Remote, Office or Hybrid?

New report serves as guide for employers to navigate post-pandemic work arrangements

OTTAWA, December 13, 2021 — A report released today by the Conference Board of Canada in partnership with Carleton University will serve as a guide for employers on how to navigate the realities of the new world of work preferences.

Utilizing the more than 26,000 responses they received from Canadian employees who completed the Employee Wellbeing in Times of COVID-19 survey, researchers Linda Duxbury, chancellor’s professor in the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, and Michael Halinski, assistant professor in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, say COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change, forcing employers into unchartered territory where hard decisions are needed. The report focuses on the almost 40 per cent who indicated they worked from home most, or all, of the time during the pandemic.

“There’s no playbook and no rules for what’s happening,” says Duxbury, who co-authored the report. “Managers are going to have to have some honest discussions with employees, who have developed a new set of working habits over the past two years. We need to move forward, and we need both organizations and employees to be willing to compromise on how work will be structured post-pandemic.”

The Remote, Office or Hybrid?: Employee Preferences for Post-Pandemic Work Arrangements report makes the case that Canadian employees want to continue doing what they did during the pandemic. If they spent most of their time working on-site during the pandemic, they prefer to get back to the office full-time post-pandemic. Similarly, if they spent most of their time working remotely during the pandemic, then they want to continue with this arrangement—which is driving an inevitable shift in how work is structured in this country.

“The pandemic-driven forced experiment of global remote work will have society-wide impacts and has provided us with a rare real-time opportunity to observe the challenges and upsides of the widespread adoption of remote work arrangements,” says Halinski.

While there seems to be a consensus among key decision-makers that post-pandemic many employees want to work from home—at least some of the time—there is little agreement with respect to how work should be structured.

And Duxbury cautions that the path forward isn’t necessarily going to be what executives, many of whom themselves reported a desire to work full-time in the office, want.

“The fact is that we have a worker shortage in Canada and employers are going to have to be willing to compromise,” says Duxbury.

“Workplace flexibility will also take on a new meaning moving forward,” says Halinski. “We are now seeing flexibility offered as a perk by employers, but expected by employees.”

The required negotiation will be challenging, as employers try to manage a workforce with varying needs and preferences. The report says a test-and-learn mindset is the best approach in order for organizations to make the proactive and intentional types of changes needed to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

“It is going to be hard, but hard does not mean impossible,” says Duxbury.

The full Remote, Office or Hybrid?: Employee Preferences for Post-Pandemic Work Arrangements report can be found at conferenceboard.ca. The report was compiled with the assistance of Richard Brisbois, principal research associate and Amanda Holmes, senior research associate at The Conference Board of Canada.

About the Conference Board of Canada
The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda.

About Carleton University
Carleton is a dynamic, research-intensive institution that engages in partnerships to address the world’s most pressing issues. The university’s corporate collaborations bring together world-class companies, researchers and a new generation of talent with 32,000 students to deliver innovations and results that are driving a more prosperous, sustainable future.

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The Conference Board of Canada
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