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HomeBusinessBC Hydro says its version of work from home is here to stay, but is evolving 

BC Hydro says its version of work from home is here to stay, but is evolving 

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Bob Mackin

BC Hydro says it is meeting business objectives under the pandemic-triggered hybrid workplace, but acknowledges there are some challenges. 

A briefing note to a Feb. 21 meeting of senior executives about potential changes to what the Crown corporation calls the “flexible work model” says a one-size fits all approach to working from home may not be ideal in every department.

BC Hydro headquarters (BC Hydro)

“For the past three years most of our office employees have primarily worked from home,” said the document, obtained under freedom of information. “During this period we’ve demonstrated that we can operate our business and deliver on our projects and strategic priorities.”

The briefing note said that while the model is generally working well, though managers reported that it is more difficult to hire and train new employees remotely. 

An Aug. 24 job posting for a Burnaby-based procurement services manager position said how much an employee can work from home depends on the manager for each position and the specific operational requirements. At one end of the scale, some can spend four or more days per week at home. On the other end, field workers have no work from home option. 

“Employees also have the right to work full-time from the office if they prefer. All of our roles require at least some in-person time,” the job posting said. 

Employees want the option to spend most, if not all, their time working from home. Nearly three-quarters polled were satisfied or very satisfied. All other large B.C. Crown corporations, the Public Service and more than 90% of Canadian electric utilities and engineering consultancies offer some variation of flexible work. 

“A common suggestion in the written feedback is for more flexibility and reduced time in office,” the briefing note said about the internal survey. 

Key to the trend is the evolution of technology, including web conferencing and enhanced hardware to connect virtually. BC Hydro pledged to “continue to invest in technology,” such as refreshing laptops and creating additional rooms and auditoriums for hybrid meetings, with enhancements to Microsoft Teams and cameras that digitize whiteboards. “Improve network connectivity at remote sites, including the implementation of satellite connectivity.”

A March 28 briefing note to the human resources and flexible work project team said opinions on the flexible work model have improved, based on the poll of 4,400 employees. “Overall, 78% of employees who responded to the pulse check are feeling happy or very happy with the flexible work model; this is a 4% improvement over the October pulse check, and 8% increase since June.”

Employees were split on the number of in-office days — 49% said the amount was just right, 46% said it could be less — and opinions were mixed on desk-sharing — 51% for and 35% against. 

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would not consider a role that requires more days in office while three-quarters said they do not think working from home has limited their career or development opportunities. 

More than 90% of respondents felt supported and included, regardless of where they work. 

As for managers, 80% were happy with the flexible work model, 6% better than October 2022’s survey, and 87% agreed that BC Hydro can meet its operational and strategic goals. A significant improvement since the 63% from the June 2022 survey. 

An appendix showed BC Hydro is monitoring the program based on corporate, departmental and individual performance, impacts on employees, workspace and technology usage, costs and savings, greenhouse gas reduction, and by comparing notes about hybrid work trends with other companies. Another appendix about feedback from senior leaders was censored under the exception to B.C.’s public records law that allows a public body to keep policy advice and recommendations secret. 

In the October 2022 survey, employees who work from home cited the “positive impacts on wellbeing, and time and cost savings by not commuting.”

BC Hydro’s August 2021 agreement with the MoveUp union stated that employees who work at home must designate an adequate workspace and keep it safe and free from hazards. Any BC Hydro property and documents must be kept safe, secure and confidential. The agreement also allowed BC Hydro to send a representative for a home workplace audit with a minimum 24-hour notification. BC Hydro provides necessary IT hardware and software, including virtual private network access, but will not pay utilities or meal expenses.

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