For those of you who have been working remotely for the past year or so, your work environment might be about to change. Your company is likely starting to have those preliminary conversations about returning to the office in one capacity or another. Whether you’re chatting about finally having in-person breaks with your coworkers, flexible work environment options with your manager, or answering surveys for the HR and senior leadership teams, it’s hard not to have those conversations and constantly think about all of the questions surrounding the great return.
Do you want to go back to the office? Would you like to have the option to choose between in-office and remote work? Who do you have to convince to keep your current work arrangements?
A new study by Leger360 shows:
- 20% of Canadians want to return to the office
- 40% of Canadians prefer a hybrid approach
- 19% of Canadians would be willing to go to the office when needed
- 19% of Canadians want to work remotely
As you start or continue to think about your workspace and how it will evolve, we’ve put together an extensive perks and considerations list to explore the different options.
Go remote, forever
Flexibility for employees
Employees can experience better work-life engagement when working remotely. This is one of the most common reasons why people may prefer to work from home. They’re able to:
- Create a workspace that’s best suited for them (brightness level, amount of space, white noise)
- Scheduling quick calls that aren’t necessarily related to work but important (i.e. medical appointments)
- Take breaks when needed without fear of judgement
64% of respondents in Leger360’s study said they want to save money on gas or transportation. With commuting being out of the picture, your employees can save hundreds of dollars in transportation costs each month. Not to mention, this saves people a lot of time and is great for the environment!
Expanding the talent pool
Being in-person in one space is no longer a requirement which means you can essentially hire anyone, anywhere. Removing pre-existing geographical constraints greatly widens your pool of candidates. If you choose to do this, consider:
- Reviewing your employment contracts to ensure the provincial, territorial, or state requirements abide by the appropriate local legislation
- Reviewing your contracts, company-wide policies, benefits, and payroll (company tax implications and personal tax implications)
- Communication expectations and etiquette with regards to differing time zones
- Providing sponsorship for candidates employed outside of your company's country who may want to relocate to the location of your head office in the future
Build deeper relationships
When you’re working from home, you can feel a little more comfortable. This can make it easier for you to have more personal conversations with your team as they’re likely feeling more comfortable too. Almost all of us have experienced our pet or a coworker’s pet walking across the screen or in the background and that tends to start a lot of conversations! Situations like this offer an opportunity to connect on topics that might not come up in-person.
No meeting space, no problem
Do you remember when you had to have three calendars open for a two-person meeting? One for you, one for the other person, and one for the meeting room? With remote work, you only have to juggle two calendars since your meeting space is a virtual one. There’s no need for you to take meetings earlier or later due to lack of meeting space.
Sharing isn’t always caring
Not all employees have the luxury of creating an office space that’s quiet, has great internet access for virtual meetings, and without distractions. This can impact employee productivity and engagement, causing them stress about their job security.
Fewer social interactions
This is arguably one of the aspects of working in-office that employees miss the most. Many of us have built relationships with our coworkers that wouldn’t have been possible without being in the office. Without a solid working relationship, employees can feel hesitant or uncomfortable when asking questions or for help, not feel like they’re part of the team (especially for those who joined a new company during the pandemic), and experience less opportunities for sharing spur of the moment experiences.
One of the biggest frustrations working remotely is having access to good internet. There’s a ton of reasons for this: residing in rural regions, bad weather, living in a condo with shared networks, etc. Beyond virtual calls, if you’re working on a document that’s saved on the cloud, you might lose some of your work. To help mitigate this, some companies have paid for portable WiFi options like wireless internet sticks or wireless hotspots. To see if this is possible for you, check your employment contract as some companies will require you to have a strong internet connection, fit with everything else you need to do your job effectively.
“No, no you go first.” “No, seriously, it’s okay, you go.” After all, what’s a virtual call without some awkwardness? While this could be a funny moment for some employees, others who aren’t as comfortable with the person they’re talking to or in larger groups can feel a lot of pressure.
Head back to the office
Being in-person typically gives more face-time between your employees and their coworkers and the senior management team. It’s a great way to network and build relationships that encourage collaboration associated with spontaneous idea building.
And for employees who are onboarding, it’s much easier to meet the whole team in one space and develop relationships quickly. They may even feel more comfortable approaching others to strike up conversations as opposed to sending an instant message or email.
Less screen time
For some, being in the office means taking breaks with coworkers or a quick walk to your favourite coffee shop or restaurant. As a result, employees may spend their breaks a little differently and avoid screen fatigue while still having the ability to socialize over lunch or after work.
Some companies offer free coffee, snacks, or even catered meals. Others dedicated rooms for games like ping pong and foosball or yoga and meditation. Being in-office means you can have these perks again. After all, who doesn’t enjoy some delicious food or beverages covered by their employer or access to a space where they can share common interests?
Physically separate work and home spaces
Having a physical change between spaces can make a huge difference for employees who aren’t able to completely unplug when they’ve signed off. This puts them at risk for burnout due to feeling like there’s a constant need to check and answer messages or think about work after hours. Different spaces can also be beneficial for those who are living in a shared space to minimize distractions.
Potential for more efficient meetings
When you’re sharing common meeting spaces, you’re restricted to the time slots that you’ve booked. This encourages employees to come to meetings with set agendas and clear objectives. There’s also a smaller risk of meetings going over the slotted time as employees would be more cognizant of coworkers who have booked the space after their meeting.
Employees may feel less autonomous
Many employees feel that when they’re in the office, they’re being watched because their managers are physically present. Employees may feel that their employers are watching their screens and feel pressured not to take breaks or have conversations unrelated to work.
Employees also have more restricted schedules when they’re working in the office. For example, employees will no longer be able to easily pop out for an appointment and log back into work but rather take a half-day and head home afterwards.
Whether you’re walking, biking, driving, or taking public transit, commuting inevitably adds more time and cost to your getting-to-work routine when you’re expected to be in the office. This can be stressful for some, especially when there are morning meetings. Often, we can’t control traffic or subway malfunctions, resulting in delays and potentially arriving late for an important commitment.
Additionally, employees who have avoided public transit for the last 16 months now have to face the reality of being within close proximity of others. This can cause a lot of anxiety around whether or not it’s even safe to be around people as we come out of the pandemic.
Often, when we talk about returning to the office, we’re excited about the increased social interactions rather than the perks of having a dedicated workspace. For the first period of time your employees are back in office, you may see a decrease in output because everyone’s excited to catch up with one another. This may actually lead to an increase in productivity in the long-run as employees continue to build stronger relationships.
Negative impact on hiring and retention
A survey of 500 Canadians by Robert Half showed that one-third (33%) of professionals who are currently working remotely due to the pandemic were ready and willing to quit their jobs if they were required to return to their office full time. Being flexible with a hybrid or remote-first model allows employees the flexibility and autonomy to choose what works best for them. With being in-office as a need-to-have for your company, it can really impact the types of candidates you’ll receive in the hiring pool as well as your employee retention and engagement. To get ahead of this in the interview process, consider talking to your candidates during the interview process and providing transparency around the required work environment.
Explore the hybrid model
The hybrid approach allows for the best of both worlds but it does come with its challenges. For example, employers would have to come up with additional accommodations for meetings. When some employees are in-office and others are tuning in virtually, meeting leads will need to ensure that they’re ready for both methods in order to run successful and productive meetings.
We’re still working through our return to office plan. Throughout the process, we’ve been having some great discussions around creating a hybrid model and weighing it against the remote-first model. We believe in flexibility and with employees being hired on or relocating during the pandemic, we want to ensure that our physical and virtual spaces are safe and inclusive.