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The Saint Lucia Public Service Sights Productivity Gains Through Teleworking

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.”  

In an article from the World Economic Forum, working from home was a luxury for the affluent before the coronavirus, not anymore as social distancing protocols due to COVID-19 have caused more employees to work from home than ever before.

Permanent Secretary in the Department of the Public Service, 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 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 mould, air quality, and other environmental concerns constantly plague the Public Service forcing the government to increase its operational cost in providing alternative workspaces. P.S. 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.”

The government recently launching 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.

“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 8:00 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. — Glen Simon

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