September Podcast: Return to Work Ė Setting up a Hybrid Workplace

Isabel: When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, many workplaces around the country closed, sending approximately 4.7 million Canadians who do not usually work remotely, home.

Chris: This sudden departure meant that workers had to adapt and learn how to do their jobs from the same place they eat, sleep and shower in.

Isabel: A year and a half later, many Canadians became more accustomed to their new environments.

Chris: But some workplaces are wondering whether itís time to bring people back in.

Isabel: Okay, Iím curious Ė are you team ďwork from homeĒ or team ďgo back to the officeĒ?

Chris: HmmÖ can we do both?

Isabel: Well, letís dive into what that would look like, on todayís episode of CCOHS Podcasts.

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Chris: Statistics Canada estimates that approximately four in ten Canadian workers are in jobs that can likely be done remotely. And due to many workers preferring the flexibility of working remotely, hybrid workplaces may become more common.

Isabel: A hybrid workplace? Is that like commuting to work in a hybrid car?

Chris: Not quite! The hybrid workplace model combines the flexibility of working from home with the advantages provided by having workers together in a workplace.

Isabel: Oh right! Well, I know that remote work offers some advantages for workers, including a lack of commute, better work-life balance, and higher job satisfaction.

Chris: Donít forget the cost savings related to decreased travel and parking. Not to mention skipping the temptation to buy meals out.

Isabel: Thatís right. And these advantages arenít only for workers, right?

Chris: †No, workplaces can benefit too! Worker retention goes up and so does productivity. And absences go down.

Isabel: That sounds pretty good. Are there any disadvantages to remote work?

Chris: Well, workers could struggle with unreliable internet, home distractions, and disconnecting from work. It may be more challenging to shut that work brain off.

Isabel: That makes sense. Iím sure it can also be lonely as you miss those daily interactions with your co-workers.

Chris: Absolutely. On the employer side, they may have concerns about maintaining morale and company culture.

Isabel: Right, so how exactly can a hybrid model fix this?

Chris: A hybrid workplace model can allow you to keep the benefits of both a remote model and an in-person model.

Isabel: Great! So you would keep the benefits of remote work such as less time commuting and more flexibility which provides better work-life balance.

Chris: Exactly. Also, the time in the office provides opportunities for collaboration and social interaction, such as meeting face-to-face.

Isabel: That would help with team building. A personal connection can definitely help to build trust.

Chris: For sure. Another benefit to time spent in the office is being able to share ideas and information with co-workers through chance encounters when in the workplace.

Isabel: On the other hand, if you are someone who needs a quiet space to work, having the option to work remotely may help you avoid those distractions.

Chris: Very true! Now, letís discuss how the physical workspace can benefit from a hybrid model.

Isabel: Well, having an office can provide a central space to meet with clients or external partners.

Chris: Yes, and a hybrid model means that the space does not have to accommodate for as many workers. This allows employers to cut costs by downsizing to smaller physical spaces!

Isabel: This sounds too good to be true. Should we talk about the challenges that a hybrid workplace could bring?

Chris: Sure. When starting out, it could be more difficult to organize the work week and schedule who is in the workplace, and when.

Isabel: It also makes employers reconsider the way that the space is used. †For example, does it make sense to transition to more collaborative workspaces?

Chris: For some workplaces, it might make sense! Another thing to consider is how to make sure everyone on the team feels included and engaged regardless of their location.

Isabel: And ensuring that hybrid workers donít get passed over for new opportunities or promotions.

Chris: Thatís important. Now, what if youíre a worker who appreciates a fixed routine? You may find it difficult to switch between a home setting and a workplace.

Isabel: Thatís a good point! On the other hand, some workers will wish for more flexibility.

Chris: Thatís tough. Maybe employers should consider sending worker surveys to get some feedback on how they feel?

Isabel: I love that idea! Itís important to get your workersí input so you can take their needs and preferences into account. So how do you know if a hybrid model is right for your workplace?

Chris: Well, there are many things to consider... Has the shift to remote work been successful? If so, can productivity goals still be met in a hybrid environment? Employers should also ask themselves if a hybrid workplace will help retain skilled workers, and whether it encourages collaboration. Itís also important to consider, and communicate, whether the switch to a hybrid workplace will be permanent or if there will be a trial period first.

Isabel: Great! So, letís say I decide that a hybrid model is indeed right for my workplace. How do I go about implementing it?

 

Chris: Well, you can start by discussing with workers how many days per week they may need to report to the workplace. It could be one day a week to three or four days a week. Or, it could be a monthly schedule where the entire team is onsite for certain days to collaborate.

 

Isabel: Thatís a good start. The employer should also outline any specific tasks or duties that need to be done at a specific location (either remotely or at the workplace).

 

Chris: For sure! They should also decide if any changes are required to how the workplace is used.

 

Isabel: For example, if only half the workers are coming into the office, then assigned seating may not be required. Instead, unassigned or flexible seating may be preferred.

 

Chris: This means that some workers will be working remotely while others will be at the workplace, so itís important to have the right tools in place for communication.

Isabel: Thatís a great point. How can employers do this?

Chris: Assess your teamís needs and get the appropriate technology, such as instant messaging or video conferencing, to make sure that everyone remains connected.

Isabel: That make sense! Another tip is to create a policy that covers how you will handle working on sensitive or classified information when working remotely.

 

Chris: Speaking of working remotely, take care of those remote workers! Provide ergonomic education and resources for workers who are using a home office or unassigned workstations.

 

Isabel: Employers should also promote disconnecting at the end of the day as part of a healthy workplace culture.

 

Chris: Yes, itís important to unplug at the end of the day and not take our work ďhomeĒ with us, even if we are working from home. Avoid checking emails. And donít send any yourself!

 

Isabel: Good tips. Well, there are a lot of things for workplaces to consider when deciding if they want to implement a hybrid model. The main thing to keep in mind is to always provide information, accept feedback, and encourage discussion with all workers about any changes.

 

Chris: To learn more about hybrid workplaces and returning to work after COVID-19, visit ccohs.ca.

 

Isabel: Thanks for listening!

 

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