Public Service PS welcomes new era of work post-COVID
Permanent Secretary in the Department of the Public Service, Peggy-Ann Soudatt
The Permanent Secretary in the Department of the Public Service says that COVID-19 has propelled the government to think differently about the way it conducts business and delivers services to the public.
Permanent Secretary Peggy-Ann Soudatt, believes that the Public Service needs to be more open and receptive to the new modalities for doing business. COVID-19, she said, provides opportunities for a blended approach to work.
According to an article from the World Economic Forum, working from home was once a luxury of the affluent before the coronavirus but this is no more as social distancing protocols due to COVID-19 have caused more employees to work from home than ever before.
Soudatt said due to COVID-19, Public Service managers have realized the productivity benefits of teleworking.
“We’ve seen many ministries adopting a blended approach to work and they have reported very high productivity levels. We understand that not many people are able to work from home for one reason or the other but it should not stop us from identifying what can be done; how it can be done in different ways to achieve the same result.”
Government recently launched its digital platform called DigiGov and Minister for Economic Development, Transport and Civil Aviation, Hon Guy Joseph is hopeful that the digital economy will lead to increase productivity gains and radically change the way government works.
“Government has been stuck in the stone age when it comes to the use of technology. The number of times I had to travel to meetings overseas, COVID forced us into a situation where the same meetings we could have had virtually, we were not having them.
Today, all the meetings are taking place on Zoom and you are still getting the work done. So, I believe that where we are going with this is something that should be welcomed and that the people of St Lucia would get a much more efficient service.”
The Minister also highlighted the economic impact of the 8 am rush hour commute which he termed “the crawl hour” with many man-hours lost in traffic.
To this, the Permanent Secretary said, “It is time to think out of the box or even stand on it.”
“The discussion needs to start because it’s happening all over the world, we’re speaking of digitization and digital transformation. Is it necessary to come through that rush hour or the crawl hour to work when these things could easily be done from home? We are asking our clients to do it from home; can we also do it from home? We need to start the discussion we need to talk about it.”
She highlighted that this paradigm shift in alternative work arrangements comes with its fears, concerns, and pushback as some supervisors and employees still believe the best way to monitor and get maximum output to be physically located within the office.
Soudatt also noted: “Sometimes we think of COVID-19 as something that has happened or something that we know will end by a particular period of time. We really don’t know. We must put measures in place to ensure that we can deal with any situation that arises and not only COVID but there are a number of other situations we may not have envisaged right now but that will hit us just as hard as COVID did.”
Health and safety issues such as mold, air quality, and other environmental concerns constantly plague the Public Service forcing the government to increase its operational cost in providing alternative workspaces.