When employees return to the office, the highly hyped hybrid model faces an acid test: Does it work?

As former office workers return to their workplaces, employers and workers need to navigate exactly what the new normal workflow is going to look like.

The topic of returning to the office after years of working from home is a particularly difficult topic. In a recent poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in collaboration with CBC News, when asked what they would do if their employer gave them a mandate to return to office full-time, more than half of those surveyed said that they would probably start looking elsewhere. occupation.

Between March 1 and 4 this year, the polling firm asked 2,550 Canadian adults what they would do if given such an ultimatum. (A probability sample of this size would have an error margin of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

A third (33 percent) said they would reluctantly do so but start looking for another job. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) said they would stop at the site. Ninety percent said they would be fine with it. The rest were not safe.

Flexibility will be the key

Professor Linda Duxbury, who teaches at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa, says the answer to the question of what a normal work schedule will look like from now on is far from unambiguous.

“I would like to be able to give you one answer … but it’s much more nuanced than that,” she said.

Duxbury has been researching teleworking during the pandemic, and after examining data from 26,000 Canadian workers, she said a few broad trends can be deduced from the data. About a quarter of workers, she said, want to return to the office full-time, while about the same percentage would rather never set foot in the office if they do not have to.

Such a complex division reinforces why flexibility is the name of the game for office work from now on. Outside of a few industries, the days of imposing 40 hours a week of face time in the office are over.

Just under half of Canadian workers are theoretically capable of doing all or part of their work from home, Duxbury said, but that is not to suggest that they all want all the time or produce their best work when they do. Smart organizations, she said, will be flexible and based on the needs of individuals.

“You have to … actually start talking to your people [and] stop pretending … that there is some magic plan you can implement it and it will be a miracle, “she said.

“People are not willing to sacrifice their souls more for their organization and the privilege of working for you,” she said, citing an ongoing war on talent that has given workers an advantage they did not have.

That is why her advice to employers is direct.

“If you’re wrong, you may not have a business in two or three years’ time yet to deal with.”

Recruiter Hannah Gold with staffing firm TDS Personnel says the competition for workers is fierce and companies that are flexible are doing best. (Laura MacNaughton / CBC)

Hannah Gold, a recruitment consultant at staffing firm TDS Personnel, agrees that flexibility is the name of the game for both workers and people who want to hire them.

Most of her company’s clients have moved to some version of the hybrid work model, where new hires come in on the expectation and agreement that some work will be done in the office while other work will not be done. While a few employers insist on full-time office work, it is becoming a challenge.

“Those who give that mandate will have a more challenging time occupying that position,” she said, because the job market right now is largely “what we would call a candidate’s market.”

Work environment expectations are becoming so paramount that they are almost more important than things like compensation in some cases, she said.

“Not everyone wants that,” she said, referring to returning to the office full-time.

“Some people do, but not everyone wants to go back, commuting into the office every single day … like they used to.”

Ashira Gobrin, head of people and culture at Wave, says the new norm for working in the company will be to allow the company’s 350 employees to do their job, no matter where they do their best work: at home or in the office. (Tina MacKenzie / CBC)

Wave Financial is among the employers for whom flexibility is the name of the game. With about 350 employees across Canada and the United States, the financial technology company has opted for a hybrid approach, saying it works well.

“We’ve really learned some things through the pandemic,” said Ashira Gobrin, Wave’s Chief of Staff and Head of Culture.

“One is that we can actually work very efficiently externally and that people are happy in their homes to get things done,” she said, while others benefit from working together personally on certain tasks.

At Wave, the office “is meant to be a place that gives something to you that you do not have at home,” she said, but “everyone has the ability to choose what works for them, and then also what works for their teams. “

Satisfied workers

On the streets of Toronto on Monday morning, most of the commuters who came into the office and who spoke to CBC News were happy to be back, but almost none of them expected to do exactly as they used to.

Jake Cruikshank said his employer asks all employees to be in the office at least two days a week, but he chooses to come in for four.

“It’s just better for me, I just get things done,” he said.

“Some people can work remotely full time, but I’m just not one of those people.”

Hari Balasingham, who works in finance, jokes that his dog may miss him at home all day, but he does not.

“I prefer to be in the office, to be honest. You get more done there.”

SE | See what commuters told CBC News about going back to the office:

Hybrid work is the norm when office workers return

On the streets of downtown Toronto on Monday morning, a number of workers spoke with CBC on their way into the office. While their circumstances are different, they were generally happy to be back, expecting a mix of office life and work from home would be their norm from now on. 0:55

The Royal Bank of Canada has implemented a hybrid approach, and Mike Elsey, who works for the bank, said he’s fine.

“It’s good to be back,” he said.

“I mean, it’s nice to have the flexibility.”

Kristen Howcroft, a project coordinator at CIBC, will share her work week between home and office. She said she looked forward to sharing space with colleagues again because she misses the interaction with colleagues.

“It’s going to be exciting and I think it’s going to bring good morale back to everyone.”

On the whole, workers talking to CBC News were fine with the idea of ​​returning to the office in some capacity, but Duxbury said that does not mean employers should assume they can order things to be , as they used to.

She said in this job market, smart companies have to take the threat of losing a quarter of their workforce due to a refusal to adapt seriously.

“Even if they do not leave, do you think it’s a good thing to have one in five of your people stay with you for golden handcuffs and hate you? Absolutely not,” she said.

“You want people who stay because they like you, and they’re engaged in the work and what you do. Good employers will come out of this and smell like roses.”

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