workers.

Workpoint describes a resident worker as "an employee who is at their desk at least 60 percent of their day working on a computer, and requires a designated space with specialized IT infrastructure or access to physical shared resources to achieve work objectives."

Resident Worker Example 1
Olivia works in an office that she doesn't share with anyone else; her office is not used as a workspace by other staff. 
Resident Worker Example 2
Lara works in a cubicle which she has decorated with pictures, a plant and a calendar; she does all her work there.

 

Working With Mobile Colleagues

Olivia and Lara are not mobile workers, but some of their colleagues may be. To support their colleagues and work successfully in a team with mobile workers, they may need to learn new communicating skills or change some habits.

Working With Mobile Colleagues Example 1
Olivia is used to walking down the hall to clarify quick questions with her colleague Rahim. Rahim has started working from home once a week to facilitate some writing he is doing. For a while, Olivia thought that Rahim wasn't at work when he wasn’t at the office. Now, rather than waiting until he returns to the office, Olivia has trained herself to call Rahim or connect with him using Lync to get those quick answers on the days when he's not in the office. 
Working With Mobile Colleagues Example 2
Lara collaborates often with her colleagues Nancy and Rolf. They sometimes work on documents together at their meetings. Now, Nancy sometimes works at home three days a week and can't always come to the face-to-face meetings. Rolf works in another building nearby.
Rather than schedule all their meetings for days when Nancy is in the office, all three improved their Lync skills and can work on documents together regardless of where they're located, and without sending the documents back and forth via email.  Sometimes Rolf goes to Lara's building to attend the meeting with Lara in person, and sometimes he attends via Lync when he doesn't have time to travel between buildings.