Building Back the Workplace
Top HR Experts Weigh-In on Building Back the Workplace
Mask mandates have been lifted, restrictions are loosened, and (we hope) it’s safe to say that Canadians are almost out of the woods of a two-year long pandemic. Since March 2020, business owners and managers have been balancing working from home and hybrid workstyles for their employees as internal protocols and provincial regulations have continuously changed.
Flashforward to exactly two years later and with many of us still working remotely 100% of the time, we reached out to Canada’s top Human Resources experts: Carly Holm of Humani HR, Karen Brownrigg of iHR Advisory Services, James Baker of Keynote Search, and Priya Bhaloo of TAG HR to weigh-in on this hot topic. They have shared some very interesting insights on the current state of staff morale, achieving a flexible work schedule and the challenges employers need to solve as we get ready to head back to the workplace.
Temperature Check: “It’s been two years, how are we feeling?”
Both employers and employees appear to be sharing a mix of emotions feeling relieved, excited, and even confident about 2022’s outlook. The positive impact on a return to in-person connection is certainly creating positive feedback for increasing morale. Karen Brownrigg says, “Staff morale is highly impacted by external factors as well as the team and leadership dynamics. Morale varies across teams but is always positively impacted when the leadership team consults with employees and provides common-ground solutions to workplace challenges.” Priya Bhaloo agrees stating that happiness levels are on the increase from being able to socialize with colleagues in-person, and of course getting out of their homes again!
A big part of returning to the office will be employers communicating their new in-office safety protocols and general strategies for staying safe. Carly Holm says, “We are working with our clients to ensure safety is the top priority. We’re helping our clients develop workplace health and safety plans, and programs that are in-line with current legislation.” In addition, Priya is working to provide her clients with access to rapid testing kits and adjusting workspace locations for proper distancing.
Training and open communication are key! Karen goes on to say, “Our clients are actively supporting the work of their Health and Safety Committees in creating psychologically and physically safe workplaces which includes proactive training for supervisors and teams on the prevention of bullying and harassment (with a focus on situations that emerge in a virtual work setting).”
While mask mandates have lifted, face coverings might stick around a bit longer. James Baker states, “Key policies around mandatory vaccines for all employees have helped in making staff feel safer, in addition to mask wearing in common areas and strict declaration of any illness if you’ve had close contact.”
Benefits of Working In-Office
Across the board, all the experts agreed on this – collaboration and connection!
Priya says, “The benefits for employees working in the office go far beyond productivity. After two years of extended time working remotely, people are eager to separate their work and home lives. The office also acts as a positive place of connection – being in the same physical space allows socializing to happen organically and encourages peer-to-peer learning. From my own experience, the best collaborative brainstorming sessions happen in person where you can build off of each other’s energy.”
James agrees but also states that a hybrid model can provide the best of both worlds by further developing skills and the relationships necessary for career development and progression. Karen adds that now is a great opportunity to nourish those existing work relationships and finally get together in person to re-connect.
Since most people have now got used to a new routine of a flexible work schedule, and short commute, Carly believes that employers should reassure employees that they still have the flexibility and autonomy over their schedule, which will hopefully ease their return back to the office.
Building Back Better: Encouraging Them Back
Make it fun again! James says, “Create a place where people are comfortable. People have adapted to private workspaces but missed the connection with others, so combining collaborative spaces with quiet work zones will be important. In addition, focus on making it fun – do events, activities and recognize the importance of togetherness – celebrate your values together and don’t just come together for meetings!”
Karen has offered a more constructive approach. She suggests, “Consulting with your employees to find common-ground solutions that include a multitude of options like condensed workweeks, hybrid work models, re-establishing ‘core hours’, and allowing flexibility for alternative work schedules outside of these core work hours.”
Priya has some excellent advice if you’re sensing resistance from anyone. She says, “Start by planning meetings and exciting activities that could not be facilitated virtually. For example, you could set up a headshot session to get everyone in the office or organize monthly meals that are centered on socializing and team building.”
Final thoughts, the benefits of going back to the office, even in a hybrid situation, allows employees the opportunity to nurture their relationships with their co-workers, enhance brainstorming sessions for optimal creativity and output, establish routines for a mindset re-set, and also gain access to all the tools, equipment (and furniture) that they wouldn’t normally have at home.
And Hey, We Can Help!
Thank you to our experts who have provided some really valuable insight, we know it’s a lot to consider, but rest assured we can support you in this next chapter.
If you need help with rebuilding your workplace, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with us to discuss potential customized strategies on how we can help. NUA Office works with employers all across Canada navigating these changes and we can help create a workspace that you and your team will be proud to work in.
Complete this form, and we’ll reach out to set up a complimentary consultation!