Get started with flexible work in the BC Public Service

Last Updated: July 20, 2021

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How do I get started?

The following are essential steps to create a flexible work arrangement:

  1. Assess your readiness to participate in a flexible work arrangement

  2. Review the information on this page and consider the flexible work guiding principles

  3. Visit the Flexible work learning resources

  4. Have a conversation with your supervisor

  5. Complete mandatory corporate training, if you haven't already:
  6. Work with your supervisor to finalize a signed Telework Agreement (DOCX, 95KB)
  7. Remember to save a copy of your signed telework agreement according to your ministry’s records management requirement


Our commitment to flexible work

The BC Public Service adapted to large-scale remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a necessary measure to ensure employee safety and reduce the risk of community spread of the virus.

Most employees working from home during the pandemic expressed a desire to continue remote working on at least a part-time basis. The BC Public Service acknowledges this preference and is committed to a sustainable approach to flexible work, balancing employee preferences, the responsibilities of the employer and our shared commitment to serving the public.

The public service supports remote work (telework) and other flexible workplace arrangements wherever the arrangement benefits both the employee and employer. This means the suitability of flexible work options vary according to specific operational requirements or employee circumstances. Service to the public remains the primary focus and employees engaged in flexible work must meet or exceed service delivery standards.


What is flexibility in the workplace?

Every employee is different. Some work well in an office with lots of activity. Others work best from home or other location outside the office.

The BC Public Service is committed to making available flexible workplace arrangements suitable for both of these work styles where the arrangement is beneficial to both the employee and their work unit. 

When considering flexible work options, including internally and externally mobile work (see below), an employee and their supervisor must observe these guiding principles:

Flexible work guiding principles

  • Participating in a flexible work arrangement is voluntary and requires the mutual agreement of the employee and supervisor
  • Flexible work is not an entitlement nor a term of employment
  • Open, ongoing communication about performance, team goals, workplace environment, scheduling changes, training and technology is key
  • The suitability of flexible 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
  • Flexible work options support the health and safety of employees
  • Flexible work options safeguard the safety and confidentiality of information

The most common form of flexible work is working remotely from home, or 'teleworking'. In addition to the above, there are several key principles related to an employee engaging in telework that also must be observed:

  • The arrangement must be operationally feasible and provide benefit to the employee and employer
  • Service standards are expected to be maintained or improved
  • The employee must attest that their home office facilities are adequate and meet safety, security and confidentiality requirements
  • Remote work should not significantly increase overall operating costs for the employer
  • Completion of a signed telework agreement is mandatory, and it must be reviewed annually
  • Telework results only in a change to the work location of an employee. Other aspects of the employment relationship – including employee benefits, entitlements, responsibilities, salary and the application of terms and conditions of employment, collective agreements and workplace policies – remain unchanged

What work options are available?

Flexible work is more than just teleworking full-time from home. There is a range of flexible work options that may be available, including being a mobile worker in a ministry office, teleworking part-time from home, or teleworking from another location offsite such as a ShareSpace office.

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

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

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 (PDF, 3.62 MB) 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 examples:

  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 
     
  2. Lara works in a cubicle which she has decorated with pictures, a plant and a calendar; she does all her work there

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.

Examples:

  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.
     
  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 MS Teams or Skype. 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.

Workpoint (PDF, 3.4MB) 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.

Examples:

  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.
     
  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.
     
  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 MS Teams or Skype, 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. 

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:

  1. 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. 

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. Any temporary out-of-province or out-of-country work arrangements must be reviewed by the Deputy Minister of the BC Public Service Agency.

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.

Examples:

  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 MS Teams or Skype to get those quick answers on the days when he's not in the office. 
     
  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 virtual collaboration 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 MS Teams or Skype when he doesn't have time to travel between buildings.

 


Managing flexible work options

If you are a supervisor or manager seeking guidance on how to manage flexible work options in your work unit, please refer to the Manager's Checklist.

Manager's checklist for flexible work