Evolution of the Workplace - Are you ready?
Office Space

Who would have thought two years ago that we would now be wondering about the future of our workplace?

I have read many articles that state that due to technology, we have moved at least 10 years into the future in how we are working today!

Before the pandemic, I am sure many businesses had many discussions with employees on providing flexibility to work from home. While some progressive organizations embraced this idea, many others did not have the insight. They often believed that their employees would be less productive, too distracted, and that it would be difficult to manage these employees and understand what they were working on unless they were physically in the workplace.

Then in March 2020, many businesses had to suddenly pivot and employees were given no choice but to work remotely from their homes. What a shock for everyone!!

Now, in July 2021, the vaccination program in well under way and hopefully we are through with lockdowns. Businesses are having to pivot again, now what?

Many businesses have realized that over the past 16 months employees have, in fact, become more productive and all the previous fears have not transpired. Also, financially, organizations are thrilled to dispose of the real estate which in turn makes them more profitable.

Some employees prefer the remote working environment. Many have now moved to more affordable housing in smaller communities or are pleased to not make that difficult, long commute everyday.

A recent poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies has found that:

  • 82 % of Canadian respondents who have worked from home during the pandemic found the experience to be positive.

  • 20 % want to return to the office every day.

  • 17 % described working from home as a negative experience.

  • 60 % would prefer to return to the office part-time or occasionally,

  • 19 % never want to go back to working in an office.

  • 35 % advised if their managers ordered them back to work in the office, they would start to look for another job where they can work from home.

As reported, the majority of employees are now looking to employers to provide the flexibility and a hybrid model of working that they have been requesting for many years. The survey, conducted by Angus Reid sampled of more than 1,509 employed Canadians confirmed that 66 % of respondents said they want to work in a hybrid model, splitting their time working remotely and in the workplace. The reasons given were so that they could:

  • Have time to prepare healthy meals

  • More time to exercise

  • Spend less money on clothing

  • Greater ability to use local businesses

  • More time for employed parents to spend with their kids

What are the advantages for companies to provide this hybrid working model?

Businesses can reduce their leasing costs with a smaller business space and have employees come into the office a few days per week/month, scheduled by team. Businesses could move from expensive central city locations to smaller much less expensive regional work hubs. Business can also retain existing employees and attract new candidates to join the company from other distant locations.

Will a hybrid model work into the future?

It could be a win win solution by satisfying everybody’s needs going forward. However, I hear employers asking about managing people, managing performance, developing employees, promoting collaboration of teamwork and culture long-term when they only see employees in the workplace occasionally.

To make this model successful, businesses need to consider the following: -

  • Involve all the employees in the design of the hybrid model, collaborate and get their buy in on the changes.

  • In the workspace, still have those coffee areas and break rooms where employees can meet and have casual chats.

  • In the meeting rooms, have video conferencing so those who are not in office can join in with those who are – this promotes an inclusive environment.

  • One on one meetings – increase the frequency, especially for those working remotely. Set and review goals and objectives, training and development needs, and mental health check ins.

  • Invest in new technology and use it to keep everyone connected wherever they are working.

  • Ensure any employees working from home have a good space to work in, reliable equipment, and have been informed about the importance and set up of good ergonomics.

  • Redesign the Workspace – this is a great time to rethink what the workspace should look like. You want the employees to look forward to coming into the office, to be fully engaged, and working together in collaborative teams.

  • Get this right and businesses will retain high performing employees and attract new hires to join a progressive employer.

  • Invest in an employee assistance program – this is a great low-cost resource.

Most importantly, confirm any agreed upon changes of workplace locations in writing. For those working from home, you must have a telecommuting policy and don’t forget, Health and Safety applies in the workplace and also for those working at home!!

The workplace is continuing to evolve and as an employer, you need to stay one step ahead by reviewing all your current policies and procedures; including this new way of working in your strategic plan.