MLA says new flexible workplace policy doesn’t go far enough

Adam Arreak Lightstone asks Human Resources Minister Margaret Nakashuk about allowing staff to work remotely

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone is bringing his history as former human resources minister to the fore as the legislative assembly convened in Iqaluit this week. (File photo)

By Meral Jamal

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone wants to know why, if GN employees will soon be able to work from any office anywhere in Nunavut, they can’t just work from home.

He questioned Margaret Nakashuk, the territory’s human resources minister, about the issue Thursday in the legislative assembly.

“During the early stages of the [COVID-19] pandemic, many Government of Nunavut employees were required to work remotely,” Lightstone said.

“This has proven that certain jobs in Nunavut can be done remotely and government employees have the capability to work remotely.”

The GN will soon roll out a flexible work policy allowing eligible government staff to work from an office in any community in the territory.

Lightstone asked Nakashuk what is stopping the government from allowing its employees to work from home, hypothetically from anywhere in Canada.

Nakashuk said the government has considered factors such as employee performance while working away from the office; decentralized offices; and the high number of vacant positions across GN departments.

“With the flexible workplace policy — I think that’s a pretty good start in how the GN is trying to ensure that we have GN positions filled in communities,” she said.

Lightstone pushed further, saying he believes a remote-work policy would help address challenges such as staff shortages and vacancies within government departments.

“I strongly believe that we need to be more employee-oriented,” he said.

“That’s what other governments in the provinces and territories are doing, including the federal government. They’re embracing the new work model and have opted for a hybrid work model.”

This isn’t the first time this week Lightstone, who served as human resources minister until March 2022, has focused on workplace issues. He questioned Nakashuk on Wednesday about possibly instituting a four-day workweek policy for government employees.

Lightstone was working on establishing a remote work policy during his time as minister.


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(31) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    how did that work during the pandemic shut down?

    horribly. absolutely horrific.

    We would ask Staff to email in the morning when they woke up for attendance. you were lucky if some emailed in by 11am if at all. the work was not being done and it was stupendously hilarious.

    Adam, I thought you were doing such a wonderful job but after you lost your seat, it just became clear that there was a reason.

    • Posted by ya not everyone on

      I probably logged 10 weeks of lieu time during the pandemic while WFH. My work focused on covid policy and response and the need to spend a lot of time and effort was important. I worked with my team remotely and we accomplished a lot. I didn’t get monitors of a fancy desk but I got a lot done anyway. I can do my job from anywhere in the world and I can do it all. No, instead I went back to the office where I would put in the same effort but honestly there is less ability to focus with water cooler chat.
      Instead of my taking up a staff unit, a staff office and $15000 in northern allowance, and the $45000 to move to Iqaluit, my job can be done remote.
      Most commenters know people or work in jobs that are not fit for remote work. For professionals it is another story. Why do those like engineers, surveyors, accountants and lawyers who are all desk job professionals get painted with the same brush as some guy who works and the beer and wine store, or the lady at vital stats who is never there?
      Anyway I and about 90% of my team have since left because we can work remote for the GN as consultants and some for the Feds. The idiots making policy on this could have retained employees had they had the guts to permit professionals with strong performance reviews to have this privilege.

  2. Posted by Oh? on

    “The GN will soon roll out a flexible work policy allowing eligible government staff to work from an office in any community in the territory”

    Can’t wait to see all the vacant gn offices once this happens. Why would someone choose to stay in dorset or pang when they can move to iqaluit? Watch all the professionals pack up and leave their decentralized communities to go live in iqaluit. Watch an already overstressed housing market get even worse due to this mass exodus.

    On the bright side, all the GN housing units will be vacant in the smaller communities, so they could be used for inuit. This could also force many inuit out of iqaluit though too.

    • Posted by not on

      Not everyone in smaller Nunavut communities wants to live in Iqaluit.

  3. Posted by ? on


  4. Posted by ? on

    Mr Lightstone ?

  5. Posted by John K on

    Four day work weeks and flexible scheduling work really well in a lot of places. It often results in higher productivity and huge boosts to moral.

    Having said that … those places aren’t Nunavut.

    • Posted by Now what? on

      So, what’s the answer, John? More of the same?

      • Posted by John K on

        I don’t really believe there is an answer for Nunavut.

  6. Posted by Brambleberry on

    The problem with remote work is that some employees are fantastic when working from home. They check in each morning, are easily reached and quickly responsive, and get tons of work done. These are typically the same employees who work like this when they are in the office.

    Then there are the employees who typically come in late, miss a lot of work, miss deadlines, ghost management instead of responding promptly to emails. These employees behave exactly the same way when working from home, with the exception that productivity dives, and you can’t walk down the hallway to note that it’s 3 PM and you haven’t seen them in the office all day. These are the one’s who want to work from home the most.

    Working from home should be exclusively reserved for employees who are reliable, hard-working, and communicative. As a manager, when I have a staff member where I can never seem to find them in the late afternoon, that employee is not getting approval to work from home. Period.

    If you are getting paid for 7.5 hours per day, you should be working 7.5 hours per day. Flexibility about when you work those hours (barring front-facing staff) is fine, but you’ve got to do the work. If you have a history of underperforming, late afternoon “drift-away”, or absenteeism, then working from home ought to be off the table.

    • Posted by AA on

      Truer words were never spoken. Add employees who use up all their sick leave, special leave and annual leave and then want to work from home where they can continue to relax without worrying that the work they avoid has to be done somehow by someone else. What about teachers? nurses? doctors? essential employees? They can’t work from home and a 4-day school week will cause a lot of complaints.

  7. Posted by Creative unworkable ideas on

    There’s already a problem with absenteeism, and with new or existing employees not getting enough hands-on training or support in their jobs (or at least that is a reason they give for why they don’t do the work and aren’t motivated to show up.)

    This is a terrible idea. If decentralization isn’t working, it’s better to move departments to Iqaluit, and have departments working together in one place. Even in the south stuff clusters into big cities, there’s a reason for that, because when stuff is actually happening in a given workplace, you need to be close to other stuff to keep it happening.

    Decentralization holds Nunavut back. It’s well-intended, and I wish it worked, but it just really doesn’t, the distances and logistical challenges are too large. The answer is not to have remote work be optional from anywhere, especially in a territory with a largely unskilled and very needy local workforce.

  8. Posted by Taxpayer on

    The only noticeable difference I saw during the pandemic in the level of GN public service was that teachers could not teach our kids due to school closures, and that there was a major uptick in the already stellar efforts of our health care staff.

    So, given that people need to receive health care in person in equipped clinics, that leaves the question on what GN is doing about linking teachers to students.

    Why is it that in this day and age, GN Education still does not directly provide remote education aka distance learning?

    If you go to the GN Education website, there are only 2 online learning options for our students; one actually delivered by Alberta Distance Learning, not the GN, and another “PASS”, only available to students that drop out of high school first.

    This is an incredible gap and hugely ironic given the lip service and promises of Made In Nunavut education we have received over the last 20 years.

    Distance learning is one of the most the obvious solutions to the lack of qualified Inuktun teachers. It would help also with the chronic problem in allocating staff housing for teachers, and the chronic problems with attracting and retaining high school specialist teachers.

    For a few years now, students in places like Uluhaktok and Sachs Harbour get to be taught things like science and math by teachers stationed in Inuvik, when it is really not possible for them to be taught in person.

    Yet here in Nunavut, we throw up our hands saying in many communities, it is not possible to have academic graduates, and we are instead stuck talking about these pointless things.

    I could care less about whether a “Coordinator” this or “Analyst” even has a job, when they work, or where they work. I care about government workers that actually deliver real service.

    • Posted by Educator on

      Actually, the Department of Education DOES offer and it PAYS for distance learning as well as textbooks required for such courses in all K to 12 schools and has a distance learning directive where this is outlined operationally. Distance learning courses are available from institutions approved by the Minister of Education. For more information, please contact the school principal, the district education authority or any high school teacher. Distance learning courses must be approved by the district education authority and principal and the marks achieved must be submitted to the principal at the end of the course for entry into the student record, especially in grades 10 -12.

      • Posted by How often is it used and how is it supported? on

        That policy is outdated and does not take into account the need to provide support for students wishing to learn in this way; it is only successful if the student and parents are highly motivated and have the necessary equipment; a broader approach should be encouraged ….

  9. Posted by delbert on

    I thought that was the current policy. When you try to contact workers in any government office. By phone no answer. If you go to a office in person the doors are locked. I guess this policy will provide better service. Congratulations you have succeeded in validating. That the GN will never expect to have a functioning bureaucracy.

  10. Posted by Putting this out there on

    So with the 4 day work week… I would love the Idea in theory (selfishly)… well would have pre kids in school, and will again once the kids are out of school. but is he also suggesting that the schools also go to 4 days a week? If not that wont help families spend more time together. also…..
    isnt the department of Ed moving toward full day Kindergarten to get more baby sitting happing in the school?

    • Posted by Ignore the Teachers when they say “GN Wants” on

      Whenever the GN wants something like 4 day work weeks or work from home, you can just straight up ignore the teacher aspect of this. The teachers have a different union because of exactly this stuff. Different things are expected of them than other GN employees.

      I’m honestly shocked that the Nurses aren’t under a separate union as well. Were they at one time?

  11. Posted by 59009 on

    How will this affect Northern Allowances?

  12. Posted by No Accountability on

    I wish the regular MLAs could figure out how the GN is managing to run a deficit when almost sixty percent of its staff positions are unfilled.

    • Posted by Putting this out there on

      OT and Duty Travel

      You have a vacancies in a section and then you get a couple people to cover for those other roles and in doing so they spend 6-8 months of the year traveling (meetings for a few different jobs) and making peridium’s, also that is a lot of weekend and travel OT.
      And since they are working and traveling so much, its not like they are using their OT for time off… they are getting it paid out.

    • Posted by Medical Travel on

      GN volunteers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for medical travel. They administer a federal program that is supposed to cover 100% of the costs for Inuit at a deficit because no Health Minister since 1999, despite lots of articles and reports where they threaten to do it (George was the latest to be vocal), has the actual guts to drop it and give it back to the feds. Non Inuit basically pay their way through taxes and mandatory insurance premiums at the GN.

  13. Posted by Lol on

    If they go down to a compressed work week aka 4 days 8 hours, those who actually put in 40 hours of work will automatically lose 20% of their productivity. Those who are unproductive will benefit from the day off though because a 20% loss from 0% productivity is still 0%

    • Posted by How it looks from here on

      Maybe the GN needs to up its hiring standards? Then we won’t need to fuss so much about all the ‘unproductive’ workers. Or is that ‘mission impossible’?

  14. Posted by Jim on

    Stubborn and completely inflexible management are a terrible burden to some employees that want to perform. Human resources has to start looking at the big picture in resolving disputes between bosses and employees such that tasks are accomplished rather that just supporting bully bosses. Bosses refuse to tolerate the slightest change from a strict schedule of 9-5 Mon-Fri and everyone’s lives suffer for it.

  15. Posted by YCO on

    easy for lightstone to say this when there is such a big housing overcrowding issue how does he expect one to get their work done working remotely when living with 10 others who are probably still drinking with their friends? tackle some real issues and stop daydreaming

  16. Posted by Nunavumiuq on

    If the GN is going ahead with the 4 days a week work make sure the Wine and Beer store is not open until 5pm because GN staff will just drink and forget to work. Hrs for the Beer store need to be changed anyway because too many people are homeless now, and GN employees don’t show up to work after lunch since the Wine and Beer store opened.
    RCMP are busier and the crime rate is worse and it is so ugly to see when driving by the city, so many people drinking straight from the Wine bottles beers cans etc.
    How is the GN planning to keep their eyes out open if GN staff are really working? It is bad enough with allot of them lining up during the lunch hour in front of the WB Store.

    Please Name Withheld

  17. Posted by MIKE on

    Its a shame that soon as you leave Nunavut and being a beneficiary that i cant continue to serve the GN and my people from the south. Hoping that somewhere soon , gn to offer inuit out of territory remote positions. id happily do my previous job without northern allowances … hahaha

  18. Posted by Name withheld on

    GN Remote workplace will never work, unless employee’s are on MS Teams 7.5 hours a day. Which is a little hard when you have a family of 5 for example and are require to go into a meeting via MS Teams.

    Fed’s is more advance in their management keeping track of employee’s, letter’s being sent, etc for those not showing up, etc.

    Leave applications are all done via online portal, LWOP etc are all entered to HRMIS. I believe GNWT is using this system now.

  19. Posted by Brilliant on

    Are you serious or are you just seeking media attention to get votes for the next election?

Comments are closed.