Experts say to support employees returning to office after 'array of challenges' working from home
SASKATOON -- As the province plans to reopen once COVID-19 vaccine targets are met, it could mean people will start heading back to the office soon.
Bill Howatt is the president of Howatt HR consulting, a firm that focuses on the psychological health and safety of employees.
He said the decision of workers wanting to go back into the office is personal and will differ for everyone.
“We have to be careful about making assumptions that this is going to be challenging for everyone because what we say to ourselves and what we're going to believe (could be different),” Howatt told CTV News.
Howatt said the role of deciding when the return happens will fall onto managers' laps and it's important to recognize what comes with that decision.
“How to deal with the array of challenges of having a meeting with someone over Zoom and some will be live and how not to favourite the people that are live and how to be inclusive and how to engage everyone,” he said.
According to a poll by Leger and the Association of Canadian Studies, 40 per cent of Canadians prefer a mix of working at home and the office, while only 20 percent of Canadians said they would want to stop working from home entirely.
Howatt added it’s important employers provide support when it comes to social connection isolation, loneliness training and to stop assuming people already have these skills.
“Before COVID, 25 per cent of our population experienced isolation, loneliness, now we have around 40 per cent of the people who are working remotely who are actually saying they are still experiencing loneliness and isolation.”
As kids will soon be out of school and summer is underway, Mathew Cey with Morris Interactive said it’s important employers initiate conversations with staff sooner rather than later.
“It's going to be too late, I think, to where you may run into more problems and being a little bit more reactive and not not allowing enough time for an actual change,” Cey told CTV News.
But for some people, there may be an in between option. The Link Office Hub in Saskatoon is a space for workers who don’t necessarily need or want to be in a traditional office but still want to leave the house.
“They need a professional space at some point during their day. They may not be here all day, maybe they pop in to have their Zoom meetings so their kids aren’t in the background or the laundry machine isn’t going in the background,” Karen Rodych of The Link Office Hub said.
People can rent individual office spaces month-to-month or all year round with 24 hour access to their spaces.
But while some people are working from home, Howatt emphasized that managers should be open to the fact it may not go right the first time when they return and it could take weeks before people settle into a new routine.