By Glen Simon, NCPC
(PRESS RELEASE) — The permanent secretary in the Department of the Public Service said COVID-19 has propelled the government to think differently about the way it conducts business and delivers services to the public.
The government, she said, needs to remain open-minded, objective, innovative, and nurture innovation, especially now that social distancing protocols due to COVID-19 have caused more employees to work from home than ever before.
Ms. 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.
“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 not only from COVID-19 but there are a number of other situations we may not have envisaged right now, that will hit us just as hard as COVID-19 did.”
Permanent Secretary Soudatt said due to COVID-19, public service managers have realized the productivity benefits of telecommuting.
“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.”
The government recently launched its digital platform called DigiGov. Minister for Economic Development, Transport and Civil Aviation, Hon. Guy Joseph, is hopeful that the digital economy will lead to increase in productivity gains and radically change the way government works.
“Governments have been stuck in the stone age when it comes to the use of technology. We have had to travel to many meetings overseas. COVID-19 has forced us into a situation where all the meetings are taking place on Zoom and we are still getting the work done. So I believe that this change should be welcomed and that it will lead to a more efficient service.”
The minister also highlighted the economic impact of the 8 a.m. rush hour commute.
“It is time to think out of the box,” the permanent secretary said. “Digitization and digital transformation are happening all over the world. Is it necessary to face the rush hour when work could easily be done from home? We need to start the discussion; we need to talk about it.”
She mentioned that the shift in alternative work arrangements comes with its own concerns as some supervisors and employees still believe the best way to monitor and get maximum output is to be physically located within the office.