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Get ready for the new normal of hybrid work

Workplaces have looked very different to many Canadians since early 2020. According to Statistics Canada, 32 per cent of people were working most of the time from home at the start of 2021, compared with only 4 per cent in 2016.

With a return to the office looming for many, what will the post-pandemic workplace look like, and what will the new model mean for how organizations move forward?

Until now, work-from-home has taken shape in crisis mode, explains Linda Duxbury, professor of management at the Sprott School of Business of Carleton University in Ottawa. To have a win-win solution, she says leaders and employees need to reassess the model.

29%

of Canadian workers say they’d look for another job if they’re required to return to their workplaces five days a week after the pandemic ends.

Angus Reid

Ms. Duxbury recently surveyed more than 20,000 Canadian workers regarding their pandemic virtual work experience. Twenty per cent of workers want to head back to the office full-time, another 20 per cent want to work from home permanently, and the rest want a hybrid version.

COVID-19 has altered where and how we work, and how we lead. While that has been disruptive, it has also been instructive, says Karen Pastakia, a partner in Deloitte’s Human Capital consulting practice. The pandemic has prompted us to take closer looks at employee well-being, work-life balance, technology and communication.

“Many of the changes have been for the better,” says Ms. Pastakia. “We’ve seen flattened hierarchies and more inclusive leadership.”

90% of new remote workers report being at least as productive as they were at their usual place of work.

Statistics Canada

Changing work habits and settings have also dispelled myths about what real productivity looks like and how it should be assessed.

“Pre-pandemic, largely we were still measuring productivity based on input, but this has made us look at productivity more from an outcomes perspective,” says Ms. Pastakia. “The definition has started to change. There is an aspect of engagement that plays into it, as well as the efficiency side of it.”

Ms. Pastakia says hybrid work models are about choice and flexibility. They require employers to give people the option of work-from-home or work-from-anywhere, and to focus on the end-to-end employee experience.

Culture change

This is a culture change, and will require strong and clear communications, says Mark Attard, president of Livewire.

He has been out of his Toronto office since the start of the pandemic, along with all of his employees. Come this fall, barring any public health restrictions, the change-communication agency’s office will re-open. Members of Livewire’s team will decide whether and when to come in, depending on their projects and schedules.

“Everyone has a choice about where they are going to be most effective,” Mr. Attard says.

For him, a main advantage for organizations that adapt to this new normal will be talent acquisition and retention. Current and future employees will take notice of an organization’s work options. That could give companies that do it well an edge in the talent marketplace.

70%

of executives say their organization’s shift to remote work had a positive impact on well-being.

Deloitte

A hybrid model could also broaden talent pools to people who are underrepresented in the workforce.

“I think the majority of the talent out there, especially those in the knowledge-worker space, are going to be looking for these options,” Mr. Attard says. “Organizations that aren’t offering this kind of flexibility will struggle hiring.”

The transition to a hybrid model will challenge senior leaders, he says. They have to be on board with the new direction, and find new ways to foster a positive workplace culture, engaging in-office and remote workers alike.

Get it wrong, and you risk exclusion and inconsistency, says Ms. Pastakia. Get it right, and going hybrid can be transformative for your employees, work environment and customers.

“Workplaces need new capabilities to be productive in this new model,” Ms. Pastakia says. “That includes new technology and routines, and more nimble people management skills. Leaders need to operate differently to support employees. We have to create a culture of trust, openness and adaptability. There is no one-size-fits-all. But those that do it well will have an edge.”

80% of new remote workers would like to work at least half of their hours from home once the pandemic is over.

Statistics Canada


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Deloitte. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.