After the summer holidays, employers have to take certain decisions regarding the forms of getting back to work, if it has not been done already.
In a post-pandemic era and the return to work, many questions are being asked by employers and employees, especially regarding their right to decide between working from home (remotely) or working from the office (on site). Companies are torn between deciding whether to go back to “business as usual”, which means working exclusively from the office, those who want to introduce a hybrid form and those who want to maintain the status quo and keep working from home (especially after realizing it’s a winner).
One thing is for sure, the side effects of the pandemic have challenged many aspects of traditional work forms. The fact that millions of people have switched to work from home for the first time has shown that many jobs can be successfully adapted to the virtual workspace.
While many Canadian professionals are embracing a hybrid work model, a 2021 study shows that more than half of the companies are planning a full return to the office once the pandemic is over. In a survey of 800 senior managers across Canada, 56% of respondents said they will require their teams to work on-site full-time when COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted. Fewer will accept that their employees work a hybrid schedule that allows them to divide their time between the office and another location (29%) or give their staff absolute freedom to choose where they work (13%).
Employers mentioned a variety of key challenges in managing hybrid teams, highlighting the complexity of having to support a dispersed workforce over the long term:
- Trust that employees will get their job done: 22%
- Communicate effectively with team members: 21%
- Find time for team development: 20%
- Assess workload and help staff avoid burnout: 18%
- Effectively recognize and reward employee achievements: 18%
What about what employees want? A survey has revealed that more than half of employees (51%) prefer a hybrid work arrangement and that one in three professionals (33%) who currently work from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if they had to be in the office five days a week. In addition, a separate survey indicates that 30% of workers feel much more productive when working remotely than in the office.
Many employers are inclined to the work from the office model but some of them consider hybrid forms of work as a more efficient way under the circumstances. On one hand, it is because they have witnessed that work from home has proved to go well for various jobs, the company’s values and culture have been maintained, and employees’ efficiency has not been affected, while on the other hand, the hybrid model will allow them to save on important costs related to the purchase and rent of office space. More and more companies are heading towards reducing office space and preferring shared space models such as coworking (sharing space) and flex office (having departments alternate the same space according to days of the week).
As for advantages that employees find in working from home, they have mentioned the flexibility to work in the comfort of their own home, reducing commute time especially with the current gas prices, having a better work-life balance, reducing various expenses such meal preparation, clothes, etc.
However, how much leverage does an employee have to insist on continuing to work remotely?
In a 2021 case, the Tribunal administrative du travail (Administrative Labour Tribunal) had to answer the question of whether the work from home model was a right or a privilege for an employee. It is a case of an employee who insisted on working from home for family reasons while his employer saw that his duties had to be performed at the office. The Tribunal decided that the employee could not change an essential condition from his contract and had to abide by his employer’s request to work from the office. Although the issue of this case was not mainly the work from home question, it does however set the tone for case law regarding the employer’s management rights in that matter and highlights the fact that the employees cannot impose their choice to work from home on the employer.
Employees must start to prepare themselves for going back to the office requests either fully or in a hybrid form. Although working from home might appear like a right, especially that it has been the norm for more than 2 years now, it is not an acquired right.
Employers remain the owners of their management rights regarding the working models they choose. Having said that, it is highly recommended that they stay in tune with employees’ wishes in that matter and with their preferences. Otherwise, they risk losing them, or even worse, affecting their motivation!
Click here for the French version of the blog post.
 Article by Mourad Hamed Abdelouahab, August 19, 2021, www.jobillico.com/blog/voici-les avantages-du mode-de-travail-hybride/
 Robert Half, April 6, 2021, One in three remote workers may quit if required to return to the office full time, Robert Half survey finds, https://www.roberthalf.ca/en/one-in-three-remote-workers-may-quit-if-required-to-return-to-the-office-full-time-robert-half
 Robert Half, August 18, 2021, Survey reveals that after the pandemic, hybrid work will depend on the type of job and the size of the company, https://www.roberthalf.ca/fr/un-sondage-revele-quapres-la-pandemie-le-travail-hybride-dependra-du-type-demploi-et-de-la-taille-de
 Aveledo c. Poly Sleep inc ., 2021 QCTAT 2296 (CanLII)
 Un salarié ne peut imposer le télétravail à son employeur, Les avocats Le Corre et Associés, 2022-01-01 https://unik.caij.qc.ca/permalien/ic15b09c3-58ee-49ff-abf2-fb77c4e43f1b