May 16, 2022

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The home veterans

As companies start back-to-office plans, many workers favour WFH

5 min read


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Thanks to the global pandemic, we’ve been living a hurry-up-and-wait life for more than two years now. Yet, suddenly, there’s been a dramatic shift, with pandemic protocols easing up, travel opening up – and people heading back to their traditional work environments.

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While many are still working remotely, companies are starting to mandate back-to-office initiatives, which means so long to PJs or rolling out of bed and preparing that first cup of coffee of the day before firing up the computer.

Are people ready for this? Some are – yet many Canadians say they are not. A recent survey from the Amazon Business Return to Office Report, conducted with the Angus Reid Forum, reveals that half of Canadian office workers have yet to return to their respective offices – and many are hoping this will be the case for good.

“I seriously do not want to go back into the office,” said Katherine, in her thirties, who asked that her last name not be used as she does not want her employer to know how she feels. Katherine works in a mid-entry level position in an insurance firm in her city, and, “I was called in to the office two weeks ago to see how things were going. I found the whole experience difficult, including time to get ready in the morning, all the strangers on the subway on my way to work, and feeling isolated in my own workplace. I started getting anxious – the irony being I was doing the exact same work that I had been doing from home.”

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Katherine is not alone with her concerns, nor the idea of working from home permanently. The Amazon Business survey also revealed that half of Canadian office workers say working mostly or entirely remote is their “ideal scenario,” noting that the ability to work remotely along with flexible work hours are now more important to office workers than “workplace culture, development/growth opportunities and in-office perks,” as per the recent media release.

In fact, so strongly do many feel about heading back to a traditional office environment, two in five say they would look for another job rather than be mandated back to working full-time in the office.

“It’s clear the role that the physical office plays in the day-to-day work and satisfaction of employees has changed dramatically during the pandemic. We’re not going back to how things were before, and businesses need to adjust to the many operational realities that come with that,” said Nick Georgijev, country manager for Amazon Business Canada, in a recent media release. “Canadian employers will need to consider not just how and when to bring their employees back to the office, but if they should… and how to set that talent up for success from anywhere if they don’t return entirely.”

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Canadians did become comfortable working remotely during the pandemic, even though various research showed these same workers put in more hours on the job for fear they weren’t working up to their potential when there was no physical person to report to, zoom meetings notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, a new survey from the National Payroll Institute (payroll.ca) on remote work noted that “although working from anywhere isn’t prevalent yet, Canadian employers would be wise to get ahead of the curve by preparing policies and processes to offer the increasing flexibility that workers are seeking out,” said Peter Tzanetakis, president of the National Payroll Institute, in a recent media release.

“In February 2020, working from home and hybrid models were not top of mind. Today, flexibility is an expectation and key differentiator for businesses competing for talent in a limited pool… it’s not a huge leap to think the ability to work not just from home but from anywhere (in the world) will be next.”

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A hybrid model may be the answer, reported the Financial Post on a KPMG survey that stated “most workers in Canada want to return to the office, but about three quarters prefer a ‘hybrid’ model that allows some flexibility to work remotely.”

For now, it’s the paycheque that overrides the desire to work from anywhere, says the National Payroll Institute – and this includes the lure of working remotely from a different city, province, even country.

“Presently, with offices reopening after two long years, the factor trumping any of the above reasons that draw workers to lands far and wide is their pay. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents indicated that they would not accept any pay decrease as a trade-off for geographical freedom. And those few who are willing to sacrifice some salary say that they are not willing to sacrifice much. Only four per cent would accept a decrease of 20% or more,” as per the organization’s recent media release.

“If working from anywhere is the next step, it is vital for businesses to tap into the expertise of their payroll professionals to help them and their employees safely navigate these complex challenges,” adds Tzanetakis, in the same release.

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