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Hybrid Workplace Series: Modernizing Our Workplaces and Workspaces (TRN5-V26)


This event recording provides a snapshot of hybrid work arrangements and the thinking behind new workplace models for public servants that are designed specifically to encourage flexibility, engagement and productivity.

Duration: 01:33:52

Published: February 16, 2023

Type: Video

Event: Hybrid Workplace Series: Modernizing Our Workplaces and Workspaces

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Hybrid Workplace Series: Modernizing Our Workplaces and Workspaces

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Transcript: Hybrid Workplace Series: Modernizing Our Workplaces and Workspaces

[CSPS logo appears on screen. Text on screen Webcast/Webdiffusion]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Hello everyone, and welcome. My name is Myra Latendresse-Drapeau. I'm the Director General of Transferable Skills at the Canada School of Public Service. I'll be your host today, joining you from Ottawa/Gatineau, on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. Some of you may be joining from various parts of this country, and I encourage you to take a moment to recognize and acknowledge the territory that you are occupying.

To enhance your viewing experience, we encourage you to disconnect from the VPN, if possible. Try to disconnect from a VPN if possible. Please note that today's event is bilingual and that we have simultaneous interpretation, and CART services available to you in both official languages. You can refer to the reminder email that you received from the school, or you could visit the V Expo to learn how to access these features.

So, we'll be taking questions throughout the event via the Collaborate video platform. To submit the questions, click on the bubble icon. You can start now. You won't see your questions appear in the chat, but the moderator will be receiving them. We'll try to get to as many as time will permit today. We encourage you to participate in the language of your choice. Thank you very much for joining us today in such large numbers. We have a big turnout for this first event in the Hybrid Workplace Series, which is being rolled out today.

As so many departments and agencies are moving to a hybrid workplace environment, and also for those who may already have been working in a hybrid mode, the Canada School of Public Service is kicking off today, this Hybrid Workplace Series.

So, throughout this series, we'll hear from different speakers talking about the mindsets, the skill sets, and also the tool sets that can help us all, well first, see what hybrid can look like from a Government of Canada perspective. Also, better understand the power and the practice of hybrid, so we can all better navigate this environment. And we'll also start exploring what the future of work may hold for us as public servants.

So, we do recognize that departments are all at different stages of implementing hybrid, and that although some of you have had experience virtual or distributed work in the past, this widespread shift to hybrid is very new to a lot of us. And so collectively, organizationally, but also individually, we're experimenting. We're trying new things, we're trying to figure out what works best, and in which context. But it's not always easy.

And as you know, every day, on all platforms, we're seeing new articles on the topic. And what's becoming increasingly clear is that even though we're searching very, very hard, there's no one right way of going about it, no one right answer to this question. So, the purpose of this series of events is not really to look for that one solution, but rather a way to keep an open mind, explore perspectives that can help us navigate the transition, develop skills and discover the tools that are available to us. So, it's an ever-changing environment, and that's why the experts who are coming to talk to us throughout this series are going to approach it from specific angles that are rooted in their own experience and expertise.

Today's event is a good example of this, as it will provide a snapshot of different hybrid work arrangements, and the thinking behind new workplace models for public servants that are designed specifically to encourage flexibility, engagement and productivity.

So, on that note, I'm now pleased to introduce Sonia Powell, Director General of Workplace Solutions at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau and Sonia Powell appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Sonia Powell has been assigned as the Service Lead for the Real Property Branch's Accommodation Management and Workplace Solutions service line since February 2016. Sonia is accountable for delivery of the annual fit-up program and for modernizing the Government of Canada workplace. She has received a number of awards recognizing her work in the real property community. She also holds the position of President of the Real Property Institute of Canada Board of Directors, and has been on the Institute's Board of Directors since 2015. So, she has a great deal of experience.

Welcome Sonia. And I'm giving the floor over to you.

[Sonia Powell appears on screen. Text on screen "Twitter: @ItsSoniaPowell]

Sonia Powell: Okay, great. Thank you. Hello everyone, good afternoon, and welcome. I'm very pleased to be with you today to open this first session of the Hybrid Workplace Series. This is an initiative that is very important to me. I wanted to start by saying, let's face it, we've had a lot of disruption over the past few years, and I feel the time is coming where we're able to start to shift that conversation from the immediate response to the pandemic and our own well-being, to looking beyond the crisis and adding to the conversation that we've been having. And to look, perhaps together, to building a workplace that's not just for the next 10 months, but for the next 10 years and reimagining what the possibilities are.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; Image of a smiling young woman. Text on screen "GCworkplace; The hybrid workplace; Modernizing our workplaces and workspaces; Milieu de travail GC; Le milieu de travail hybride; La modernisation de nos milieux et espaces de travail »]

Sonia Powell: My team and I, we spend a lot of time thinking about workplace. We research how space is used, and while our focus tends to be on the office, we do take our cues from what's going on around us. We're looking at signals and trends in real estate and digital and in society, and we look at the public sector, the private sector from around the world. And I meet regularly with my counterparts at all levels of government here in Canada and abroad, and we share. We also listen and we observe.

So, we're trying to leverage the best thinking that's in universities around the country. And of course, we're listening to feedback from our most important stakeholders, our users. That's you. Public servants from across the country that are working in different departments, doing different jobs.

So, our big challenge is to design workplaces that help you do your jobs better, that are flexible to meet your various and changing needs and are adaptable because how and where we work is changing dramatically.

So, you can count on me to be candid, to present you with the best practices in my area of expertise while being aware that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of steering the entire public service in this direction. 

I think the future of work is incredibly exciting. We're living it now. It's also bound to change. So, for the next few minutes, I'd like to share with you what workplace can do for you, and for all of us.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; Four images of modern workspaces. Text on screen "Qu'est-ce que hybride?; What is hybrid?"]

Sonia Powell: Next slide, please.

The workplace that I imagine is not just one thing. It's not one-size-fits-all, but it's also not random. It's intentional. It's inclusive by design. So, how can we make that work in hybrid environment, when the workforce that it needs to support is not always there in the workplace? When the workforce can work from anywhere? And at the same time, some operations can only be done in one place for a variety of reasons.

One thing that we've heard from employees is that they want flexibility. They want options. They want to come together and work with their teams, but they want to also feel part of something, whether it's their team or the department, feel like they're contributing to something meaningful. And for some, they want routine or at least predictability. But one thing is for sure, that a single person's bias or personal preferences will not satisfy the needs of everyone.

So, for my team, our response to this diversity of needs is to offer variety and choice. So, we're providing a range of options that together provide flexibility. Different work points mean you choose the work setting that works best for you, or for your team, as it happens. And different locations are going to provide different options. So, there may be ones that are closer to home or your schools, or perhaps your clients, or places where you might have an appointment.

So, instead of a single workspace, employees have access to a variety of spaces within a micro-work system. Each of these spaces can meet specific needs. Some are better suited to support group work, others for work requiring individual concentration in quieter areas, and some include specialized equipment.

So, these options that I'm talking about, they're not intended to be used all the time or all at once. And a flexible model adapts based on how often, or how little, employees actually use the space. And I think the pandemic provided a unique opportunity for departments and agencies to invest in digital, rethink their workplaces, experiment with new ways of working, but there's much more to do to modernize all of our office spaces across the country, and it's going to take many years. Therefore, investing heavily in modernization and flexible options, like GCcoworking to provide early access to modernized workplaces, like the ones you're seeing in the slide above here, is going to give participating departments access to these spaces right away. So, that's definitely part of the solutions that we want to provide. Next slide, please.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; slide shows a diverse group of workers inside a circle. One edge of the circle shows icons representing different means of transportation: walking; biking; public transit. The opposite edge of the circle shows icons representing different workspaces: Home; GCcoworking; Hub; Other.]

Sonia Powell: So, I'm talking about things, what does it look like in government?

What does this hybrid model look like in the Government of Canada? It's a network of spaces, including the hub, or main hub of a department, in addition to various other space options that you see on the screen. We talk about federal spaces, but we acknowledge that sometimes people work from home, from a public space or other; however, we're all connected and have access to relevant information through a secure network or Wi-Fi connection, and we're able to use our software and collaborative tools. It's important to note that each department is adjusting its hybrid work approach to meet its specific needs. Some departments had already started their modernization process prior to the pandemic. They are ahead of the curve, but they had to be pioneers to operate in an uncertain environment.

Other departments have opted to focus on other areas of their business, and they're adapting and adjusting in other ways. They'll have the benefit of the experience of those who have gone before them to inform their workplace strategies. If you've heard me speak before, you've probably heard me say at one point or another, workplace transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. And part of making the whole ecosystem function is to allow for the fact that departments and employees are not all in the same place. There is something for everyone. And the time to let the results of our experimentation and the user feedback that comes with it inform the way forward.

So, you might have heard about Hub-and-Spoke, it's a simple model, really. It was designed to reflect what we've heard from employees, and what we learned from previous workplace projects. And little secret, they weren't always successful. But the trends are not just in workplaces, but in other areas that I spoke of earlier. These are informing things, and let's not forget that part of this complexity of the workplaces is that we have a mandate to provide quality workplaces that are optimized, that are green and accessible. So, difficult problem to solve. We're not going to solve it all in one day. But we think that this Hub-and-Spoke idea is a winning strategy.

So, what is it? The hubs are the centres for leadership and departmental culture. You would expect to find your senior leadership there, as well as supporting functions like perhaps cabinet affairs and specialty functions that are difficult to locate in shared spaces. You'd likely find yourself going there for onboarding activities, departmental training and town halls and team meetings. These are great places for new employees to get to understand how things are done in their department. It could be your national headquarters or your regional headquarters. These are expected also to be fairly static. And by that I mean they don't change much after time. After all, these spaces are purpose-built. They often have specialized security and they take a long time to build and they're expensive to fit up. But they provide stability for a department at their core.

What the spokes do is provide you flexibility. These are what I refer to as "sometimes spaces," and just like a wheel, there are a lot more spokes than hubs. They're located anywhere across the country, and they can take many forms. They're comprised of operational sites, alternative federal work sites like GC co-working, which are shared interdepartmental space. Hopefully, some of you have used these in the past. And the spokes also provide additional office space to support the breadth of the workforce.

If we can maybe go to the next slide.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; slide shows three images of modern workspaces. Text on screen "What are the benefits?; Quels sont les avantages? »]

Sonia Powell: Speaking of benefits, the ultimate goal is to provide a great workplace that enables employees to better serve Canadians through a flexible real property portfolio. These shared spaces provide agility. They can be built quickly, and PSPC is experimenting with new service delivery models to provide modernized workplaces faster. These include furniture first solutions, like our workplace transformation projects. And some of our panellists are from departments that are leveraging these as a solution. And our brand-new spaces service procurement vehicle that we are piloting in the NCA.

So, if you've heard of software as a service, or cloud, well, we're seeing how that might apply to real property. So, innovation lens that we're applying to our business.

Together, the hub-and-spoke model provides options that meet the operational needs of departments and the increased demand for flexibility in our workforce. It also provides modernized workplace options for departments with traditional workplaces that are looking to explore new approaches.

Another feature of the model is this ability to leverage a decentralized national workforce, by having more smaller work sites and then providing even more flexibility by having multiple departments share a location, we're able to really focus our investments, and allow us to stretch every dollar. For departments, they're able to access talent where talent is at, without the need to bring folks into metropolitan areas that are traditionally associated with many headquarters' functions. And this decentralization at the city level, the regional and the national levels, offers employees flexibility on where to work.

It also offers departments that flexibility on where to hire, accessing a more diverse workforce, and enabling greater inclusivity. There's still work to be done on the people management side to enable all this, but it's a trend that we see and that we hope continues. And when HR cracks that nut, our workplace strategy will be in place to enable it. Experimentation, management, leadership, open employee consultation. These things will enable departments to make data driven, evidence-based decision, guiding them to find the mix of spaces that meets their departmental needs, and best fits their workforce.

We're not approaching the existing portfolio from the perspective of, what space do we have, and how can we keep as much of it as possible? But instead, we're looking at how much space do we need if we have a flexible, mobile workforce? And where should it be located? How do we right-size these hubs and spokes locations as part of this digitally enabled and connected network of spaces, the ecosystem I referred to.

So, when we use space efficiently, and it's aligned to how organizations and employees work is evolving, we start to see some secondary benefits emerging. There are some significant green savings. The greenest meter squared is the one you don't buy. Which means we can afford to recapitalize and green the existing inventory, green our operations. And the important reduction in greenhouse gases that results from less commuting, from remote working, and offering federal work sites closer to home, where greener options like cycling and walking are possible, they're substantial.

And then from employees, we have choices on where and how to work, enabling us to make decisions that allow for a better work/life balance, increasing engagement, job satisfaction, hopefully reducing staff turnover. These are often coupled with increased sentiments of well-being from reduced stress and options for healthy choices.

So, it really is a package deal that we're talking about. Next slide.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; slide shows a path of icons representing different stages of adoption plan. Text on screen "How do we adopt Hybrid?

  1. Create a Transformation team.
  2. Connect and collaborate with employees and stakeholders.
  3. Evaluate and select sites.
  4. Prepare the worksites.
  5. Establish an experimentation plan.
  6. Plan for onsite resources and eventualities. Launch!; Comment adopter le modèle hybride?
  1. Mettre en place une équipe de la transformation.
  2. Communiquer et collaborer avec le personnel et les parties prenantes.
  3. Èvaluer et choisir les emplacements.
  4. Préparer les lieux de travail.
  5. Ètablir un plan d'expérimentation.
  6. Prévoir des ressources sur place et les éventualités. Lancement »]

Sonia Powell: This is a bit of the "how to". It sounds maybe a little bit like utopia, and how do we do that? I think that the gradual reintegration into the workplace provides some clues.

With a little foresight and some planning, your return to the office can start to inform your future needs. We broke down the process into six steps, which you see here. They're quick to write down, but they do take time to work through. So, that's something we need to keep in mind. We have a guide that we've created and it's available to all departments on our GCpedia page. So, if you're interested in more details about this, I'd offer you to go and check it out. As part of this, we encourage teams to talk to each other. We have facilitated connections to help share lessons learned and ideas and strategies.

The steps seem simple but there are a few key factors for success. Planning, providing change leadership through senior management and listening to employees.

As an employee, what can you expect? I think we should expect employee iteration and experimentation. I think I said earlier, there's no one-size-fits-all. There's also no magic, it takes hard work. It really does. We're advocating for shared spaces, and although this is a little bit controversial, it might be a little less so than it once was. Our pre-pandemic model of workplace assigned spaces was wasteful. In a hybrid model, that's even accentuated. So, it means that you can expect the need to clean up your old office space. It means removing personal effects, removing business documents that are no longer needed, that dreaded paper cleanup we hear of sometimes.

And you need to keep using the muscles that you've developed over the pandemic. Learning new tools, new ways to connect and collaborate, and get better and better at being inclusive during your meetings. Try new things out. Try working asynchronously with colleagues and see how you can be efficient, even when you're not in the same room together. Part of this national workforce is saying there are times when we can all come together and times when we can't. So, let's experiment with the fact that we're not always in the same room together. Share your experiences with experimentation, good or bad, so that others can learn from them. I think we also need to be mindful of how we express things, because that really matters.

And finally, have an open mind. Your colleagues are working really hard to find solutions to a complex problem. They are working with your interests in mind, and they're trying to balance the operational needs of your department. They are likely trying to find some new things like gathering data, planning for new ways to serve the occupational health and safety functions, like floor wardens and first aiders. They're probably trying to figure out a bunch of IT things, like ensuring you have enough bandwidth, updating boardroom technology, and new things like space-booking tools.

So, each department must take into consideration their spaces, cultures and technology in order to adopt a hybrid work model. Ask questions, be researchers, be open and share your experiences.

Let's start. Take the first step and try it. That's part of coming up with a solution together. Next slide please.

[00:20:48 Split screen: Sonia Powell; a map of Canada shows the current locations of government headquarters; regional offices and mobile workforce. An arrow points to a larger map of Canada which shows many more mobile workforce locations.

Text on screen "Bolder, Broader; 'Hybrid it can support a more nationally distributed and connected workforce and give employees increased flexibility that supports their well-being' – Janice Charette; Audacieux, Vaste; 'Le modèle de travail peut favoriser une main-d'œuvre plus répartie et connectée à l'échelle nationale et offrir aux employés une plus grande flexibilité propice à leur bein-être' – Janice Charette »]

Sonia Powell: This is showing what some of our strategy can look like in implementation, and how the distribution of our workplace can change. Our allies in some of the national public services around the world have started to decentralize, and I think it provides tremendous opportunities. But there's no formalized announcement in the Government of Canada, but we do see the trend of recruiting across the country continuing. And if we can work remotely, is there still a need to hire locally? Or can a distributed national workforce be envisioned? So, these are some of the big questions of the future, and I think our strategy can adjust because the Hub-and-Spoke model is adaptable to these changing needs. It's responsive to it.

A first step at "Bolder" I think would be to create a GC co-working site in every federal building. This would allow use of that asset by any department, in locations where they don't necessarily have a presence yet. Employees in these areas could drop into federal workplaces and have an office environment when they need it, including access to equipment or tools.

And to go "Broader," PSPC offers this matchmaking program that connects departments needing space with other departments who have extra. It's a way to start small with spaces you already have, and see if there's any barriers like security, connecting to a network, booking a workstation, this kind of thing that needs to be resolved.

So, we continue to test and pilot ideas. We also recognize that good ideas are sometimes ahead of their time. So, we don't always introduce things right away, even when we have really good experiences with them. Next slide.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; images of urban environments showing public transit, pedestrian zoned streets, and "green-scaped" buildings.]

Sonia Powell: These are a little bit aspirational comments, I think.

Let's dream a little bigger for a moment about a possible future. For example, how should we contribute to the 15-minute neighbourhood concept that many large cities, including Ottawa, are trying to implement? This strategy is aimed at making all citizen services, private and public, available within fifteen minutes of their homes, a neighbourhood approach if you will. A public service that is no longer located in the nation's capital or represented by a featureless concrete tower, but present in every community, employing members in each, reflecting the diversity of experiences, perspectives and communities.

Creating this one GC experience going even beyond simply federal spaces. The possibility of collaboration with all levels of government. Imagine co-working sites where any public servant, whether they're municipal, territorial, provincial, federal first nation, can collaborate and work together in their communities. Service centres where you can file for a building permit, a provincial license and your federal passport in a single location.

These are things that we're envisioning and imagining in a future government that can work for Canadians within their own communities. Next slide.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; text on screen "'As we establish how we will operate now and in the future, we have an opportunity to blend the best of our traditions while leveraging emerging workplace models to foster a diverse and healthy public service that is trusted to effectively deliver for Canadians.' – Janice Charette; 'Au moment de dèfinir quell sera notre mode de fonctionnement, maintenant et à l'avenir, nous avons l'occasion de combiner ce que nos traditions ont de Meilleur tout en tirant parti des modèles de milieu de travail naissants pour favoriser une function publique saine et placée sous le signe de la diversité, à laquelle on fait confiance pour bien servir la population Canadienne.' – Janice Charette »]

Sonia Powell: So, this is a quote that I really hold near and dear to my heart. I think that we're in an exciting moment for the public service. We have an opportunity not only to influence, but change how we work; improve how we serve and represent Canadians. And now's the time to experiment with the hybrid model, to collect feedback from our employees, act and make the workplace about the future of work for Canadians. And this is what this session is all about.

[Split screen: Sonia Powell; image a large group of workers seated in a semi-circle, listening to a presentation; Text on screen 'Merci'; 'Thank you', and Sonia Powell's contact information:]

It's my pleasure to welcome you again to this first session of the Hybrid Workplace Series. You're going to hear from forward-thinking leaders and you'll have the opportunity to participate, share your ideas and ask your questions. So, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share my ideas with you.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau and Sonia Powell appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: It's a pleasure to have you with us, Sonia. And again, thank you very much! Your insights are a great reminder that our workplace is both a space and a culture, and also a technology.

So, today we'll focus more on the space, but, of course, these two elements are really intrinsically linked. And so, we'll explore all of that. I also appreciated the call that you made for all of us to keep an open mind, and really start imagining together what the future of the public service can look like.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau appears full screen]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: So, we're now going to move on to the next part of our event where we're going to have additional guests joining us. So, we have three wonderful panellists today, and Sonia, of course you are welcome to participate in the panel discussion.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: So, it's my pleasure to first introduce Supriya Edwards. Supriya is the Director General of the Workforce and Workplace Branch at Statistics Canada.

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: She's also their Chief Human Resources Officer, and Chief Security Officer.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: And for the past 20 years, she's worked in various roles that focused on people management, on labour relations, on values and ethics. Welcome Supriya.

Second panellist, Simon Gascon.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Simon works at Public Services and Procurement Canada. He's the Senior Director of Service Strategy and Interior Design.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Simon has been a senior manager for about 10 years and specializes in assisting organizations dealing with major transformations.

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Finally, Heather Ray.

[Heather Ray appears full screen]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Heather is the Senior Manager of Strategic Accommodations at Shared Services Canada.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: She's been leading workplace modernization for this department since 2015, no, 2017. And she's passionate about workplace transformation and change management. So, Sonia, Supriya, Simon, Heather will be happy to answer your questions as they come. As I said before, you can submit your questions using the bubble icon. We already have a few that we're going to try to go through.

Maybe we can start with one that I may ask to Heather. So, returning to the office has been quite an experience. Most of us have been through it, and we know that it can create some stress, some anxiety, even some people have felt a little bit of a frustration. What would you say to employees who haven't yet experienced a hybrid workforce model, and that are a little bit maybe anxious to return to the workplace?

Heather Ray: Yes, so that's a great question. So, I think hybrid, as Sonia mentioned, it's a new concept for all of us. So, just as employees are feeling a little bit anxious, as too are the people that are responsible for putting all of these new measures in place.

[Heather Ray appears full screen. Text on screen "Twitter: @heath_ray"]

Heather Ray: So, I would encourage all of us to keep an open mind when it comes to the hybrid work model and the return to the workplace. So, employees, I think at this point in time are going through a full range of emotions, just as they did in March 2020. We were suddenly asked to work from home, and it was a little bit of a shock.

Well, now as we prepare to return to the workplace, we're kind of going through those same emotions again. So, it was uncomfortable for a bit. But with time we started to adapt and adjust, and we got used to this new working arrangement. So, now as we return, we prepare to return to the office in a hybrid way. There's obviously lots of questions and that's normal, just as there was lots of questions in March 2020. We've never done this work arrangement before. We're very much used to in-office work pre-pandemic, and then we adapted over the last two and a half years to this remote way of working. And now we're looking to embark on a mix of both in-office and remote. So, again, a change.

So, what I would say to public servants would be to encourage employees to embrace this opportunity. It's not often that public service gets a chance to be part of such a large-scale transformation initiative. I would say go into the office, test things out, like Sonia was saying. Ask questions, join meetings, go in, join meetings remotely when you have a mix of onsite and remote participants. See what works, see what doesn't, and make sure you're giving us that feedback.

Help us establish what works, and where the challenges may lie, so that we can then take that feedback and weave it into the new workplace model that we're trying to work towards. This feedback will help guide the workplace of the future, and this is one that you're being given the opportunity to help shape right now, which I think is pretty neat.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Yes, well, absolutely. And talking about experimenting and trying new things, one of the things that I saw a lot is different types of zones for different types of work on office floors. Also, unassigned desks, different closed rooms for people who want to make calls, et cetera. So, it feels like there's a lot of novelty. A lot of change can sometimes be a little bit disorienting.

From a change management perspective, what can we do to help? To provide that direction, and maybe even that sense of belonging that Sonia was referring to earlier?

Heather Ray: Yes. So, I think it's completely understandable to have these questions and to be not so sure, because like you said, there is a huge variety of workplace options that public servants aren't necessarily used to.

[Heather Ray appears full screen.]

Heather Ray: It's a big change to the way we worked in the past. Some employees have worked 20, 30 years in an assigned cubicle setup. So, now as we're trying to bring people back to the workplace, we're telling them that that assigned cubicle is no longer going to be the way that we work. So, of course, this can be definitely overwhelming.

At my department, we embarked on workplace modernization a few years before the pandemic. When we first started working with employees who were amongst the first group that was going to be relocated to this new environment, we saw a whole range of emotions.

So, we saw people who were very excited about this, they thought this was a great thing. To the complete opposite where we had doors being slammed in our face, and people telling us that they were going to retire if this was forced upon them. So, this is completely normal because people adapt to these new changes on different scales.

So, what we did is, with the proper support mechanisms and really working, you've got to put in the time, and you've got to work with the employee level, with the management level, with the senior management level, and make sure everybody understands the why, and take them through the steps to enable this proper transformation. And with that work, we were able to successfully transition these employees over to this new way of working. And so much so that we now have some of those huge resistors that have now become our biggest space ambassadors and our biggest space promoters.

So, I'm saying this, not to show you that it's all rosy, but just to show you that with patience, and with working together, we can make this into something fantastic. Even if, on the onset, it doesn't seem like it could be something fantastic, you have to give it a chance. You've got to be patient, and you've got to give it a chance, and you've got to jump in. So, I think that's really important.

I also think it's really important that employees understand that these new workplaces are being built based on employee consultation. We're not just dictating what the new future of work is going to look like. We're really reaching out to employees to see what they want in the workplace. So, employees were surveyed, they were consulted, and based on these survey results, this is where this new workplace design came from.

And the beauty of these new flexible environments is that they can be adapted to the changing world around us. We were lucky in a sense that we had already embarked on this journey pre-pandemic, because we could easily pivot to this new reality when the pandemic hit us. If we hadn't have embarked on that, it would've been a little bit more of a struggle for our department. So, there's definitely benefits to this new way of working.

And like Sonia said, it's going to take some time to get used to working in these new, new environments, but you have to give yourself a chance to do that. And if you do, if you embrace these new setups, I think you're going to be surprised to see that these work points, and all of these zones that are out there, can actually make for a really great onsite employee experience. But you have to give it a chance. You've got to go in, you've got to test it, and you've got to try it with that open mind. And I think if you do that, I think then we'll be successful in this.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panel]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: So, we can all became space ambassadors. It's funny when I hear that expression, I think about like helmets and cosmonauts, but this is giving it a new meaning. Thank you, Heather. You're bringing us to a little bit more of the concreteness of the experience of the physical offices. And we have a few questions that are popping up that are related to that. Simon, maybe I can give the floor to you to address one of the scenarios that came up in the questions. For some of us, one of the fears we have is that we will end up working behind our screens, virtually, once we've made the effort to return to the office in person. What can we do to try to avoid this situation when possible?

Simon Gascon: That's a very good question, and I'm pleased to be here today. In order to answer this, I would like to give you a bit of background on the kind of work we do, because I'm actually a member of Sonia's team.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: When we keep up to date, we keep up. Yesterday, there was an excellent article in Policy Actions, it's our dear friend Catherine May, and I'm going to read a quote from the clerk to better answer this question. Ms. Charette said, and I'll read it in English, she expects managers will bring employees to the office for a purpose, and for the time it makes sense to be there. It's widely expected that remote work will be for the hard concentration work that needs quiet. The office will be for softer tasks such as collaborating and brainstorming. So, does it make sense for people to come to the office to sit in front of a computer screen and be on Microsoft teams calls all day? Absolutely not, she says. We have to be purposeful. Managers need to be purposeful about what they are bringing people into the office for.

So, this quote allows me to open up the discussion a bit to this end and answer some employees' questions on the topic of why we should go back to the office. It's clear that my team is in charge of all the strategies, and I also have a team that is responsible for interior design, which is evolving quickly. We had coworking facilities that were already in place. Many of you, there are 38 departments that are members, are already successfully using them. But we're seeing a growing number of people returning to the office, so for these collaborative aspects, they want to have access to larger conference rooms, they also want access to brainstorming technologies that enable people in the room to work together with people located elsewhere. So, we're reviewing our methods and structure. There are existing examples such as the Conference Centre that was available at Place du Portage, where we had access to small conference rooms and very large ones, this is the same sort of concept that we want to start implementing and working with in the various departments.

When we talk about collaboration, we are also talking about the ability to use the national collaboration perspective. So, to have different people's points of view on various issues. Then technology becomes increasingly important. If I have a meeting with you, Myra, with Heather, with Supriya, with Sonia, everyone should be able to easily use the technology that is available, and we're working closely with our wonderful colleagues in Shared Services to standardize this approach and update all of these conference rooms as quickly as possible.

So, it's interesting to see how even our models, which we thought were up to date and had been establishing trends that were strategically well positioned, must once again evolve quickly given the new circumstances. And I'd like to return briefly to what Heather was saying because we're really in a transformational phase. And for those who know me or have heard me speak in other settings, you know that I'm a big sports fan and the analogy that I'd use for this is that there is no Olympic athlete or there aren't many that I know who have made it to an Olympic level by virtue of being comfortable, and it's this period of transformation that we're experiencing within the public service. I think it's important to keep that in mind.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panel]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Yes, absolutely. We all experience this feeling of discomfort, but it's a learning process and there are many factors that I think are aimed at accelerating this learning process and improving our comfort level very quickly. There are many options, for example, I have seen offices with a treadmill installed so that staff have the option to walk while attending meetings. There are questions concerning health and well-being. Do we have health and well-being spaces that can be integrated into these new models?

Sonia, Simon, I guess you guys may be in the best position to answer those questions about some of the features that may be here today and that we can invite people to take advantage of, or what's part of the possible? What is part of what you are hearing that could be a trend moving forward, or could be real moving forward?

Simon Gascon: So, Myra, do you want me to start, and I'll go to you to add? So, I really like this question because there's a lot of stuff that I'm super proud to talk about.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: from the work that is being done in collaboration. And we meet with our colleagues in the real property world every two weeks, and we feed each other all kinds of information.

So, in these new environments, first and foremost, I would like to talk about the accessibility and the inclusivity of the design. We have worked with the folks from all kinds of communities representing different accessibility issues that wanted to talk to us. We have produced over eight reports on these issues. And I can say that we've worked, of course, with many organizations, Treasury Board, internal and external, to the federal public service, and universities. And I have to say that the GCworkplace, the way it is currently designed, is the most accessible that we've ever had in terms of general office space. So, it's still not perfect, but it's certainly the best we've ever had. And the best part is that we keep learning about it, and we keep integrating all the feedback that we get on that front.

To me, Truth and Reconciliation is very important. And we have indigenous design guidelines, and I am very proud of these guidelines because they were built, again, in full collaboration with many representatives of the various indigenous communities across the country. And so what we're trying to do now is to incorporate these design guidelines in everything that we do. So, don't be surprised if you see more and more and more representations from the various indigenous communities across Canada because there's a lot of variations, and a lot of differences between them. And so, what we try to do is to be as inclusive as possible, but also to represent a bit of the local aspects. So, I'm very proud of those. In terms of the technologies, we've talked about it, the common-looking field is important to me. So, you've seen Sonia's desk was mostly beautiful pictures. And many of you must have wondered, wow, these are pretty cool offices. Are these her offices? And the answer is yes, every single one of them. So, we are at that stage. And you're seeing more and more collaborative space. You're seeing the use of couches, you're seeing the use of comfortable chairs, you're seeing the use of little pods. We've talked about this, Heather mentioned it, and I think Myra as well. But those various work points enabling you to do various tasks in the office are getting better and better and they look better than ever. And Sonia mentioned that we are working with the suppliers community in order to have the best furniture for the public service.

Finally, well not finally, but we're also very sensitive to how does it make you feel to come into the office? We're going to use bits and pieces that remind you of nature, greens, picture of woods or the use of noble materials. The lighting is also very important.

So, we play with all of this and my designer team, they're just amazing at figuring out ways of putting all of this together into an overall environment that is much more comfortable than, and very often we use DEX in which we compare an old cubicle-farm floor versus what we transformed it into. And a lot of people wonder, how did we go to this for so long, when this was now available through the GCcoworkings that are currently in place and some of the workplaces that are already up to par with our standards.

So, that's one thing. The other thing that we're paying a lot of attention to is the external environment. Where does it make the most sense to put the next GCcoworking. So, there's going to be socio-economic impacts, but also based on the concentrations of employees, like if you think of major cities, we'll try to put them around the suburbs. Whereas we're thinking of opening a GCcoworking on an indigenous reserve. It's apparently being worked on. So, think about the impact that this has on the overall reconciliation strategic goals that we're all thriving to work towards.

So, all of these are part of the considerations that we put into the designs. In terms of that treadmill, Myra, I'll leave that one to you.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panel]

Simon Gascon: If you see me running, you should run too, because there's probably an issue otherwise you wouldn't see me running. But I know there's cool features though, to ensure that we keep in shape and everything. We are testing some of them. Also the little iPads on Segweys for people who have a bit of a physical presence into the office versus working fully remotely that enables you to roll around, and join different groups are very useful. And we've tested those as well.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: But that's where I would stop for now. I don't know if, Sonia, you wanted to add anything.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Sonia Powell: Thanks, Simon, maybe I'll just touch on some highlights to reinforce the excellent points that you made. I wanted to start with the active workstations, those treadmills. Some of you might have seen bicycles and things like that.

[Sonia Powell appears full screen.]

Sonia Powell: To me, this is a wonderful example of your ideas are taken into consideration. This for everybody out there.

How did we come to have these active workstations? Was it a supplier lobbying us? No, it wasn't. It was one of our students. Several years ago we had a "Dragon's Den" style competition. So, bring your ideas forward, and this is one of the winners. And so that is what drove us to have this pilot program where we were implementing them. And they were met with mixed success. Some groups really loved them, some used them a lot at the beginning and not so much after.

So, it's one of these things that we're saying, we're listening to the great ideas, we try them out, we see in what context that they work. So, I love that that was the example that was brought forward. A couple things that I'll reiterate: this whole idea of new work points, whether it's an active work station or something else. One of the things that we're trying to design more of is this idea of multi-purpose. So, one setting to be able to be used in different ways, whether that is a kitchen space that can also be a temporary or, for a short period of time, work point for people. I happen to be one of those people that love to work in the kitchen cafes. It's where the buzz is. That's kind of my ideal work environment with a cup of coffee, of course.

But these can also host team meetings and town halls and things like that. They've often got screens on in there. So, multi-purpose, a quiet room that could also be a meeting room, that could also serve for religious purposes or something like that. So, not custom-built that way. This whole variety to meet our objectives on accessibility, reconciliation awareness, that kind of thing.

I also wanted to touch upon new products. We're testing things out like phone booths, you might have seen these, these little individual places where you can pop in for a quick call. They come different sizes, different layouts, these pods that Simon referred to. But also things like we're testing different boardroom chairs. So, we're all familiar with those ones that have you sit straight up, and you sort of lean forward in this conversation kind of setting. We also have some that are more laid back, more like soft upholstery kind of setting, and that gives a bit of a different vibe to the conversation. Mixed with lower tables, it allows just to have sort of more engaged in a conversation as opposed to some of these other boardroom settings. So, we're testing these things. The type of furniture that you use really does influence your behaviour in these things.

And then the last thing I'll say is we're working with suppliers to have greener products, things that have reduced plastics, and meet some of our green objectives. We're also trying to have greater use of natural materials. And Simon mentioned this idea of biophilia, and greater customization. And in this I'm thinking, dimmable lighting for people who might have a work setting where they prefer it really bright, or some might prefer it with reduced lighting. So, we don't have to have two work settings for that, it can be one with dimmable lighting. Things like adjustable chairs and workstations that we're seeing becoming commonplace in that.

So, the whole idea of, bring your ideas to the table, we're trying to be responsive to what people are looking for, what people need. We're observing their behaviours and we're observing what are the new products that are out there. So, all those things combined are things that help us create the best spaces that we can.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: It's amazing to hear about how the principles of reconciliation, of inclusion, of diversity are a huge part of designing our interiors, and how we think about our workplaces.

I'd like to ask you, Supriya, about this model that is being presented to us right now, and that speaks to this point of working from anywhere to everywhere, and at any time.

Do you feel that this can be an interesting tool for the Government of Canada as we're really trying to be more inclusive, and we are really trying to adapt to a multitude of cognitive styles, of different types of disabilities, of people with different perspectives, and how is that a new tool for us as an institution?

Supriya Edwards: So, I won't spend too much time talking about the built environment, because I think our colleagues here, Simon and Sonia have talked about it quite well.

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen.]

Supriya Edwards: And I'm still laughing at the image of the segues because I just watched that episode of Modern Family with Phil so [laugh].

Anyways, there's obviously a huge opportunity from that built environment standpoint. But as it pertains to, I think what you're asking me more, we have real opportunity for real inclusion and meaningful inclusion. And so, there's the premise that you've just introduced around different ways of operating, cognitive abilities, those kinds of things.

My philosophy, and I think it's a philosophy of many, is that when you consider inclusion accessibility at the forefront, everyone benefits. It's not just those that have limitation or a disability.It actually benefits every single one of us. To have a variety of tools at our disposal, a variety of environments that are available to us, different ways of operating.

Now you heard that my background is labour relations and I had talk about hours, all those collective agreement things, that's not what we're here about, but certainly there's a lot of flexibility introduced by that. In addition to it, we are supposed to represent the entire country. But we have a history of being extremely auto-centric, obviously. And so here we are, you've never had a chance like this, never. To really embrace this and consider opportunities to engage people and really bring talent to the table, and bring the work to them. We've talked about that for years. But truly, how much were we really, truly able to accomplish?

So, that goes from enabling ourselves to work remotely, which we did, dramatically, very swiftly overnight during the pandemic. But now doing it also in a physical context. So, that means having the opportunity for lots of different types of spaces all around the country, and then engaging people so that they can participate both remotely, but also participate in a physical setting through different hubs and that kind of thing.

So, I think we need to be very mindful of that. We've got the opportunity to gauge people across the country, but also to close some of those representation gaps that have been persistent year over year, over year, over year. How many years are we going to talk about employment equity before we achieve it? So, you've got a real chance of achieving that right now. We take that very, very seriously. I know I don't just speak for myself at Stats Can, I know I'm speaking for a number of colleagues across government, who have never had the opportunity or the chance to seize this to such a degree, and are willing to do it, want to do it, and are doing it.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: No, absolutely. And I think you're right to point out that this is an opportunity that we have right now, and we need to see this idea that we can close the gap, and we can leverage this new hybrid environment to do this.

One of the challenges that have been identified to benefitting from the potential of hybrid is this idea that if you have people working from home virtually and people in the office present together, that it may create a little bit of a "two way" or "two speed" model, or a little bit of a "us versus them". Like "us" in the office versus "them" who are not, and how do we avoid either reproducing or creating new biases through this, the implementation of this new hybrid model?

Supriya Edwards: We're absolutely at risk of that, and I don't think we've quite figured out how to avoid it. So, for me, what's really important is that we are extremely aware of it and very mindful of it, and we create a context where people are enabled and empowered to raise it. And to bring that to attention.

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen.]

Supriya Edwards: So, that means offering guidance. I think we need to keep it to the forefront of what our colleagues are learning, what we're learning, what the experiences have been, listening to those voices as they're articulating the concerns, or instances where they're feeling excluded from the workforce. Whether it's because they're always on-site, whether it's because they're always working remotely, whatever that is. We really need to create that opportunity because we're not in a place where we can say we've cracked that. We're at the beginning of this. And the fact that we're identifying that as a real risk is a positive. It means that we're also identifying a need to put some focus and effort and energy towards it. So, that's what I would encourage.

In particular, at Stats Can, what we're doing is we've put a lot of effort into developing a measurement strategy. And that measurement strategy includes specific opportunities to seek engagement and collaboration and input and feedback from our workforce. And doing that in a confidential way, in a transparent way, in an open setting, all types of ways. And then hopefully, looking at those findings, looking at those results, creating some personas, trying to understand the demographics of our workforce, and how this is impacting them.

So, are there certain pockets of our organization that are experiencing a different culture, one that we weren't intending. And when that's perhaps negative, what do we do to rectify that? That could be people who are always working remotely because of where we've hired them, or the type of work they do. But it could also be because you are part of an EE group that feels excluded.

So, we need to dig deeper into those things, and we need to create an environment where we're gathering that information and taking action.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: So, you said measurements strategy, but it sounds to me like you are measuring, and you're also collecting tonnes of feedback, which can be a little bit different. What, in all of the panelists' here experience, has worked well, in terms of collecting that feedback from employees? And, I say feedback, but it's also sometimes understanding what their expectations are, or even what their fears are. Because sometimes the fear is different than the actual reality. You think you're going to have this challenge when you go in, and then you go in and it's a different experience.

So, how do we collect that full area of preoccupations and experience and feedback? What works well?

Supriya Edwards: You're starting with me? [Laugh]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: If you want to.

Supriya Edwards: Well I'm from Stats Can, you've got to ask good questions, of course. So, it starts with that. You've got to ask good questions. And you've got to make people feel comfortable and confident to answer them meaningfully and truthfully.

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen.]

Supriya Edwards: So, it begins with those things. To be honest, the first time you go back after not having been in for quite a while, it is stressful, and it is complicated, and nothing works, and you don't know where to go, you can't find your stuff, and all your plants are dead. That is what is happening. So, we need to acknowledge that and I think, as leaders, we need to give space for that. We need to give room for it, and we need to respect that. There's a process, and we're all grieving a little bit of what we had before, excited for what's coming up, and we're in that "messy middle" to quote our Head of Communications here at Stats Can. I love that, because that's exactly what's happening.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Maybe anybody else on this? Yes, Heather.

Heather Ray: Yes, maybe I can add to that too. So, we've been through quite a few of these transformations, and I think one thing that's really worked for us is

[Heather Ray appears full screen.]

Heather Ray: listening to the employees. I can't stress that enough. So, bringing the employees into the room at all different stages of the transformation, and actually giving them a chance to express what's bothering them, or express what's exciting them, and to listen to that.

And then once we move them into these new spaces, what's really important again, is to listen. Not maybe day one, because obviously day one, day two, week three, week four, we're still adapting. We're still trying to adjust to this. But after a certain amount of time we sit down with them again and we say, okay, we say, Sorry, got a frog in my throat. Sorry about that. We say, what can we take away, and what can we start to implement?

What's really worked for us is being able to implement quick actions that show that we're listening. So, it's not just bringing you into the room and allowing you to talk and then we shut the door and we walk away. It's really to say, we listened to you and this is what we heard, and this is what we've implemented, and it doesn't stop there. It's not a one-and-done. We're going to continue to listen to you, and we're going to continue to seek your feedback, and we're going to continue to adjust as we see fit.

I think it's important to understand too, though, that not all adjustments are going to be made right out the gate, because I think a lot of personal preferences come into the picture and there's all kinds of different pieces that come in. So, we have to strategically take all of those pieces of feedback and put it into a tactical plan to adjust and to improve our workplaces. So, I think it's really important to keep that understanding as well. We're going to raise things, and we're asking you guys to test and to send us feedback, and we are listening, and you will see progress, you will see implementation.

But not everything will be implemented and changed on day one. It will be part of the process. And, like Sonia said at the beginning, this is years in the works. It was years leading up to today, and it'll be years going forward before we get to that "perfect". And I say in quotes because we'll never get to that perfect workplace, but the improved workplace, if you will.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: So, really, you're all talking about how you've used different sources, whether it's research, experiences or your employees to really influence your strategic plans, your planning, etc. But what about communication between departments and agencies? How do we learn from each other across different organizations and how do we communicate, exactly what works and what doesn't work in one place, and what could be adopted in another, etc.?

Simon Gascon: Maybe I can start answering this question, I'll set the stage and then my colleagues can build on that.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: The first thing is that the work doesn't start with implementation. So, we don't start with testing or observing. It's important to note that everything we're proposing to you today was not dreamed up by me and Sonia one Thursday when, with a glass of wine in hand, we said, "Let's try this!" These are the best practices. These are the best practices at the national and international levels. Some countries are a bit ahead of us in terms of implementation. Consider England, for example. We are heavily influenced by the information they provide since they are six to twelve months ahead of us with respect to implementation. Then, once we've looked at these best practices, we study them thoroughly and when we're ready to test them, we proceed with that step. We have fantastic colleagues across PSPC (SPAC in French), including André Guay and Richard. We will test these products on our employees within our department. Once we have this information, we communicate it on a broader scale. So, when we know that we have a good approach, such as for example, everything that is GCworkplace. Every time we did a workplace update, there was a pre-use survey and post-use survey. I can assure you that in the vast majority of cases, over 97% of people were satisfied with the new workplace. So, that too was part of the arsenal of data that is still being used to move forward.

So, how do we share that data? There are many interdepartmental efforts under way at the moment. Consider the Revenue Agency, which has an annual survey that is absolutely fantastic with a huge amount of information. Another example that comes to mind is the work done by the Chief Data Officer of the Department of Employment and Social Development, with whom we are working closely, with the people at StatsCan, and with other departments that team up with us in order to have a small data governance that is horizontally aligned so that we can compare apples to apples. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has set up an initiative that involves requesting that all departments complete and return a survey so that it can be used to draw horizontal conclusions about all the efforts made by the departments.

So, a great deal of effort is being made in this regard. We must not forget the involvement of our fellow union representatives in all this, as we consult them extensively. They provide us with a lot of feedback. For us, it's an endless source of new information that we make good use of. Based on what is being done at the municipal, provincial, national and international levels, we put it all together and that's where we'll apply these strategies to move forward within the government.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Simon, you were talking about GCcoworking, specific spaces, we have some more detailed questions on that. Some people are wondering, for example, whether the operating hours are flexible.

Simon Gascon: GCcoworking spaces are generally open and accessible for periods that last slightly longer than regular business hours to allow people to have greater access.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: But in terms of work, I'm not sure, the question, was it just regarding that and I already answered it?

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: I think we can make a link with this general theme of flexibility, which is something that all of you guys have raised as a very important component of this whole hybrid ethos, in a way.

So, how is that a game changer for the public service? Because we've had flexibility before, so what is new this time around?

Simon Gascon: Since my mic is already on, I'll continue in the same vein. So, I'm answering your question, but I'm sure all my colleagues would have something to add to this one.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: One of the things that I really appreciated through all of this, is the ability of the public service to come together and innovate, at a pace that we had rarely seen before. Whether it was for the emergency funds that had to be sent to citizens, whether it was through what we're talking about today, and moving into the hybrid mode. So, my question is, why would we stop now? Hybrid is not resolved because you found a balance between remote/in the office, and we're done. I think hybrid is more than this, and we're seeing it across the globe.

You've heard various countries testing four-day weeks. You've heard companies saying there's no more core working hours.Everybody is testing various models moving forward. And to me, hybrid becomes a bit of this experimentation that we're leveraging. I really like the quote from our Clerk, again, when she said, this enables us to have a more national approach to the public service. And she said it again in the article that I cited earlier today.

So, what does this mean for national workloads? What does this mean for hiring locally? What does this mean moving forward? And when you are used to the coast to coast to coast, and you've asked the questions before about, there's going to be people in the office and people not in the office, and will that create two classes? I feel bad, I come from a region. So, was that an issue before? And is that going to continue to be an issue? And if so, how do we address it once and for all? And I think some departments are ahead in their discussions about national workloads and moving forward.

So, there is all this possible flexibility coming forward, but like Sonia rightfully said, once the HR model is able to be adapted, and we figure out what's best for each department, are we going to see that some of those flexibilities are emerging moving forward? And I think that's part of the discussion.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Sonia Powell: And maybe if I could just add a little bit to that in terms of what I see as some of the big game changers that are not just workplace, that are across the board. I think investments in digital, that was definitely a game changer for us. This whole ability to work remotely, to use common collaboration

[Sonia Powell appears full screen.]

Sonia Powell: platforms where we can work together.

From a workplace perspective, the big game changer, honestly, is unassigned. This idea that this acceptance of being able to share space, what it does is it allows us to unlock these underused pockets of space. You know that workstation that was never used because you haven't hired somebody yet. We can redistribute those pockets of space to include more collaboration, better work points, and a real game changer for us in terms of optimizing how we use space by focusing investments into better quality. So, a couple of things there that kind of work together to change, quite significantly, the landscape of how we work.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Supriya Edwards: If I could add, too, like flexibility. What are we getting? What's so flexible? If you think about before the pandemic, we were limited to working in office. We were starting to mobilize to enable people to work remotely, but we didn't have Teams. You couldn't video call. I never saw the faces of my colleagues in the regions. It was difficult if you were going to want to work from some other place, other than your home. Those things weren't really feasible. Then you flip into the pandemic mode, circumstance required us to work remotely from home, and you got limited to that,

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen.]

Supriya Edwards: because of the circumstance, for health and safety reasons. So, now we're entering, optimistically, into a new world where we have some freedoms that are becoming available to us. And we've got these tools that we've put in place that help contribute to that. So, from a flexibility standpoint, the Government of Canada has articulated it very clearly: Hybrid is the way we're going. What does that mean, though? What's that proportion of in-office, home? How do you participate together, not have these two tracts of employees, and all those things are still issues we need to grapple with and work at. And that's what this experimentation is all about.

But the flexibility is there, in that, okay, now you can go in an office, you can work from home. Perhaps you're looking after a family member in another province in the country, and you need to go there for a week and you're going to be able to work remotely from there. Those opportunities were not as available to us before. There's a whole slew of jobs that have now become amenable to remote work, or other types of opportunities like that.

So, there's a lot of flexibility built within, and through experimentation we're going to figure out what's the right proportion? How do we engage with each other? What's that balance? And how do we maintain that, and manage our own work/life balance? I think we awoke a lot to that. There was a way we were operating that I think we went, I don't want to go back to that, but where do I want to be? That's what we're still figuring out. So, lots of flexibility built within that.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: That definitely rings true to me. I'm sure it rings true to a lot of us. Finding the right balance between the pre-pandemic pace, which is kind of crazy, then the pandemic pace, which really fell down, and now what? How do we define this new normal, and what does it look like for us now?

You've talked a lot about experimenting, and experimentation comes inevitably with data, it comes with learnings. It comes with, as a lot of you guys said, best practices. There seems to be, sometimes with employees, this question around, where is the data coming from? So, you've talked about surveys, you've talked about sharing experiences from other countries, but how transparent are we sharing these results with our employees? How do we put these data points, and this evidence that we've generated, or that we've collected out there for everybody to consume? How do we feel about that? Being transparent about that? And, Supriya, you can start, but I'm sure others will have views on this too.

Supriya Edwards: I'll let Sonia and Simon speak to the literary research they've done, and the studies that they look at, because they were mentioning that. But in terms of your question around how comfortable do we feel about it?

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen.]

Supriya Edwards: Well, we've got to put it out there. This data belongs to all of us. It's not something that an organization's leadership owns. It's the data of our workforce. So, we need to be very comfortable with putting it out there, and being really transparent. Asking the hard questions, and being unbiased in what those questions are. So, I 100% believe in that. And I think that is the approach we need to take, so that people can see that when we ask a question, when we are looking for feedback, we took it seriously. It's reflected in our response that we're sharing what those findings are very, very transparently. So, yes, that's no question on my part.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Simon Gascon: In a previous life, I was in IT as part of another transition. And I truly love some of the digital principles in terms of working the open. And I know this is dear to the heart of everyone that works in Accommodations Management and Workplace Solutions, we work in the open. So, when we find stuff, we share it, and we share it as widely as possible.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: And all of these strategies that are based on the best data that we have, well, we usually leverage it to go and convince Deputy Ministers of how structured and solid these recommendations are based on the data that we have.

So, we collaborate widely, I've mentioned this before at the interdepartmental level, but we also are building new data from data sets that already existed, but that we didn't tap in for stuff. For example, we want to know how performing most of our workplaces are. So, from one department to the next, they've leveraged this building more than that building. Well, why? And can we consolidate? Can we do something different? Is there something wrong with the building itself? Can we address that? We want to make sure that the employees are always optimal when they come into the workplace.

So, of course, we can't renovate everything right away, so it will take some time. But the best example I can give you is the occupancy data. We're actually leveraging data sets that were already available because of IT. Everybody knows that when we log in, someone knows somewhere in the department, it's a security feature.

And so, when we've talked with the union representatives, and as part of the discussions, we said, do you foresee an issue with us using this data? It's fully anonymized. I just want to know how many people are in the building at any time, and IT security can give it to me. And the unions actually said, you know what, that's a very good recommendation because it's a data set that already exists. All of our members are already aware that when they log in, there's a trace. So, we don't foresee any issue.

So, we are leveraging and tapping into data sets that already exist, but we're using it for various purposes now, and sharing it more widely. So, I think that's also a very important point in moving forward. And the reliability of the data in this world with social media, where you can find a data set to convince you of everything else that you didn't want to be convinced of, is very important. And so we're very careful with it.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Sonia Powell: And if I could add one thought, or a thought and a half.

[Sonia Powell appears full screen.]

Sonia Powell: One is about when you're working out in the open, you're going to get unexpected results. And I think we have to acknowledge the fact that not everything is successful, and be prepared for when things aren't working, the insights that you're getting from that data, to act upon it. Heather, you talked about that, engaging people. But it's engaging people, it's all sorts of information that we're going to have. And if it's not working, you have to stop doing it, and adapt and adjust. If it is working, you need to scale it up. You know that you hear the idea "fail fast, scale fast." I really believe in that.

But sometimes when you're working out in the open, you're going to be faced with situations that you didn't expect. You're going to get results that you didn't expect. And you're going to have to explain those results. And that's been one of our challenges in trying to make sure that we don't dismiss the opposing view. All views and all perspectives are important to inform the best solution.

And so, I wanted to make sure that I said that, because it's something that we've been very deliberate about, over the years, is considering that variety of perspectives.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: I'm a bit curious about, and I'm going to take you somewhere slightly different, I'm a bit curious about some of the things that you may have tested that did not work, because you said it yourself, Sonia. Experimentation is about testing what works, and what doesn't. Scale what works and stop doing what doesn't.

So, do you guys have examples of either tools, or approaches, or anything that you thought would work well and that did not end up getting the success you were expecting, and then you had to change direction?

Sonia Powell: Maybe I can start? One of the things that was an early workplace solution that we thought,

[Sonia Powell appears full screen.]

Sonia Powell: we knew right away that going to an unassigned work environment was going to help us save space. And in the early days, we were really thinking from the space perspective, not the broader perspective. So, we thought, well, what if we just took off everybody's names off the workstations, and just put more people in the same space. That's it. Don't change the technology. And it was a colossal failure.

So, one, it met one of our objectives, saving space. It met none of the employee outcomes that we were looking for. The people didn't really understand how to work in these environments, so we said, okay, we need to adjust our solutions for that.

Back in the day, for anybody who was around in Workplace Solutions and was the unfortunate recipient of some of these solutions, we would call them workplace lite. And so they were a, "never again." If we're going to be moving to these, you have to provide a benefit. You have to improve something in the situation. So, that was one of the things, definitely. I saw a smile go on Simon's face, so I'm sure that he's got some other examples of things that were less than successful.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Simon Gascon: The treadmill, we're pointing Myra.

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: [Laugh] I knew it!

Simon Gascon: It wasn't so successful, I have to say. [Laugh]. You know what, though? What's interesting is how we're innovating and testing new things. And yes, like Sonia said, there's stuff that will work, some stuff that will not work, and we need to adapt and address it head on. But there's a few things as well from the previous era, pre-pandemic, that I don't think could've kept on going for very long.

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: We started getting better and better data on occupancy level, and you had 40% underutilization of the portfolio at all times, on average. At the billions of dollars that this portfolio costs us, you can imagine how much money this represents.

And so, increasing the efficiency of portfolio usage has been put on fast track because of the post-pandemic, trying to anticipate what will be the movement of the masses, in terms of employees coming into the office versus employees working from home. And the leveraging of these networks of offices and through the Hub-and-Spoke model. But it's also to make sure that we have the right offices in the right places, maximizing their usage as the citizens trust us to manage the money the most efficiently possible. You were asking me about the hours of the GCcoworking, for example. Well, I had the confirmation, because you should have seen, my team figured out a way to send me texts while we're presenting here in front of thousands of people.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: It's all about flexibility [Laugh]

Simon Gascon: Right now, it's seven to five, but if we see that there's a higher demand for earlier and later hours, we will have to adapt accordingly. So, this openness to adapting, and making sure that we work and take on all suggestions as part of the process.

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: But in order to get those suggestions, your employees need to be engaged. We need to be engaged individually. So, I want to go back to that point because I think it's a really crucial one when we think about the success of our workforce generally, but also of our hybrid workplace model.

So, Heather, you've talked a lot about this. This idea of employee engagement and communication. How do we, because we've been talking a lot about solutions that are being implemented from the top down, but what does the other, the reverse direction, what does it look like?

Heather Ray: Yes, so I can't stress enough: communicate, communicate, communicate. If I could scream that from the hills, I would, because I think that's the most important piece to all of this. Obviously, this is a big change. And people need to be involved and they need to know what's coming, and when.

[Heather Ray appears full screen.]

Heather Ray: So, at our early projects that we undertook, that was one of the things that we really stressed on. And it didn't always need to be a formal communication. And I think that's where people kind of get caught up sometimes. It doesn't need to be something necessarily that is signed off by the Deputy. It can be a status update. Here's a couple of pictures, here's where we're going. What that does is it allows people to stay engaged and stay involved as part of the process. So, I think that's really big.

I think engaging with the management teams and getting them on board right at the onset is paramount. If you start engaging with the employee level and you don't have the managers working with you, that's where it gets a little bit complicated. So, you've got to start with the management level, make sure they understand where we're going, and then use them as change ambassadors to help with the alignment, and the onboarding of the employees after that. So, I think that's huge.

And like I said before, just listening. Listening to the management perspective, listening to the employees when you get to the employee level, listening to them, I think that goes a long way. And then responding to what they're saying. So, we were talking about data and sharing data and that kind of thing, it's really important to circle back and show them, we're collecting this, we did that pre-move survey,and here's the results of that pre-move survey, and this is how we're going to look to address those pre-move issues that have been identified, and this is where we're going once we get the post-move survey back. So, I think that's really important. Giving employees a voice and management a voice, as we engage, is huge. And I think that's really important to keep in mind.

And then obviously your reinforcement pieces from the Deputies, your reinforcement pieces from the senior management, that obviously helps to reinforce the messages. And then I think once you're all said and done and you've relocated your employees into these new spaces, or you've brought them back to the workplace, in our case now, I think it's important to know that it's not done there. You don't end there. It's the reinforcement pieces after the fact that go even further.

So, bringing people back into a room, and do a focus group with them, and ask them questions. And again, listening to them, and then being able to act on what they're bringing forward. I think that's really, really big. And I think that creates that sense of trust in your employees. That we're not just doing this because somebody told us to do it and it was decided last night and we're implementing it tomorrow kind of thing. It's been well thought out. They're part of the process, they've been engaged, and we're here to support them throughout all the steps.

I'd like to take a moment too, to highlight that there's a change management center of expertise within PSPC that my team leans heavily on. They've created all kinds of wonderful guides and tools and all kinds of mechanisms that we've taken and tailored to our departments. So, I encourage all other departments to kind of check that out. They've got a wonderful GCpedia site.

So, to take that and to really lean on them, because it's not their first time going through these types of projects. So, lean on their expertise. You don't have to start from ground zero. Other departments have been through it before, so lean on them, they're there to help and support. They've been a fantastic resource for us.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: I think, Heather, this is a great way to maybe start wrapping up, and what I'm tempted to do, because we still have a lot of questions that unfortunately we won't have a chance to raise, but what I would like to do is ask each and every one of you:

If there was one advice that you would give to your colleagues or employees generally, and one resource that you would like to share, what would it be? So, very concretely little things for the people who are with us today. Maybe I'll start with you, Simon.

Simon Gascon: [Laugh]. You saw me thinking.

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: I saw you thinking.

Simon Gascon: [Laugh]. You know, in these times of change,

[Simon Gascon appears full screen.]

Simon Gascon: one of things is to not be afraid to try new things. I know it sounds very corny, we've said that so many times before, but experimenting in the ability to, let me be more specific, recruit the best talent, nationally. We have a new manager starting with us from Moncton. I was able to hire someone amazing working from Saguenay Lac St. Jean. And we keep looking at who is best to do what from where. And leveraging this flexibility to me has been a key success. And so therefore that would be encouraging. And in terms of resources, well, this is the great thing about PSPC, and the team that we have, and within Sonia's accountabilities and leadership, we're technically central service to departments. So, I'm more than happy that for people to reach out to my team and to us. And we hold a biweekly committee of executives on various topics relating to real property.

So, feel free to leverage this. Not everybody's aware of it. Maybe I've said already too much on this forum, and I'm going to be swamped with emails more than I usually am, but it's worth it. And I think whatever we can do to help and support and enrich the discussions, we will.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: So, Simon Gascon's email address can be found in GEDS.

Supriya, do you want to go next?

Supriya Edwards: Yes, sure. So, one of the things we've been doing over the course of the entire summer is hosting weekly town halls with our executive community.

[Supriya Edwards appears full screen.]

Supriya Edwards: So, to build on what Heather was describing, we need to communicate a lot, but we also need to really support our leaders so that they in turn can support their teams and our colleagues effectively.

These weekly town halls have been good for venting [laugh]. So, there's a lot of that. Asking us a lot of questions, describing some of the challenging issues that are escalating to their levels. So, it's been a really, really great opportunity for people to share those frustrations. And for us to really learn from them. I didn't realize to what, I knew these were important things and we were working on solutions, but the degree to which lockers and parking come up is tremendous. And it tells you these basic things are the types of things that people need to not worry about. They don't want to worry about. They need solutions in place so that they can focus on the work they need to do, and everything else they have to get done in that day.

So, that's an example of something that was coming up, time over time. But having those weekly sessions with them has been really, really effective in that, my hope is that we're enabling one another to be effective. And from a leadership standpoint, that it's an opportunity to engage and it's an opportunity to bring those frustrations to the forefront, so we can deal with them in a really transparent and effective way.

From a resource standpoint, the Canadian Innovation Center for Mental Health in the workplace, out of ISED, has been a really tremendous resource, and I couldn't promote it more. They're always at the forefront of initiatives, and issues of the day, and ways to support colleagues through these things. So, that's a really effective resource. And that's on top of all the resources that Simon and Sonia and their teams offer us as well, from a change management standpoint. So, I would refer people there.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Heather?

Heather Ray: Yes, so I think if I could provide advice, I kind of said it already, but don't be afraid. Go try it. Go into the office with an open mind.

[Heather Ray appears full screen.]

Heather Ray: You might be surprised what you find there. It is a new workplace, we're not necessarily returning to the standard cubicles that we've come to know and love over the last 20, 30 years. It is a little bit different. So, give it a try with an open mind and see what happens.

Get involved. Get involved in the conversation, be part of the info sessions, be part of the focus groups that are established for your teams. Be part of the solution. It's really easy to sit back and say how negative things might be, but if you're involved, then you have an opportunity to guide, to help create the workplace of the future. So, I can't stress that enough.

And I think the resource I would recommend is really the GCpedia page on GCworkplace and GCcoworking. And I'm not just saying that, nobody paid me to say that because I know I've got colleagues from PSPC on the line, but really, it's my team, so I'm a client perspective of PSPC and we use that on the daily.

So, they've already established the resources that teams need to go through all of the different steps as you prepare for these workplace transformation projects. So, go and have a look through. It's filled with all kinds of different information. It's constantly being updated. So, I would encourage people to take a look there, and just jump in. Just jump in, have fun with it. [Laugh]

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: [Laugh]. Have fun with it. I love that one. Heather. Sonia, we started with you. Do you want to close with a few quick words?

Sonia Powell: Yes, just really quick. You know, the disadvantage of being last is that your predecessors say all the stuff you were going to say.

[Sonia Powell appears full screen.]

Sonia Powell: In terms of advice, the thing I might add is, take a small step. It's a different step for everybody, but take one step, one thing that you can do a little bit differently, and it doesn't have to be something big, it can be something very small. And just understand what's going to work for you, that we all have a different context.

In terms of resources, I'm really a big fan of talking it out, as Supriya said about venting, and I'm all about that. So, visit the communities of practice, there's lots of them out there, whether they're PSPC, my team, Simon's team have a lot of the interdepartmental working groups that are there and are available.

Just talking to your peers and learning from people who've already experienced it and being frank with people about the things that are really great, the things that were a bit of a struggle and things that were maybe not so great initially and turned out to be really good once you got used to it, like this whole idea.

And also then doing your research. Listen to the experts, there's that wealth of information on GCpedia that people can refer to. And I'd caution online sources, just like it's a little dangerous going online for your medical advice. It's the same thing for your workplace advice. You're going to find a lot of whatever scenario you want. There's going to be somebody who's advocating for that. But being part of the solution means being informed, and talking it out. So, that would be my advice on resources.

So, thanks so much for wonderful session.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau, Sonia Powell, Supriya Edwards, Simon Gascon, and Heather Ray appear in video chat panels.]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: Thank you very much, Sonia, Heather, Supriya and Simon. I think we have spent a successful hour and a half together. This is just the beginning, it's the beginning of the experience, and also the beginning of our event series.

[Myra Latendresse-Drapeau appears full screen. Text on screen "Browse the Learning Catalogue!; It includes courses, events and other learning tools; Visit; Consultez le catalogue d'apprentissage!; Il vous propose des cours, des événements et des outils d'apprentissage; Visitez »]

Myra Latendresse-Drapeau: I invite you to join us for our next events which will take place on October 24 and 25, events that are organized in collaboration with the National Managers' Community, so the National Managers Community. And we're also going to have another event in December. We're going to talk about ergonomics. We're going to have an expert come and talk about their experiment. And the theme is a little bit going to be around how do we do hybrids? So, concrete tricks and tips, [laugh]. So, please join us, and in the meantime don't hesitate to consult the resources that were presented by our panellists. Visit the school's website, register to [future learning your opportunities]. We hope you enjoyed this event. Your feedback is very important to us. It's important in all contexts. We've talked about this a lot today. So, I will encourage you to complete the electronic evaluation form that you will receive in the coming days.

So, this wraps up today's event. Again, many, many thanks to you. Many thanks to the more than 3000 people who registered to this event today. I think it speaks to how important this is. And we'll see you soon.

[The video chat fades to CSPS logo]

[The Government of Canada Logo appears and fades to black.]

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