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BC Hydro workers strongly in favour of flexible work model, according to internal survey

The results of a briefing note about an October employee pulse check survey says some BC Hydro workers are concerned their ability to work from home will come to an end
The results of an internal BC Hydro survey show 74 per cent of employees who responded were happy or ecstatic with the organization's flexible work model

BC Hydro employees want to continue to enjoy the freedom to work from home, according to the results of the utility’s employee “pulse check survey” last October.

“Generally, employees are appreciative of the flexible work model, citing positive impacts on wellbeing, and time and cost savings by not commuting. Employees expressed strong desire for the model to continue; some are concerned that the program is temporary and may come to an end,” said the Nov. 8 human resources briefing note for senior executives, released under freedom of information law.

“Regardless of tenure, employees continue to look for more flexibility than what they currently have, in terms of setting their scheduled in-office days and frequency, as well as noting inconsistent practices across the company.”

The briefing note said five such pulse check surveys have been completed since the pandemic began three years ago. The October survey was the second focused on the flexible work model – with responses from hybrid, resident, remote and field workers – and boasted a 65 per cent response rate. More than 1,800 comments, including 365 from managers, were received. 

The results showed 74 per cent of employees who responded were happy or ecstatic with the flexible model – two per cent better than the previous pulse check. Hybrid and remote employees were the most positive, while those in field roles had the lowest sentiments. 

Employees used their in-office days to get caught up with co-workers they haven’t seen in a while (28 per cent), schedule in-person meetings (22 per cent) and make introductions to new employees (20 per cent). 

“Employees continue to appreciate the ability to work from home. In particular, saving time and money by not commuting, and having the ability to balance home life responsibilities were the top reasons selected,” the briefing note said. “Generally, hybrid, remote and resident employees appear to have slightly improved sentiments about the flexible work model since June, and are likely adjusted to this new way of working.”

Almost six in 10 respondents said in-office days are important to the Crown corporation’s “relationship-based culture.” When working in-office, 61 per cent are doing so on the same days every week, predominantly in tandem with their team and manager, and 46 per cent have some days mandated by their boss and some their own choice. 

“The most valuable things that employees find about in-office days are the ability to have impromptu conversations, in-person meetings and being able to meet new people in person,” read the note.

It also said managers and employees had similar feelings about limited in-office days. Managers considered a common in-office day with their team critical for a deeper connection and employees deemed it valuable. Both groups questioned the value of additional in-office days, “as they're primarily in virtual meetings due to different in-office schedules.”

Field employees said the flexible model does not apply to them, so it is “unfair and a source of discontent.”

No immediate action was recommended, but the briefing note listed four next steps: To share results with senior leaders at a November forum; discuss with the employee communications team; consider the data for potential changes to the work model to be explored during 2023; and consider the best approach for the next pulse check, which was planned for the January-through-March quarter. 

Under an August 2021 agreement between BC Hydro and its union, MoveUp, 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 allows BC Hydro to send a representative for a home workplace audit on a minimum 24 hours’ notice. BC Hydro provides necessary IT hardware and software, including virtual private network access, but will not pay utilities or meal expenses.