FAQ: Working Remotely

Has any thought been given to those who prefer to work remotely from home on a more permanent basis?

These unprecedented times have demonstrated how many of us can work remotely and be productive in a virtual environment. New ways of working have been established during this crisis and managers should be encouraging employees and supporting them for the best possible experience, given the circumstances. Moving into Business Resumption, there will be a need for all managers to discuss with their employees their preferences for remote work and/or return to the workplace, map employee availability against operational requirements, determine the feasibility from an infrastructure and a health and safety perspective. Should managers authorize remote work, the Flexible Work Program assists employees and managers to understand their accountabilities and all available options – as well as the impacts and considerations – in the current environment and into the future.

Flexible work agreements are used to provide flexibility in the workforce while maintaining operational readiness. While it provides flexibility, it is not a tool to address work or personal limitations/challenges or other issues.

As many of us continue to work from home, what options are available to Defence Team members to off-set the cost of a home office?

Defence Team members should have a discussion with their manager regarding their current remote work set up and what their needs are. Managers need to ensure Defence Team members are working safely and effectively.

  • If Defence Team members need IT equipment, this is to come from DND’s current internal inventory or should be procured for them through regular means.
  • If Defence Team members require ergonomic or support equipment/supplies, they should be allowed access to the workplace to pick up their own equipment from their office space, where feasible.
  • As per OCHRO guidance, if any Defence Team members require additional equipment it could be purchased through established standing offers and have it delivered to the members remote work site. This equipment will remain DND assets.

RC Managers have the discretion to determine what should be reimbursed for Defence Team members with receipts up to $300 for out of pocket expenses from 13 March 2020 to March 2021. Up to $500 may be approved in extenuating circumstances, with L1 approval and accountability to the Deputy Minister/Chief of Defence Staff. Any equipment or supplies reimbursed by DND will not be DND property.

The intent of providing a reimbursement during the timeframe of March 13 to September 15 was to support those who may have made a purchase in the early days of the pandemic in order to conduct their work. The reimbursement is not intended to provide options for people who desire to make any purchases, nor is it meant to cover expenses for equipment that already exists, or IT equipment that can, and should, be acquired through the Department.

For detailed information on reimbursements and reimbursement requests, Defence Team members should follow the procedure laid out in the remote work reimbursement support message.

Will we get clear direction on how long we will be working remotely? How soon can I go back to work?

We understand that everyone is anxious to know how long it will take to resume business as usual. We cannot give a firm timeline because the return to work process will not be uniform across all divisions of the Defence Team. Many factors need to be considered, including but not limited to the public health conditions in your local region. Each department will have a unique Business Resumption Plan in place taking all of these factors into consideration and in line with Public Health guidance.

Please consult with your local chain of command or your manager to better understand your team's specific plan.

I left some of my computer/ergonomic equipment in the office and would like to go get it so I can work from home more comfortably. Can I do this?

Employees must have signed permission to remove any computer or ergonomic equipment from DND premises. Please speak with your manager to determine your options.

Can I be required to work remotely if I want to work on-site?

Throughout all phases of Business Resumption, there will be a need for all managers to discuss with their employees their preferences for remote work and/or return to the workplace, map employee availability against operational requirements, and determine the feasibility from an infrastructure and a health and safety perspective. L1s are preparing business resumption plans which will be shared with staff as they are finalized. Activities will be prioritized and reintroduced in phases. Please wait until you receive the all clear from senior management before physically reporting, to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Direction will be provided.

DVPNI was meant as a short term "as needed" capability enabler. Has any thought been given for more stable long-term solutions for those working from home for the forseeable future? Will DND invest in better connection infrastructure to provide a higher return on work conducted?

DVPNI is the Department’s remote connectivity solution which enables access to the Defence Wide Area Network (DWAN). Over the last few months, we’ve drastically increased the number of users who can securely and reliably connect to the DWAN from anywhere. Combined with other technologies like Microsoft Office 365 (O365), we’re setting the conditions for you to work collaboratively from the office, home or around the world.

Currently, we are still working towards a long term solution to working remotely. All employees are encouraged to discuss their networking needs with their manager so that operational priorities continue to be met while capacity continues to increase.

Federal and provincial governments have announced tax allowances or deductions for people who have been forced to telework. Is DND going to issue these forms?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Revenu Québec are reviewing the implications to tax exemptions in the context of the pandemic response and equipping Defence Team members working remotely. Once CRA has finalized their guidance on the use of the Form T2200, Declaration of Conditions of Employment, TBS will provide guidance on claiming other expenses incurred by Defence Team members while working remotely, which may include utility costs. Defence Team members will be provided updates via the ADM (PA) external website as well as the HRGO App and Defence Team news, as they become available. You may also consult the Information for Government of Canada Employees: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page at /content/canadasite/en/government/publicservice/covid-19.html for further guidance.

For more information on what is and what is not deductible through your income tax, please visit the Canada Revenue Agency’s information page Employees’ Allowable Employment Expenses

I’m having connectivity issues. I regularly attend between 1-5 meetings a day online. At present, if I work from the office I am cut off from the world. Would it be possible to have portable Wi-Fi hotspots, wire Wi-Fi stations, increasing the # of GPNet stations, or increasing the bandwidth on DWAN for team meetings?

Users can leverage GC Wi-Fi Services present on some bases and wings or at NDHQ Carling in Ottawa to access the DWAN or full Defence 365 capabilities on their personal devices. If you are having issues connecting to this network, please contact your service desk.

For further information concerning GC Wi-Fi, please consult:

http://intranet.mil.ca/assets/DefenceTeam/docs/en/adm-pa/carling-campus/2019/ndhq-carling-gc-wifi-poster.pdf

Are two forms required for Flexible Work Agreement for compressed days AND working remotely?

No, there is one form (Civilian Flexible Work Agreement) used by civilian employees and their managers to document and approve all flexible work option(s). Meaning that an employee may request more than one flexible work option such as remote work and compressed which is then formalized/documented on the Flexible Work Agreement. Please see Guidance document and Instructions for assistance in completing a Civilian Flexible Work Agreement.

It should also be noted that an employee's work schedule must respect collective agreement conditions and compressed work schedules must be entered into the Phoenix Pay System.

Managers unable to enter the schedule can contact HR Connect to obtain the assistance of a timekeeper.

My unit is rotating between onsite and working from home. I have been called in full time, despite being an employee at risk, to fulfill a critical task. I feel that this task could be completed by someone else but our supervisor feels they have no other option. Please advise.

We understand that there are a lot of questions about how chains of command are deciding who returns to the workplace and that there isn't a "one-size fits all" answer. Until we return to normal operations, units will only have its members return to work if there is an operational or training imperative. However, the related conditions that will determine this return to work imperative will be governed by your chain of command in what we expect to be a fair and impartial manner. We ask that if you have issues or concerns with the related sequencing or scheduling to please engage with your chain of command.

You can read more about the decision making processes and what you can do if you do not agree with the decision in this Maple Leaf article (link: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2020/07/business-resumption-tough-questions.html)

As a CAF member who is working remotely full time, can I work remotely from a location other than my own home? (While adhering to CAF and provincial COVID-19 policies)

We recommend that you work directly with your chain of command as they will know the specifics about your duties, operational requirements, and regional travel restrictions & isolation policies that may impact your return.

Has there been any consideration to allow employees to relocate to another province to work remotely?

Direction regarding telework and supporting remote work is issued by the Office of the Chief Human Resource Officer (OCHRO) within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS). This guidance has generally provided high-level direction, while allowing individual departments and their sub-delegated managers to decide when and where remote work is possible. Remote work is dependent on many variables such as the type of work being performed, the requirement to attend critical functions at the workplace, a regional service delivery model vs. a national service delivery model, etc.

Employees must consult with their managers to determine the feasibility of full-time remote work and establish a Flexible Work Agreement that stipulates an agreed upon work location. It should be noted that a position’s suitability for remote work may change and Flexible Work Agreements are to be reviewed quarterly and updated accordingly, per the ADM(HR-Civ) Directive to Managers on Managing a flexible and varied civilian workforce.

Has the Department considered designating a "No Meetings day" each month or week, applicable to all the Defence Team (exception for those directly supporting CAF operations), to allow employees to focus on advancing individual work and avoiding "meeting burnout"?

As you can appreciate, the DND and CAF make up a very large and complex Defence Team. Given the nature of our organization, we are not considering designating a specific “no meetings day” at the Departmental level. You are encouraged to explore this idea with your manager or team at the local level in support of employee well-being. You are also encouraged to explore all of the mental health and well-being resources that are available to you, including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as well as the numerous articles, tools, and videos available on the HR GO application.

Is there a software tool for DND users that will scan the contents of emails being sent out or received that will provide a “safe” message?

All emails entering and leaving DND’s enterprise networks are scanned for malicious content by several security technologies. Every day, thousands of malicious emails, phishing, spam, malvertisement and other nuisance messages are stopped by our email security layers.

DND’s email system also includes other safeguards such as removal of active contents and embedded links, to further limit potential compromise through phishing.

Email is a critical information system protected in partnership between DND’s Information System Security practitioners, Defence Network Operations Center, Shared Services Canada and the Canadian Center for Cyber Security at Canadian Security Establishment. For more information about best practices and what you can do to maintain the Defence Team’s security, please visit: DND/CAF Security Guide for Teleworking during the COVID-19 Response - Canada.ca.

Who is responsible/delegated in DND to sign the T2200 for current and past employees who have worked from home in 2020? The direct manager responsible for the RC?

The Canada Revenue Agency has authorized a temporary flat rate method for claiming home office expenses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which does not require the use of the T2200 form. However, if the expenses that you wish to claim exceed $400, a T2200 will be required. This form must be completed by the employee and signed by their employer – which is their delegated Section 34 Manager. Please visit the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website to determine your eligibility, for information on the process, and to find the downloadable form - Employment Expenses 2020 - Canada.ca. Note that the Manager must be aware of the employee’s work arrangements and be able to answer any questions that the CRA may have. You cannot claim any expenses against your employment income that were or will be reimbursed separately by your employer.

My boss insists that we keep our cameras turned on 100% of the time during meetings. Is that allowed? The lines between our work and personal lives have become so blurred and sometimes the camera feels like an intrusion.

It is important to remember that though we are working remotely, we are all members of a federal government organization in a professional environment. In many cases, managers would expect that employees attend meetings in person where appropriate. This sentiment extends into the virtual working environment, and at times discussions benefit from “face-to-face” engagement. If you are not comfortable using the video features of a virtual meeting tool, you should first discuss your concerns with your manager to establish a balance that works for both parties. Depending on the platform being used to conduct meetings, there may be virtual meeting tools that have features to allow you to change or blur your background if you are concerned about your privacy space-wise. Working remotely has changed the way public servants create and manage information, and collaborate with others. The changes have presented new challenges to establish workplace processes, information management practices, service delivery, and internal collaboration that are usually protected within the security of the Government of Canada facilities and network environments.

If someone is working full-time from home and gets called in to the workplace during the normal workday period for a meeting or other work-related requirement, can they claim mileage as their home is now considered their normal place of work?

In accordance with Canadian Forces Temporary Duty Travel Instructions CFTDTI, Chapter 5 - Travel Within Place of Duty, there is no entitlement for a member to be reimbursed for travel expenses to and from the member's permanent place of work.

Moving into Business Resumption, open discussions about individuals’ preferences for remote work and/or returning to the workplace will take place. The discussions will take into account the terms of operational requirements and the feasibility of continued remote work from an infrastructure and health and safety perspective. Members should have a discussion with their local chains of command regarding their desire to continue remote work, their home office set-up, and their needs, to determine the best way forward.

Is access to DVPNI still restricted?

DVPNI allocations were assigned to ensure the most critical business functions could occur, despite some technology limitations. As system upgrades have been completed, DVPNI allocations have similarly increased.

If you were not initially provided DVPNI access, please discuss with your manager whether this is now a possibility given the increased capacity on the network.

Who is eligible for the Remote Work Reimbursement?

All indeterminate, term and casual civilian employees are eligible for the Remote Work Reimbursement for purchases up to $300 (or up to $500 in exceptional circumstances and with L1 approval) made between April 1 to September 30 2021, regardless of whether they work remotely on a full or part-time basis.

All Defence Team members should discuss their equipment needs with their managers as there may be an opportunity to retrieve required equipment from your workplace with your manager‘s permission. Any questions regarding eligibility of claimable miscellaneous expenses are to be addressed through your delegated managers and chain of command.

For reservists, CANFORGEN 111/21 states that in order to be eligible for reimbursement, the work performed was their normal full-time assigned duties. Contractors and CAF Class A reservists are not eligible to claim expenses.

Therefore, according to CANFORGEN 111/21, Class A Reservists, part-time by definition, are excluded from the Remote Work Reimbursement. If you are a Class B or Class C Reservist, you are encouraged to have a discussion with your supervisor or military Chain of Command about the eligibility criteria.

As many of us continue to work from home, what options are available to Defence Team members to offset the cost of a home office?

Defence Team members should have a discussion with their manager regarding their current remote work set up and what their needs are. Managers need to ensure Defence Team members are working safely and effectively.

  • If Defence Team members need IT equipment, this is to come from DND’s current internal inventory or should be procured for them through regular means.
  • If Defence Team members require ergonomic or support equipment/supplies, they should be allowed access to the workplace to pick up their own equipment from their office space, where feasible.
  • As per OCHRO guidance, if any Defence Team members require additional equipment it could be purchased through established standing offers and be delivered to the members remote work site. This equipment will remain DND assets.

RC Managers have the discretion to determine what should be reimbursed for Defence Team members with receipts up to $300 for out of pocket expenses from April 1 to September 30 2021 Up to $500 may be approved in extenuating circumstances, with L1 approval and accountability to the Deputy Minister/Chief of the Defence Staff.

The intent of providing additional reimbursement during the timeframe of 1 April to 30 September 2021 was to continue to support those who work from home during this period due to the pandemic. The reimbursement is not intended to cover expenses previously reimbursed by the Department or for equipment that already exists, or IT equipment that can, and should, be acquired through the Department.

Additionally, employees may be able to claim certain home office expenses (such as work-space-in-the home expenses, office supplies and certain phone expenses) as a deduction on their personal income tax return. More information is available from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Are Defence Team members who incurred home office costs prior to 1 April 2021 able to claim a reimbursement?

If Defence Team members incurred expenditures between 13 March 2020 and 31 March 2021, they should refer to CANFORGEN 147/20 (updated guidance superseding CANFORGEN 115/20) for details. In summary, the eligibility, process and limits are the same as in CANFORGEN 111/21 but CANFORGEN 147-20 covers a different time period.

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