With world class COVID-19 vaccination rates in the ACT and Friday's return to baseline restrictions, the Morrison government is laying out to the Commonwealth public service a "strong expectation" of returning to the office.
This is despite the Productivity Commission in September urging governments to "not fight" higher rates of working from home post-pandemic, saying both employers and staff stand to benefit from increased workplace flexibility.
The Minister for the Public Service, Ben Morton, has detailed the government's expectations of default working from home arrangements as "being a thing of the past."
"I welcome the easing of restrictions in the ACT and as a result agency heads are now expected to reconsider and bring forward return to office plans where safe to do so," Mr Morton told The Canberra Times.
"Returning to the office is part of returning to normal and is a strong expectation of the government for all agencies.
"We look forward to default working from home arrangements, as a result of COVID, being a thing of the past."
Prior to the ACT outbreak, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged public servants around the country to leave the home office in a bid to help revitalise the nation's cities.
"I have a very simple message and it is time to get back to the office," Mr Morrison said in June.
The shift to working from home arrangements began in March 2020 near the start of the pandemic but the peak was found by the Australian Public Service Commission in August 2020 when around 64 per cent of the APS was understood to be working remotely.
A survey of ACT employers by the UNSW Canberra Public Service Research Group, released this week, predicted a lasting change from the pandemic, finding the future of work after lockdown will be a hybrid of working in offices and at home.
That's supported by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
"There'll be a lot more hybrid working arrangements," he said on Tuesday. "So people will find a nice balance between days in the office with colleagues and still maintain that flexibility to work from home where it suits them and their employer."
"That's certainly our intent as it relates to ACT government employees."
The Chief Minister accepts the pandemic has shown the worth of the home office, but there are limits.
"Moving forward I expect that there will be changes in how we work including an increase in flexible working arrangements but only where a business case exists and productivity gains can be identified," he said.
"The small businesses in and around our offices depend on our presence and getting back into the office is indeed an exciting time for all."
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