Based on the most recent dataset I’ve seen, there are about 300,000 Canadians working in the federal public service. Many of these people are working remotely right now, and have been since 2020.
As of April 2021, there hasn’t been a government-wide plan to embrace or reject remote work in the future. It could happen, but if not, I have a gut feeling we’ll be seeing a much higher attrition rate in the public service!
Remote work is here to stay.
I’ve been working remotely for at least ten years. I knew back then that it would be the future. As a business owner, as much as I’d love a fancy office space, it makes no financial sense. Instead, I can pay more for tools, or talent, or both. Of course, it gets a lot more complicated for already leased commercial environments, but for a new business owner, going fully remote might actually be a smart move.
So, if the public service won’t embrace remote work, you can bet that private industry will. The tech industry has already done so. And many other offices are now adopting a hybrid work environment: come a few days a week, or when necessary for meetings. Work from home on days when you’re sick or have appointments.
FYI: there are many non-tech jobs in Tech.
I want to touch on this topic for a second, because a lot of people don’t realize how many non-tech jobs there are in the tech industry. And I bring this up because as of right now, it’s a whole lot easier to find full-time remote work in tech, than in other industries.
Many large tech organizations employ business analysts, project managers, writers, marketers, lawyers, accountants, teachers (learning and development experts), customer service professionals, middle managers, HR professionals, etc.
So, for example, if you’re thinking of leaving a job as a business analyst in government, consider a career in Tech!
Your skills are all transferable.
Other than financial security (aka, “The Golden Handcuff”, the almighty government pension), the biggest thing stopping a lot of public servants from transferring to private industry is the feeling that their skills are useless outside of the government arena.
That’s complete bullshit. A lot of the work that you do is actually an amalgamation of skills that can be transferred to a new job.
Make a list of the things that you do on a daily basis, and try to generalize those actions. For example, “I brief the director, and other parties, on our findings” can be converted to “I am highly experienced in liaising with executives, and communicating key data to internal shareholders”.
Here are some examples of transferable skills:
- Communicating (interviewing parties, leading meetings, written communication, preparing reports, etc)
- Researching (fact-finding, investigation, consulting reading materials to find answers, compiling and comparing various sources of data, etc)
- Analyzing (analyzing data, uncovering new information, ability to discern fact from fiction, focusing on large datasets, etc)
- Managing (managing a team, assigning work to people, resolving conflicts, “running with” a project, monitoring a project, running a department, etc)
- Organizing (maintaining a file system, putting together documents from various sources, monitoring inventories, etc)
Those are just a few examples! But, do you see what I mean? You’re never really stuck with whatever narrow job title and description you’ve been given by your superiors (and that goes for anyone, by the way, civil servant or private industry employee!).
Your experience and skills matter more than what your previous department or company allowed you to use as a title. This is why it’s so important to keep your resume up to date with your most recent experience, achievements, and skillset.
Private industry uses weird job titles.
This one could take some getting used to. Because things aren’t really standardized across private industry, you’ll see weird titles like “Chief Innovation Officer”, or “Eulogist”, or “Director of Happiness”. Some companies out there are a bit… quirky?!
I’ve even seen cases where companies let you choose your title, as long as it’s in line with your responsibilities. Of course, the problem with all of this is that it makes job hunting SO much harder.
There are some things I really envy about the government. Using a standard set of job titles makes a lot of sense. So, when you’re looking for remote work in private industry, try keyword searches instead of job title searches. That will help you narrow down your search by what you’re good at.
How to find remote work in Canada.
I’ve already written something about this for freelancers, but much of the same wisdom applies for remote permanent work from home jobs too!
The good news is that Indeed finally has a “Remote” filter that shows “Remote” or “Temporarily Remote” jobs. (Back in the day, you had to search by keywords, or worse, you had to ask the company if they’d consider hiring you remotely!).
So, it’s a lot easier now. The main thing to remember is that you need to widen your search location scope to “Canada” instead of just “Ottawa” (or whatever city you live in). It might be nice to work remotely from home for an office that is also in your hometown. But, for maximum success, you’ll want to look for jobs across the country.
If you’re not searching on Indeed, then that’s where typing in a job title or keyword and the word “remote” after it in your search term will hopefully produce some good results.
Some of the Crown corporations have gone remote, or allow some remote work. A list of Crown corps can be found here.
No more pension, sadly.
Pensions are really a thing of the past in private industry. Some larger corporations still have them, but for the most part, much of private industry is non-unionized outside of the Trades and Entertainment.
So, if you’re looking for white collar work outside of the government, you might be trading off a pension for a higher salary. Your individual situation would help determine if that’s a good idea or not.
Just be prepared to do some things that you’re not used to doing if you’ve been a civil servant your entire life. Things like negotiating your vacation time, sick days, and salary.
Oh yeah, in most cases, you’ll have the be the one to tell them how much money you want to make! That’s a topic for a different article, but these are all things to consider if you’re thinking of leaving the safety of what you currently know.
If you love working from home, maybe jump ship?
I have no idea how the federal government will approach work from home arrangements in the future. What I do know is that a lot of my acquaintances are ready to trade job security and a pension, for a permanent work from home arrangement. And that might mean leaving the public service altogether.
But, if you’ve worked as a civil servant your entire life, you might be in for a bit of a culture shock. One thing that private industry has going for itself though is its readiness to embrace working from home in the future.
Again this is a deeply personal decision, but at the very least, if your government department recalls you back to the office, and you’re not interested in going back, at least you know you’ve got options now.