As Covid-19 mandates are finally lifted across Canada, many companies are in the process of having employees return to physical offices—in some cases, for the first time in two years.
The process is expected to be gradual, with companies testing the waters through a wide variety of approaches. But one thing seems certain: everyone is convinced that days of the laptop class in-office five days a week ad infinitum are over, with the Pandemic forcefully accelerating a longstanding trend toward hybridized remote work.
According to Ladders, one in five professional jobs are already remote, mostly in software and tech roles. Expect this figure to continue climbing.
This is a topic we have been writing about at Techcouver since 2020, after lockdowns made companies and their workforces first rethink traditional ways of doing. As Colliers’ Matt Carlson noted back then, “decision time is coming for Canada’s tech employers … about how to best position themselves and cope with what increasingly appears will be a hybridized work model, with many tech workers splitting their time between home and the office.”
Two years later, decision time is here. The hybridized model appears common among companies bringing their workers back into the office, especially for software-based organizations. If your work is performed from a computer, remote productivity is probably approaching “the new normal” in your field.
“I think employers are starting to understand that having everyone at the office all the time is not necessarily the most effective use of everyone’s time,” says Marco Pimentel, Chief Marketing Officer at Redbrick, a Canadian portfolio of digital companies. “Nor is it the surest path to increased productivity.”
Some of the reasons offices exist no longer apply to the modern workforce. Once cumbersome and fixed at the office, computers are now personal, portable, and powerful. Moreover, myths around workers hustling hard in the office while slacking at home are largely unfounded; typically people are most productive in whichever environment they prefer.
However, this is not to do away with the office entirely, which still serves a critical function as hub for socialization, collaboration, and organization. Consequently, Pimentel does not believe we should dispense with the physical office altogether.
“There is significant value in maintaining a central hub,” he notes. “Many people find that being able to have real-life face time with colleagues helps them thrive and keeps them motivated in a way that a Slack thread or a Microsoft Teams meeting can’t replace.”
For its part, Redbrick is in the process of defining its own hybrid approach.
“We’re looking at new ways to communicate and bring people together, both virtually and in person,” explains Pimentel. “We want the office to remain available full-time for anyone who wants that, but also take a hybrid approach of a certain number of days per week.”
That philosophy is being adopted by many companies. Are you all about the office? Perhaps you thrive at home? Or is an equal balance the best of both worlds? Each employee will answer differently, which is a complication for employers—but solving this equation is key to healthy, happy, productive workforces in a post-Pandemic world.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why maintaining a certain degree of flexibility is going to be crucial,” says Pimentel. “The way we think about the function of a physical workplace is evolving.”
Plenty of tech work can be done privately at any location with a stable internet connection, pointed out Carlson. But the “creative thinking, idea development and networking required to cause sales, contracts and projects that generate the bulk of tech work continue to require togetherness and shared work environments,” he observes.
Which brings us to Pimentel’s final point: a simple mix of home and office work, without any other changes to how a team or organization operates, is not a thoughtful tactic.
“Simply coming to the office for two days each week and doing the same type of work you were doing before? That’s not a truly hybrid model,” he posits. “We think that in-office work will likely be more focused around collaboration, meetings, and brainstorming sessions. It makes the most sense to have a team gathered together in person for those sorts of things.”
In essence, if work can be done from home, go for it. Companies must thusly redefine the role of the office and lean into it as a hub of energy and collaboration—not a work factory as in days past.