Today (March 17), Acting Chief Officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports Agriculture and Lands (EYSAL) Ms. Lyneth Monteith announced the Ministry's support for the car-free week activities scheduled to begin on Monday, March 22. She also highlighted some of the Ministry's recent efforts to lessen its environmental impact. "During the past year, we have increased our efforts to ensure that we (the Ministry) collectively play our part in reducing motor vehicle congestion and give greater consideration to the health, safety and well-being of our team."
"Covid-19 has also allowed us to revisit our priorities and better understand the importance of maximising our efficiency by leveraging technology to facilitate new ways of working. As the largest Ministry, we are confident that our efforts to facilitate flexible working structures for our staff will significantly reduce congestion and, in the long run, carbon emissions whilst sustaining and increasing the quality of service provided to our stakeholders," Ms. Monteith added.
On 13 March 2020, when the Cayman Islands Government announced the shelter-in-place and work from home arrangements, the Ministry had already included, in its business continuity plan, the necessary framework to facilitate this transition. As such, several members of the core staff, deemed critical to business continuity, including the members of the finance team and those working in key administrative roles, had already received work-related tools including laptop computers, cellular phones, MiCollab and Citrix tokens to ensure a seamless workflow during the physical closure of its office.
A total of 28 laptops, 53 Citrix tokens and 25 cellular phones were distributed to employees during the period from February to November. The Ministry also created Whatapp chat groups to ensure the timely and effective flow of information among the various levels of staff.
"The overall dedication demonstrated by our team members during the shelter-in-place order was truly commendable. Persons were cognisant of their roles and availed themselves to ensure that tasks were completed according to deadline. As a matter of fact, such was the staff's dedication during this period that we had no hesitation whatsoever adhering to the Portfolio of the Civil Service (POCS), Personnel Circular 15 of 2020, once it was issued in September 2020. Our greatest concern at that time was how to ensure that employees maintained good mental health and work-life balance while working from home as remote working caused staff to work harder for longer periods," said Ms. Monteith.
Further to the issuance of circular 15, 44 employees, more than half of the 68 member core staff, have taken advantage of flexible work arrangements and are executing their duties in a staggered or split working pattern. This has essentially led to more than 40 fewer vehicles on the roadways at the peak traffic hours during a typical work week.
Deputy Chief Officer with responsibility for Agriculture, Lands and Administration Mr. Wilbur Welcome is one of those employees who has worked remotely three days per week since September 2020.
"Living in the most easterly part of the island, my daily commute spans at least three hours. Since the advent of the flexible work arrangement, I work from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM each day, only working from the office twice weekly. This new arrangement has allowed me to utilise my time more productively and avoid the traffic conditions that often prevail during peak hours. While seemingly innocuous traffic congestion has proven to negatively affect most person's mental health. I've particularly found myself to be generally happier and also more efficient and willing to make myself available when needed outside of my core hours. The current ILM3 course I'm taking through the Civil Service College has also helped enhance my leadership skills, particularly by understanding how to get the best production from my team. A key part of improved performance and output from the team I lead has emanated from empowering and trusting them to carry out their duties and responsibilities through remote and/or flexible working arrangements that consider their needs and meets the requirements of their post. I've recognised that the team, which is not customer-facing, does not need to be physically in an office for me to monitor the quality and efficiency of their outputs," commented Mr. Welcome.
SEN Case Manager Inclusion, Ms. Deidre Carmola, echoed a similar tune about the traffic situation, adding, "I have found the option to work from home quite beneficial given my health and some of the battles I face. It has certainly taken the stress off me having to constantly fight through the traffic. As a person who's survived cancer and had 18 chemo treatments during the last couple of years, sitting in long lines of traffic affects me adversely. Working remotely also allows me to remain productive in my work. My ability to conduct business by Zoom also enhances the work from home option. There are times when I attend the office and perhaps do a few days there, especially when I need the services of a high-speed printer and scanner, which are available at the Government Building."
Senior Accountant and mother of two, Ms. Charlette Dixon, works remotely from 3:00 PM most days. She describes the ability to work remotely as 'an excellent step forward for the Ministry'. "As a single mom with two boys age 12 and 17, working remotely most afternoons has significantly improved my work-life balance. I am able to manage the school pickups during my lunch breaks and get the kids home on time so that they can focus on studying, completing school assignments and projects. At the same time, I can work remotely to assist in managing the fast-paced operations of the Transactional Processing Team within MEYSAL Finance," Ms. Dixon added.
Mr. Clive Baker, Facilities Manager, is another prime example of a MEYSAL team member who has benefited from the flexible work arrangement.
A typical day on the job requires him to spend a vast amount of his time at work and building sites. Before the onset of the flexible work arrangement, he would be expected to travel between the office and work sites on a daily basis.
"I am continually moving between inspections of MEYSAL facilities and construction sites, to GAB and other offices for meetings and presentations. The remote working arrangement allows me to work around my busy schedule to complete the myriad of administrative tasks that also form such a major part of my work. It also allows me to pack much more into my day and removes the need for unnecessary and wasteful travel time. I love it!" Mr. Baker exclaimed.