Canadian employers missing the mark with hybrid work policies: experts

By The Canadian Press and Emma Crawford

As employers call their workers back to the office, experts are saying companies need to consult their employees meaningfully and collect data before making big decisions about hybrid work policies.

Many employers are missing the mark with arbitrary policies and requirements, often to their own detriment, according to Kelowna-based workplace consultant Graham Lowe.

“The pandemic essentially transformed work as we know it,” he said. “It showed millions of Canadian workers that they could actually work remotely and that there were a significant range of benefits from doing so.”

It wasn’t a universal experience: just over a third of Canadians were working from home in mid-2020, according to Statistics Canada, depending hugely on industry. Many essential workers and low-paid employees continued going to work.

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Experts say after the major shift in work culture prompted by the pandemic, employers on the whole aren’t approaching hybrid work in a way that makes sense for their workers or their businesses.

“It is a long-standing finding in research on workplaces and work arrangements that when you consult the employees, they are going to be more committed, more satisfied, and more engaged in their work,” he said.

Lowe says many employees continue to implement arbitrary policies and requirements, but this needs to change as the way we look at hybrid work reflects a major shift in culture that is still a work in progress.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamie Burke was happy with her job. Working in property management, the extroverted Vancouverite went into the office every day, took meetings in different buildings, and attended networking events.

When the pandemic hit and her job became remote, Burke struggled at first. But she grew to love the flexibility it afforded her. By the time her employer was asking people to come back to the office more frequently, Burke didn’t want to give up her newfound freedom.

She left that job in 2021 and tried several other roles before launching her own business. In each new role, she found herself clashing with hybrid work policies that were more rigid than she had anticipated. That’s how she realized she wanted true flexibility, not just a part-time office job.

“I really wanted the agency to be able to choose the work style that was going to work best for me.”

Consultant Nola Simon, who calls herself a “hybrid-remote futurist,” says while there are definitely some growing pains during the back-to-office wave, it’s now becoming much more common for workers in many industries to ask for flexibility from their employers as they hope they can keep some of the perks beyond lockdown.

“I think that there’s just more acceptance and understanding that life happens,” she said. “We can work through it instead of actually having to put everything on hold.”

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