APS return to offices a ‘positive milestone’, commissioner says

By Melissa Coade

October 26, 2021

There are a number of surprises in the department secretary changes, yet all of the appointments are solid. (BISURJADI/Adobe)

In an open letter to public servants, Australian Public Service commissioner Peter Woolcott and PM&C secretary Phil Gaetjens have signalled the start of a gradual return of staff to the physical office environment.

Restrictions in states and territories are relaxing and we are emerging from lockdowns across much of the nation. This is a welcome change after a challenging 18 months,” the letter reads.

Our attention now turns to the transition back to our usual workplaces in a COVID-safe manner as restrictions are eased for workplaces.”

The Mandarin recently canvassed a selection of federal department responses about return to work plans where a number of sources had complained about the inconsistent transition approaches being adopted by agencies and departments. Since August 12, ACT government health orders have required most employees to work from home but with those restrictions now easing, employers are having to call the shots about how and when staff are back at their desks in the office.

Woolcott and Gaetjens’ letter said that while vaccination rates in Australia were increasing, measures such as office occupancy rates, density limits, physical distancing and strict hygiene measures would remain important. 

They added that flexible work options were key to ensuring that individual employee needs could be addressed as departments engaged in some transition back to ‘normal’ settings. 

Each of us should continue to comply with the latest state and territory public health orders to protect ourselves and our families, our colleagues, our customers and the Australian community,” the letter said.

“Please follow progress with these measures in the state and territory in which you live and work.

The open letter also urged those public servants who were able to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, thanking those who had already done so, as well as those who had taken steps to get a shot. 

Woolcott and Gaetjens went on to thank the APS for its critical work delivering services that helped Australia respond to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking to 2022, they said the APS would stay focused on implementing the government’s post-COVID recovery plan. 

“Returning to our usual workplaces is a positive milestone and a shift towards some normality for all of us. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and return to our team environments,” they said.

“You have done an exceptional job in testing circumstances. Your efforts have ensured the delivery of critical government services and other priorities for the Australian community.”

“Thank you for your dedication, and in fulfilling our essential role in serving all Australians.”


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