WFH vs. the office: Employers met with demands as pandemic rules ease

More than two years after the pandemic began and people are being ushered back into the office in the age of COVID, but some don’t appear to be willing to budge much when it comes to their demands. If they’re not met, many are threatening to quit.

Some of those demands include having the parking spot they had pre-pandemic, keeping their desk, and not having to share workspaces with colleagues. Another concern raised by many is a messy and unkempt kitchen.

David Bolton with Robert Half, a national human resources and recruitment agency, says what companies want isn’t always what employees want, and that a balance is needed.

Related articles: 

“That means companies need to understand maybe why people do want to be in the office or don’t want to be in the office [and] find ways to work around some of those requirements. So, if it’s health and safety reasons that’s putting them off from coming into the office, how can we combat that? How can we work to make people feel safer returning to the office or if it’s things like gas costs or parking, those are challenges that have particularly changed lately that are deterring people from returning to the office.”

He says in an era when things are meant to be sanitized, people don’t care to share anymore.

“Parking is a huge point of contention but the biggest one we’ve heard from a number of our clients is also how they are hotel desking around their office. So, it could be you don’t have a designated workspace anymore, so you might be in the office on a Tuesday, someone else is sitting at your desk on a Wednesday, because maybe they’ve reduced their footprint or changed their office layout and that concerns people, and they don’t always know who sat at their desk yesterday. Was it cleaned?”

With all these concerns being raised, Bolton predicts there are going to be some heavy conversations in the months ahead as people stand up for what they want.

“With a sixth wave [of the pandemic], we truly don’t know whether there is a seventh, eighth, tenth — I hope there isn’t — but we just don’t know, and I think that’s what makes it so difficult to predict,” he explained. “We’re seeing organizations that are talking about different perks they can offer their staff, be it parking, travel expenses, but we are seeing people saying, ‘If my employer mandates a return to work, I will look for work elsewhere.’ And there are a number of organizations that need to be aware that that is the risk they will face by mandating employees to be back in the office five days a week… and you have to have a conversation. Talk to your staff. Understand what works for them.”

Bolton cautions, a return-to-work plan that may have worked a year or even a few months ago, may be outdated today.

He urges both employees and employers to prepare for this “new norm,” which he notes is “impossible to know what that will look like” until we get there.

Hybrid working models 

Regardless of what agreement people come to with their boss, Bolton says it’s key to keep the communication open and consistent.

“What works for one individual won’t work for somebody else, so don’t try to have a one-size-fits-all mandate. Appreciate things change and know that we won’t get it right straight away because we’re trying to do something that there isn’t a rulebook for. What we try in May may not still work in July or November, so just know it will be an evolution and whether you’re unhappy or happy with the scenario, keep the dialogue open because things can change, and we want to provide a safe working environment and that is the most important thing.”

He recommends managers be open to the idea of a hybrid working model, which is another demand people are making.

Related articles: 

That, however, he admits can also come with its own challenges.

“Part of the hardest part of my job managing in a hybrid methodology is knowing maybe I’m doing team meetings where 80 per cent of my team is in the office and 20 per cent aren’t and managing that balance where I’m on a video call with five people sat around a desk and one person sitting at home is a different balance and that will take a different sort of skillset to lead through. There’s a lot to be learned and part of that will, unfortunately, only come through trial and error but I stand by communicating to get through any of the challenges that lay ahead.”

Recent research from Robert Half shows more than half of senior managers in Canada (55 per cent) want their teams to work on-site full time as COVID-19-related restrictions ease. The research finds millennials (68 per cent) and working parents (59 per cent) are most likely to quit if called back.

“We’ve already seen people leave their jobs because there is a mandated return-to-work policy, so I do expect people to change jobs over the coming months if they are driven to return to their office but don’t feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes it’s because of the commute changes, sometimes it’s because of the gas price changes and for some people it’s, ‘I just like working at home. I can be more productive there.’ Everyone has a different reason,” he told CityNews.

Bolton says some roles have to be done in the office but for others, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, we’ve learned people can work remotely.

“It’s the roles that don’t need to be in-office that are going to be really interesting because those are going to be the people that can say, ‘I can do my job in the exact same fashion for our nearest competitor but from the comfort of my own home or from a café or things like that.'”

Bolton reiterates there seems to be no fear in people leaving their jobs right now because he says it’s currently a “job-seekers market.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today