With the vaccination rollout well under way, Canada is starting to reopen. What does that mean for the many office workers who have been working from home since March 2020? Some find that a remote office has been a welcome change. Others have digital exhaustion and are looking forward to a return to the office.
Both employers and employees have learned a lot about the definition of work during the pandemic. Depending where you live, the future of work may be flexible. People in B.C. and Ontario are expecting they’ll have more choice, while those in Alberta and Quebec are expecting a return to the pre-pandemic office. That leaves so many of us asking: Will I go back to the office after the pandemic?
A lot of workers are hoping the new way forward will be a hybrid office, with a combination of working from home and a return to the office. This blended model could also see some workers going back to the office while others stay at home. Certainly the pandemic has shown that we can work remotely, and some offices even feel this is a better setup for their teams.
What a hybrid office affords is flexibility. People are no longer forced to choose between a job and where they want to live. Remote work also benefits an employer because a business in a small town can look to hire people outside their immediate area, expanding the pool of qualified applicants. The positives of a hybrid office are enough the make 66% of business decision makers consider redesigning the physical office space to better accommodate this kind of work environment. That would surely please the 73% of workers who want a continuation of flexible remote options.
Work from Home
Clearly, there are a lot of people who have gotten used to the rhythm of working from home. They enjoy the flexible hours, lack of commute, and a comfortable office space. Workers, especially younger workers, have used the home-based model as an opportunity to move outside of cities. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve used video and other digital tools to stay connected to colleagues. But here’s the downside. Some employers have said they will reduce pay to reflect the lower cost of living for remote employees. And some workers are afraid they’ll miss out on the hallway conversations and daily encounters that are part of office culture, facilitating successful collaborations.
If you are anticipating a return to the office, expect some changes. You may have reduced office space or even a different, smaller location if some of the team plan to stay home. Offices may have new configurations that address changing needs realized during the pandemic—think hot desks and private rooms that can be individually booked. Your company may also have invested in ventilation upgrades, outdoor spaces, and more frequent cleaning.
Workers in Charge?
One statistic that has some employers nervous is a report that 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year. Working from home during the pandemic caused a shift in priorities for many people. This came with the realization that work can be a more flexible proposition than previously thought. Most experts think big changes are coming and that workers will be able to find employment with companies willing to give employees more freedom. This is especially true as the economy comes back to life and workers are in greater demand. The onus will be on businesses to make their work options attractive to potential employees. That could either mean a schedule that is mostly remote for those who prefer to work from home or upgrades to the office space for those working in-office.
As we regain some of our freedoms post-pandemic, there is an emphasis on work-life balance. The result is that many employers are now focusing on the work itself, rather than the work location. More and more, employees are being given the ability to choose where they perform their jobs as long as the work gets done. What about your business? How will your workforce look in the coming months? And will you return to the office?