Tailoring policies and structures to withstand new trends, such as remote working, in the Public Service

Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar

Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar said that work is underway to design policies and structures that can withstand the new trends to be introduced in the Public Service in the near future, including remote working. The structures that were in place traditionally are inadequate to sustain such a shift. 

Mr Cutajar was addressing a conference themed ‘New Balances’, organised as part of Public Service Week 2020. Presentations were also made by Mr Anthony Gatt, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Energy and Water Management, who explained the results of a pilot project dealing with remote working, and Ms Stelmart Khalil, Assistant Director at the Employment Support Programme, who delved in detail into workers’ well-being. 

Mr Cutajar said that one of the points on which this year’s Public Service Week is focusing is the workers, and therefore the future, of the Public Service. This is because services are provided by workers, whose wellbeing is therefore very important. We need to invest in workers as much as we invest in the service itself. 

Remote working, Mr Cutajar said, is not only a circumstance that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic. The concept of remote working had already been studied, so much so that last year the Ministry for Energy and Water Management drew up a pilot project to examine this concept. The same ministry is also working on another pilot project dealing with the paperless office.

Mr Cutajar said that in addition to the new balances to be achieved through remote working, other considerations need to be taken into account, such as the impact on the environment due to lack of travel. Explaining the difference between remote work and teleworking, he said that remote working means that one may work from wherever he chooses to, and not necessarily from home. In practicing remote working, the Public Service will take account of the experiences lived during Covid-19. The pandemic gave us the opportunity to analyse, among others, any shortcomings we may have had, and how the pace of work is affected when people do not work in the manner dictated by tradition. 

Aspects such as technological connectivity, confidentiality, management, and attitudes of people who, although working outside the office, prefer to leave home, were also analysed. The Public Service will provide for the latter through hot desking at the servizz.gov regional hubs, and where this is not possible, necessary arrangements will be made with local councils. 

The Public Service is taking all this into account to be able to address it through new policies. At the same time, the Public Service acknowledges that these trends should not be dealt with separately: The work of the government is broader, accountability must remain in place, and therefore we also need to look at how records are kept, how filing is done, the role of registries, and what should and should not go to the National Archives. 

This means, Mr Cutajar said, that we are not merely discussing new balances but also new structures and working methods. In all its work, the Public Service always focuses on the people. That is why in recent years it has not only transformed the PAHRO into the People & Standards Division, but it is also focusing on the wellbeing of workers through the services that the Employee Support Programme offers professionally and proactively.