When the pandemic hit, the demands at work changed overnight. What will change when the pandemic is finally behind us?
Prior to 2020, few could have imagined how quickly, and how dramatically, a global event could upend our traditional way of doing things, especially when it comes to office life.
Although the tools for remote work have been around for some time, it wasn’t until early 2020 that a sudden and urgent need forced companies to embrace them and change the way they do business.
Now that so many people have become accustomed to working from home, returning to old ways of working is the last thing many workers want. They’ve figured out ways to work from home and stay connected, stay motivated, and get their tasks done without all the hassles of everyday office life.
We are beginning to see a fundamental change in the relationship between workers, managers and clients. But many unanswered questions remain about how companies will react, and what the implications are for workers and employment rights.
Has your employer changed your job requirements? If you are concerned that your employment rights have been violated, contact a Toronto employment lawyer
Back to the Office?
The pandemic revealed how certain industries were not well equipped to pivot to a new way of doing things, and the people on the front lines suffered as a result.
The extended period of stress and uncertainty provoked a re-examination of what people want from their jobs. However, it wasn’t all bad. For people that worked in traditional office environments, the pandemic opened their eyes to a new world of possibilities.
Now that the pandemic seems to be on the way out in most places, human resources departments are struggling to come to terms with how to reconcile the changing needs and demands of their employees.
Adopting a hybrid model seems to be the middle road on this issue, but there are camps firmly entrenched on either side of the debate between remote and in-person work. Some believe that hybrid work models could introduce new inequities in the workplace, but businesses also stand to gain from having a workforce that feels supported and empowered, rather than controlled.
The question is, what do you do if your employer is forcing you to make changes that seem unfair? You can start by calling us for a consultation.
Lingering Pandemic Fears
Putting the pandemic behind us is no small feat, and it will likely be some time before everyone feels at ease. For the parents of young children, and people with pre-existing health issues, the appeal of working in person is outweighed by fears of contracting COVID-19.
This is leading many people to seek new kinds of work, or keeping them out of the workforce entirely.
Remote Work Killed the Commute
One of the top reasons cited for remote work over in-person work is the money and time people lose with their daily commute to the office.
As it turns out, many underestimated the impact of this long-time gripe for anyone who has to fight traffic on a daily basis. By working from home, people have discovered that they have more time at their disposal, and they are also saving money.
Although the exact figures are up for debate, eliminating the costs of transportation, parking, meals, gas, dry cleaning and other related spending adds up over the course of a year, amounting to thousands of dollars for most office workers.
Most of all, it adds up to hundreds of extra hours per year in which people can choose to use their time more productively. So while many appreciate the savings measured in dollars, some would say there is no more valuable commodity than time.
Will There be a “Great Resignation” at Your Company?
With each new study on the changing relationship between employers and employees, the results show that many people’s career expectations and goals shifted during the pandemic. Some reports suggest that many employees are prepared to quit their jobs rather than accept being forced back into the office full time against their wishes.
Some observers believe this will lead to a so-called “Great Resignation,” where workers desert companies in droves, lured by the freedom and flexibility of self-employment or remote work elsewhere. But the more likely outcome, in the short term, is a re-evaluation of employment contracts, privacy in the workplace, and employment standards across a range of industries.
A recent survey from Leger Marketing asked 2,616 workers from the United States and Canada about their preferences, hopes and expectations about working in a post-pandemic world.
According to the data, roughly half of workers surveyed have been working from home for almost the entire pandemic, which is over 17 months at this point. To the surprise of many, this form of employment proved to be a net positive experience for most people. Although some respondents reported that they found working from home to be hard, over 80% of respondents have had a positive experience.
When it comes to attitudes about returning to traditional office life, a majority of respondents would prefer to continue working remotely, and many never want to go back to the office at all. In fact, only 20% of workers surveyed support returning to their pre-pandemic working conditions, and a similar proportion (19%) want to work entirely from home indefinitely.
Most people fall between these two extremes, as many workers understand the value of being around their team in person, so there is significant support for a hybrid model that balances remote work with time in the office. Roughly one fifth (19%) like the idea of a weekly split, with a few days in the office and a few days of remote work, while a similar number (19%) believe that the office should be kept only for necessary meetings or activities a few times per month.
A New Way Forward?
The wide disparity in opinions in the business world reveals a generational difference in attitudes. In general, younger workers have little desire to go back to the office, while senior leadership and experienced managers tend to favour returning to their old ways of working.
There are profound cultural issues embedded in this debate. Ultimately, for both workers and employers, it comes down to managing goals and expectations. But the legal ramifications of these changes remain unclear, so it is incumbent on both employers and employees to talk out these issues and find a mutually beneficial way forward.
JPAK Employment Lawyers
If your company is forcing a return to office work, and you have questions or concerns about the implications for your employment contract or employment standards, contact one of our Toronto employment lawyers for personalized advice.