Widespread working from home will end at some point, won’t it? Maybe not

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Trevor Boudreau has already returned to his office at Vancouver International Airport after a period of working from home – twice in fact.

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He first went back in mid-2020, at a time when fewer flights were arriving and departing than usual from the country’s second-busiest airport and strict rules were in place on who could be there.

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“It was quite real,” said Boudreau, the Vancouver Airport Authority’s manager of government relations, who ended up reworking the house by the end of that year.

In 2021, he is slowly back in a world that involves going somewhere outside his homeland – a journey that is likely to take millions of working Canadians sooner or later.

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Twenty months into the pandemic, More than four million Canadians continue to work from homeDespite significant gains in vaccination coverage and efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus across the country.

Simply put, the virus is still here and these workers are still not back in the office.

It is a reality that most organizations probably expected would not happen until now in the post-COVID-19 era.

“There remains uncertainty among employers as to what exactly they should do,” said Dr. Kumanan Wilson, an Ottawa physician and scientist.

At this point, Canada’s millions of WFH veterans are used to what they are and some of them clearly don’t want to go back to the former setup – and not just because of COVID-19.

“Many employees prefer to work from home,” said Philip Krauss, a senior fellow at the McDonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based think-tank.

work here, work there

Pre-pandemic, Trevor Boudreau’s job included frequent travel and off-site work. He says that the work is still being done as it was then.

“I don’t see people who are still working at home because they are not at work,” Boudreau said. “We’re all still working.”

In Nova Scotia, Amy Terrio, who works as an office administrator, is getting work from home done, but that’s about to change. In December, she’ll make the hour-long commute to downtown Halifax, five days a week.

And she’ll be making that trek to herself, because the three other people she drives with—including her husband—are not on their way back to the office yet.

And whether Terrio goes by bus or by car – a decision that is still up in the air – will cost more than staying at home.

“It’s a Big Dump [of money]Terio said, referring to the cost of a regular trip, which is rising amid inflation, including rising gas prices.

New technology, not a new concept

Despite all the coverage during the pandemic, working from home is not a new trend.

“People have been doing it for years – in the 80s and 90s,” said Julia Richardson, professor of human resource management at Curtin University in Australia.

However, the technology involved has improved, allowing much more people to engage in remote work.

“It’s opened up to a wide range of industries, a broad range of individuals,” Richardson said, adding that people have quickly grasped conferencing tools like Zoom and WebEx. Not only this, they are so comfortable with technology that they are also using it as a part of their social life.

People have become accustomed to the pandemic-adjusted structure of their days of working from home.

For example, Boudreau said he spent his WFH days learning to go on long walks with his dog before starting “Zoom call after Zoom call after Zoom call.”

Terrio said she believes working from home provides a “greater balance” between the personal and professional sides of life.

What about employers?

Richardson said that because millions of people who work at home have become accustomed to the change of scenery, many are re-evaluating their work arrangements.

And it has implications for employers.

look | Career Impact of WFH:

“I think employers will need to navigate very carefully,” Richardson said. “Otherwise, he will face resignation.”

Of course, not all work may be in the remote context, leaving some workers without that option.

“Most people still have to go into the workplace,” said Krauss of the McDonald-Laurier Institute, pointing to the fact that people who currently work from home still make Only a fraction of the 19 million people working in Canada,

Normally, front-line workers are going to work during the pandemic. They are looking after a business that cannot be done remotely.

For those whose work can be done outside of a physical workplace, their interests will be weighed against the will of their employer.

Cross said employers have their reasons for bringing people back to work, including for supervisory reasons, for team-building, and for strengthening the organizational culture. But that doesn’t mean that’s what employees want.

“When you put two things together, employer preference and employee preference, I’ve opened a Pandora’s box,” said Anil Verma, emeritus professor of industrial relations and human resource management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. ,

Because “no matter how you cut it,” Verma said, some people won’t be happy with the result.

Verma said that “smart organisations” will see a dynamic process with clearly laid down rules that take into account the needs of the organization and the needs of the workers.

what lies ahead

Companies and organizations may plan to get their people back to work on a given timetable, but that doesn’t mean they can rely on COVID-19 cooperating with them – as seen in cases like Boudreau Where there is a return to work. It was not a one step journey.

They will also deal with employees who are concerned about the fact that COVID-19 has not gone away.

“I think those concerns may be valid,” said physician Wilson, noting that we will be entering a high-risk period in winter “as more and more incidents begin to move indoors due to cold weather.” Huh.”

He said vaccination is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but good ventilation and masking policies in workplaces can help reduce the risk on top of that.

“When we do the right thing, we keep it under control, we know it,” Wilson said. “When we loosen up a little more, it feels like it’s back.”

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