Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Working remotely

On this page

Working remotely and critical services

Employees at all work sites are asked to work remotely whenever and wherever possible. Managers are expected to identify an approach that is flexible while ensuring continued critical government operations and services to Canadians.

Managers are to consider on-site work only if the work meets the definition of critical service and working remotely to support it is not feasible, as some functions cannot be fulfilled from a location other than a designated workplace.

A “critical service” is one that if disrupted would result in a high or very high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians, or to the effective functioning of the Government of Canada. All departments are required to identify their respective critical services and related supporting resources. For more information, please refer to the Policy on Government Security.

It should be noted that an “essential service” is used to determine which positions must continue to provide service during strike activity.

Essential service agreements are agreed to with the bargaining agents.

Setting up your workspace at home

Working remotely offers many advantages and flexibility. It is a reality for many public servants as we carry on work during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is a circumstance that many of us are not used to.

To be successful while working remotely, we need to create a workspace that promotes efficiency and effectiveness. Take the time to create the right conditions for success and wellness.  This could include ensuring that we have:

  • a dedicated workspace
  • enough natural light
  • minimal distractions

While many public servants have the necessary tools to work remotely, you may find you require additional equipment. Your department will review requests for additional equipment, on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing employees who are delivering critical services and those for whom the employer has a duty to accommodate. As always, be sure to discuss your workspace with your manager if you need guidance or assistance in following your organization‘s directions for remote work.

Using the network

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Shared Services Canada and departmental Chief Information Officers are working together to maximize internet bandwidth to support remote work and prioritize network access for critical operations.

This requires you to be thoughtful about when and how you use the network. Also, each department may have different advice and directives about how to use technology, and you should always consider your department’s advice as the authority.

To limit demand on our IT systems, please:

  • Use mobile devices whenever possible to send and receive emails (up to Protected B);
  • Connect to VPN/SRA get what you need from the corporate network and disconnect, which allows for others to do the same;
  • Limit the use of video conferencing on the GC network when audio conferencing will suffice;
  • Avoid large data transfers over the network like graphically intense decks, images, PDFs or streaming services (e.g. YouTube); and
  • Download documents outside normal business hours.

To collaborate within and across teams:

  • Use public cloud services to collaborate with colleagues, for Unclassified work (examples: Facetime, MS Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack, etc.); and
  • Use the BBMe application to communicate with colleagues, for up to Protected B work.

Employees who are not supporting critical operations, service and program delivery should work remotely and limit their use of the network according to departmental guidance to the extent possible. 

If you are working on sensitive, protected or classified information from home, you are responsible for safeguarding personal or sensitive information outside the workplace. The requirements for managing information are the same whether working remotely or in the office, and whether connected to the VPN, or not. Employees must be mindful of managing information appropriately and effectively, and in accordance with all relevant legislative and policy requirements.

To ensure that government information is appropriately managed and protected, remember to:

  • focus on managing information of business value
  • ensure the security and proper handling of sensitive information

Learn more about managing government information while working remotely, or contact your departmental or agency Chief Information Officer and Chief Security Officer for further guidance.

Visit the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security to learn how to keep your computer safe from phishing, malware and malicious emails. The Canada School of Public Service Digital Academy has also released its Going Remote Guide with additional resources.

Departments and agencies should help you with the aspects of safe custody and control of sensitive information, and make the necessary arrangements to meet your obligations, when working away from the designated workplace.

For more information, please consult your departmental security office.

Managing your work and productivity

For those of us not used to working remotely, remaining productive can be a challenge. Our offices are set up for work and team interactions that nudge us toward productivity. Our remote workplaces (e.g., our homes) often lack these same cues and supports.

As such, it is important that we use personal and team strategies to remain productive. These strategies are often not different than those we use in the office; however, they may require extra effort, discipline, and creativity when working remotely.

Huddle with your team to prioritize. Plan your day and map out what you are going to accomplish and how. Find the approach that works best for you and your team.

Tips for staying productive

Resources from the Canada School of Public Service

Maintaining your wellbeing

While there may be many benefits associated with working remotely, including avoiding the daily commute and the freedom to work at different times of the day, working remotely, especially for longer periods of time, can be difficult.

Things that ordinarily would happen as part of our routine at work that allow us to maintain our mental health may not occur, the distinction between the professional and the personal may blur, and being physically separated from our colleagues in performing our work can take a toll.

In light of this, we should:

  • Set a schedule, as we are creatures of habit and routine helps us physically and mentally prepare for our day.
  • Stay connected, especially given that physically distancing ourselves can make us feel disconnected, buddying up with a peer and using virtual means (e.g. FaceTime, Skype, Zoom) to connect with our colleagues and loved ones. 
  • Make time for self-care, remembering that practising self-care isn’t selfish; getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy, and exercising regularly is important.

For more on how to maintain your mental health and support others, visit COVID-19 and Mental Health @ Work and follow @CEMHW_CESMMT on Twitter.

Mental health tips for working from home

Who to contact for more information

If you have work-related concerns, you should:

For up-to-date information about COVID-19 across Canada:

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: