Friday, May 20 2022

The way we work will change again as public health restrictions continue to ease, and experts say the private sector is likely to make decisions faster than the public sector.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced workers out of their offices and back home, it raised the new possibility of working from home as a permanent option.

Employers are now wondering how to move forward, and an employment expert says it will show the difference between public and private organisations.

In early March, the Treasury Board of Canada issued a statement indicating that departments and agencies could begin planning for their return to their offices, leaving the decision of who returns and when in the hands of individual departments.

Meanwhile, some companies, like Shopify, decided at the start of the pandemic to move permanently to a remote work environment.

Linda Duxbury, a business professor at Carleton University, says listening to employees is a key part of deciding who should return to the office. (Radio Canada)

Linda Duxbury, professor of management and strategy at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, said the private sector has an advantage over public employers.

“[The public sector] guess themselves way too much, which means they’re not moving at the speed they need,” she said.

“They are much more cautious in their approach.”

Not everything should be about the employee and not everything should be about the job.—Linda Duxbury, Carleton University

Duxbury said perception can play too big a role when it comes to decision-making in the public sector.

“They should be a little braver and they should stop worrying,” she said.

“The public will think you’re doing what you have to do to attract and keep good people.”

Think about employees and their roles

Duxbury’s research on remote working during the pandemic, which involved data from more than 26,000 Canadian workers, shows around a quarter of employees want to return to the office full-time, and another quarter never want to be there again. to return to.

Making the decision to return to the office, permanently transition to remote work, or a hybrid model must consider both the job and the person doing it, Duxbury said.

“Not everything should be about the employee and not everything should be about the job,” she said.

“In both the public and private sectors, the more people are good employees, the more their skills are valued in the workplace, the more the organization effectively has to look at the same kinds of things.”

WATCH | What this researcher learned:

Employees may have bargaining power when it comes to returning to the office, researcher says

Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says most employees are likely unwilling to return to the office full-time, something employers will need to consider as restrictions on the COVID-19 will relax. 2:40

That’s a sentiment shared by Envirocentre, an Ottawa-based non-profit environmental organization, according to the organization’s executive director.

Some people want to work in the office and others don’t have the space to work from home, so organizations need to consider those possibilities, Sharon Coward said.

“Check in with your employees before you make that decision to see where they stand, because people are really different,” she said.

Sharon Coward of Envirocentre is trying to encourage employees to be social while working remotely by avoiding strictly following agendas in meetings. (Shutterstock)

Environmental benefits had already led Envirocentre to use a hybrid model when the pandemic forced people out of offices.

“Many of our employees were already working from home one or two days a week, which made it easier for us to transition to when we locked down as a world, as a culture, we all went to working 100% from our house,” Coward said.

One of the main advantages for all of our employees is the time saved when traveling.— Sharon Coward, Envirocentre

“We really made the decision to transition quite quickly as we entered the pandemic period because we recognized that the culture was changing and the remote work culture was really working for Envirocentre.”

More than environmental benefits

Coward said he sold the office and estimates the organization reduced emissions by around 75%, but the benefits went beyond the environment.

“One of the biggest benefits for all of our employees is the time saved in travel,” Coward said.

“You take that out of the work day and it gives you a lot of the time you can now spend with your family focusing on healthy activities, ideally.”

People are grumpy and grumpy no matter what industry they are in.—Linda Duxbury, Carleton University

But the move was not without difficulties.

Coward said the lack of social connections was difficult, especially because many people in the office were friends as well as colleagues.

It’s especially difficult for new employees who have never worked with their colleagues in person and who see work as a way to expand their social circles.

To combat this, employees have a weekly check-in and they don’t follow a strict agenda during virtual meetings.

“It’s the only time we see each other. It’s our office now,” she said.

“We want this to happen to encourage relationships…encourage all different types of communication.”

‘Grumpy and grumpy’ workers

Although public sector employers have often had the advantage of offering job stability and security to potential workers, Duxbury said this is becoming less important.

Duxbury says the debate over whether employers should switch to remote work leaves out many workers, including essential workers, who have been on the job throughout the pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/AP)

“People are grumpy and grumpy no matter what industry they’re in, and we have to recognize that. And people won’t wait forever,” she said.

“The government has the gold handcuffs, but they may be plastic now. They’re more likely to break than they ever were.”

She also pointed out that this debate leaves out a substantial proportion of the workforce: those who have had to go to the workplace for all or most of the pandemic.

“My data would say that these essential workers who have gone for the past two years are really fed up and kind of ticked off that the discussion is only about returning to work,” she said.

“Stop assuming it’s two groups of people.”

Ottawa morning8:43Should public servants return to the office?

Some government workers are preparing to quit working from home and return to the office, but Carleton business professor Linda Duxbury says the government needs to be careful about the transition. 8:43

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