Chief Minister Andrew Barr has declared the era of in-office 9-to-5 work is over for the ACT's public servants, saying that flexible work arrangements will be a key way to attract and retain quality staff.
Mr Barr said it "will never, ever return to what it was pre-pandemic", and the era of compulsory daily attendance at the office for white collar public servants had ended.
Commonwealth public servants, however, have been encouraged to return to their offices sooner than expected, with the federal government keen to have its workers spending money in city centres.
Mr Barr said flexible work was a global trend, but more ACT government staff would return to offices into next year.
"The way we will attract and retain the highest quality staff is to have flexibility in working arrangements. We will never go back to 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, everyone in the same office all together. That world is over. It is over, it is done," he said.
"That is the case for all major businesses in this country as well and even the Commonwealth are allowing a degree of flexibility for their own public servants as well. The world has changed. The future of work has changed and we must be flexible and allow for hybrid working arrangements."
Liberal member for Yerrabi James Milligan asked Mr Barr in the year's last Legislative Assembly question time on Thursday when ACT government staff would be required to return to their offices to boost small businesses in the ACT's town centres.
"There will no longer be a requirement, an operating requirement, of compulsory attendance, if you like, at an ACT government office building, 9-to-5. The world has changed, Mr Milligan, and we are changing with it," Mr Barr said in response.
Mr Barr said most ACT government staff were already back in their workplaces, because front-line staff, such as nurses and teachers, could not work from home. Office workers would continue to be able to work flexibly.
"It will vary from directorate to directorate, but most staff are working under a hybrid arrangement that will continue into the future, forever, I hope," he said.
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Mr Barr said the government would invest in offices spread across the ACT, so its staff could work where it suited them rather than in a set location for a particular directorate.
"It will no longer be the case that the directorate x will be in location y. People will be able to work across a number of different ACT government office buildings and they will undertake hybrid-working arrangements that will meet the needs of them, the business unit they work for and ensure they can deliver the services that are required," Mr Barr said.
Commonwealth public servants were last month told to rush back to offices after the federal Public Service Minister, Ben Morton, said the default working from home arrangements were 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 last month 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."
Prior to the ACT COVID-19 outbreak in August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged public servants around the country to return to the office in a bid to help revitalise the nation's cities.
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