COVID-19: City of Hamilton aims for new flexible work model

News Sep 23, 2021 by Teviah Moro Hamilton Spectator

City of Hamilton employees are to gradually return to their pre-COVID-19 work sites in phases as officials keep an eye on the shifting public health crisis.

“We are looking at a phased and gradual approach,” Jason Thorne, director of the city’s pandemic response, told councillors Wednesday.

But some may end up doing their jobs, at home, nonetheless, as the city adopts a new pandemic-inspired, flexible work model.

Roughly 20 per cent of the city’s workforce — or about 1,800 employees — are doing their jobs from home.

“We have not set a specific return date,” Thorne said, noting the fourth wave of the Delta variant-fuelled pandemic presents uncertainties.

The city doesn’t want to install staff at city hall and other municipal work sites prematurely, only to send them home again, he said.

The city is “confirming division by division” how many will gradually return to workplaces, said Thorne, who’s also general manager of the planning and economic development department.

Provisions for health and safety — such as enough space for physical distancing — are crucial, but tech needs, with staff uprooting equipment from home, are also a consideration.

The return-to-work strategy coincides with the city’s frustrated efforts to vaccinate its employees. Last week, the city reported a third had failed to meet the deadline to show their vaccination status under the auspices of its mandatory disclosure policy.

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, it triggered a wave of municipal building closures and suspended or restricted services.

Some buildings, such as city hall, are open but with a skeleton contingent on-site to perform in-person public services. But most employees who were usually at the Main Street West “flagship” are not there.

Other municipal workplaces, meanwhile, such as office space at 100 King St. W., are completely devoid of staff.

Employees working from home will be given four weeks’ notice before heading back to their municipal workplaces.

The return dovetails with a city plan — Hamilton@Work — that weighs the realities of the ongoing pandemic and attendant factors such as health, productivity and finances.

The new flexible model places workers into four categories based on a set of criteria that departmental leaders consider:

  • office employees who work from a municipal workplace 100 per cent of the time, such as counter-service staff, who deal with the public in person, or those who need specialized equipment;
  • home staffers who work at home all of the time, including those with administrative or data-entry duties and responsibilities that don’t involve face-to-face interactions;
  • hybrid workers who divide their hours between a city building and home. They could be analysts, project managers, administrators or planners;
  • mobile and front-line workers who use a city vehicle and must travel from site to site.

“We know that providing flexible work arrangements is an attraction and retention tool,” Nenzi Cocca, the city’s director of human resource systems and operations, told councillors.

With staffers working at home, absenteeism has dropped by 30 per cent compared to before the pandemic, Cocca said, noting employees have been “better equipped” to handle short-term illnesses and stay on the job.

Mike Zegarac, general manager of finance, said there could be opportunities to “rationalize” the city’s “accommodation footprint” over the long run, but noted shorter-term lease obligations.

COVID-19: City of Hamilton aims for new flexible work model

Phased return to city work places planned, but ‘hybrid’ and home staffers part of strategy

News Sep 23, 2021 by Teviah Moro Hamilton Spectator

City of Hamilton employees are to gradually return to their pre-COVID-19 work sites in phases as officials keep an eye on the shifting public health crisis.

“We are looking at a phased and gradual approach,” Jason Thorne, director of the city’s pandemic response, told councillors Wednesday.

But some may end up doing their jobs, at home, nonetheless, as the city adopts a new pandemic-inspired, flexible work model.

Roughly 20 per cent of the city’s workforce — or about 1,800 employees — are doing their jobs from home.

“We have not set a specific return date,” Thorne said, noting the fourth wave of the Delta variant-fuelled pandemic presents uncertainties.

The city doesn’t want to install staff at city hall and other municipal work sites prematurely, only to send them home again, he said.

The city is “confirming division by division” how many will gradually return to workplaces, said Thorne, who’s also general manager of the planning and economic development department.

Provisions for health and safety — such as enough space for physical distancing — are crucial, but tech needs, with staff uprooting equipment from home, are also a consideration.

The return-to-work strategy coincides with the city’s frustrated efforts to vaccinate its employees. Last week, the city reported a third had failed to meet the deadline to show their vaccination status under the auspices of its mandatory disclosure policy.

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, it triggered a wave of municipal building closures and suspended or restricted services.

Some buildings, such as city hall, are open but with a skeleton contingent on-site to perform in-person public services. But most employees who were usually at the Main Street West “flagship” are not there.

Other municipal workplaces, meanwhile, such as office space at 100 King St. W., are completely devoid of staff.

Employees working from home will be given four weeks’ notice before heading back to their municipal workplaces.

The return dovetails with a city plan — Hamilton@Work — that weighs the realities of the ongoing pandemic and attendant factors such as health, productivity and finances.

The new flexible model places workers into four categories based on a set of criteria that departmental leaders consider:

  • office employees who work from a municipal workplace 100 per cent of the time, such as counter-service staff, who deal with the public in person, or those who need specialized equipment;
  • home staffers who work at home all of the time, including those with administrative or data-entry duties and responsibilities that don’t involve face-to-face interactions;
  • hybrid workers who divide their hours between a city building and home. They could be analysts, project managers, administrators or planners;
  • mobile and front-line workers who use a city vehicle and must travel from site to site.

“We know that providing flexible work arrangements is an attraction and retention tool,” Nenzi Cocca, the city’s director of human resource systems and operations, told councillors.

With staffers working at home, absenteeism has dropped by 30 per cent compared to before the pandemic, Cocca said, noting employees have been “better equipped” to handle short-term illnesses and stay on the job.

Mike Zegarac, general manager of finance, said there could be opportunities to “rationalize” the city’s “accommodation footprint” over the long run, but noted shorter-term lease obligations.

COVID-19: City of Hamilton aims for new flexible work model

Phased return to city work places planned, but ‘hybrid’ and home staffers part of strategy

News Sep 23, 2021 by Teviah Moro Hamilton Spectator

City of Hamilton employees are to gradually return to their pre-COVID-19 work sites in phases as officials keep an eye on the shifting public health crisis.

“We are looking at a phased and gradual approach,” Jason Thorne, director of the city’s pandemic response, told councillors Wednesday.

But some may end up doing their jobs, at home, nonetheless, as the city adopts a new pandemic-inspired, flexible work model.

Roughly 20 per cent of the city’s workforce — or about 1,800 employees — are doing their jobs from home.

“We have not set a specific return date,” Thorne said, noting the fourth wave of the Delta variant-fuelled pandemic presents uncertainties.

The city doesn’t want to install staff at city hall and other municipal work sites prematurely, only to send them home again, he said.

The city is “confirming division by division” how many will gradually return to workplaces, said Thorne, who’s also general manager of the planning and economic development department.

Provisions for health and safety — such as enough space for physical distancing — are crucial, but tech needs, with staff uprooting equipment from home, are also a consideration.

The return-to-work strategy coincides with the city’s frustrated efforts to vaccinate its employees. Last week, the city reported a third had failed to meet the deadline to show their vaccination status under the auspices of its mandatory disclosure policy.

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, it triggered a wave of municipal building closures and suspended or restricted services.

Some buildings, such as city hall, are open but with a skeleton contingent on-site to perform in-person public services. But most employees who were usually at the Main Street West “flagship” are not there.

Other municipal workplaces, meanwhile, such as office space at 100 King St. W., are completely devoid of staff.

Employees working from home will be given four weeks’ notice before heading back to their municipal workplaces.

The return dovetails with a city plan — Hamilton@Work — that weighs the realities of the ongoing pandemic and attendant factors such as health, productivity and finances.

The new flexible model places workers into four categories based on a set of criteria that departmental leaders consider:

  • office employees who work from a municipal workplace 100 per cent of the time, such as counter-service staff, who deal with the public in person, or those who need specialized equipment;
  • home staffers who work at home all of the time, including those with administrative or data-entry duties and responsibilities that don’t involve face-to-face interactions;
  • hybrid workers who divide their hours between a city building and home. They could be analysts, project managers, administrators or planners;
  • mobile and front-line workers who use a city vehicle and must travel from site to site.

“We know that providing flexible work arrangements is an attraction and retention tool,” Nenzi Cocca, the city’s director of human resource systems and operations, told councillors.

With staffers working at home, absenteeism has dropped by 30 per cent compared to before the pandemic, Cocca said, noting employees have been “better equipped” to handle short-term illnesses and stay on the job.

Mike Zegarac, general manager of finance, said there could be opportunities to “rationalize” the city’s “accommodation footprint” over the long run, but noted shorter-term lease obligations.