It could be the constantly-malfunctioning printer. It could be the excess of TPS reports. It could even be an aversion to people who go around saying “sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays!” Regardless of the triggers, a new survey has found that about two in five (43%) Canadian office workers currently working remotely said they would rather hand in their resignation — or just stop showing up — than return to the office full-time.
The survey, which was commissioned by Amazon Business Canada and carried out by Angus Reid, also found that:
- 57% of workers want to split their time equally between in-office and remote.
- 55% of workers are less likely to accept a job with a new employer if the company mandates full-time work from the office.
- Only 12% of workers said that working entirely at their physical workplace is their ideal working scenario moving forward.
“It’s clear that the role that the physical office plays in the day-to-day work and satisfaction of employees has changed dramatically during the pandemic,” commented Nick Georgijev, Country Manager for Amazon Business Canada. “We’re not going back to how things were before, and businesses need to adjust to the many operational realities that come with that. Canadian employers will need to consider not just how and when to bring their employees back to the office, but if they should…and how to set that talent up for success from anywhere if they don’t return entirely.
Employers that want to make remote work for them vs. against them are encouraged to adopt the following best practices:
- Stop viewing remote work as a “perk” — because the vast majority of employees certainly do not.
Granted, remote workers avoid a tedious commute. But they are not spending that precious extra time at the spa. They are running errands, wisely decompressing, or getting some desperately-needed sleep. Research has found that nearly 3 out of 4 four workers in Canada are tired on the job; and some are outright exhausted.
- Provide remote workers with ALL of the technologies and tools they need to be successful.
The word ALL is emphasized because merely providing remote workers with access to cloud-based apps like Office 365, Slack, Google Drive, and so on is not enough. Remote workers also need suitable hardware, fast and reliable internet access, and ergonomic home office equipment so they can be productive, but without compromising their health or comfort.
- Support — don’t surveil.
In 2020, many employees who had never imagined working remotely — not because they didn’t want to, but because it was never an option — suddenly found themselves logging in from their home office. That was the good news. The bad news was that instead of enjoying more freedom and flexibility, they discovered that their employer was electronically monitoring their every action, down to the movement of their mouse cursor. In fact, that situation has become so odious for employees that Ontario recently announced that it will introduce legislation mandating employers across the province disclose if, when, how, and why electronic surveillance is taking place.
To avoid alienating remote workers and triggering disengagement, turnover, insubordination, and malicious compliance, employers need to ensure that monitoring tools (or tools that are not necessarily designed for monitoring, but nevertheless capture monitoring-related data) are used to support standards and people — not to invade privacy and make people feel suspected and untrustworthy.
- Make the in-office experience matter.
The biggest complaint that employees have about heading into the office full-time is not tiny workstations, noisy HVAC systems, or lack of parking. It is that they spend an enormous amount of time doing things that they could do from their home office — and often, significantly better and faster, too.
To address this legitimate and common complaint, Gallup recommends that employers establish a workplace value proposition. This represents the organizational culture, benefits and interactions employees experience when working on-site. Of course, this proposition cannot just be a lofty slogan or charter. Employers have to ensure that it is practically applied, and that employees are encouraged and enabled to make their time in the office meaningful and relevant.
Another — and perhaps more caustic, but still realistic — way to look at this, is for employers not to assume that working in the office is a panacea that automatically fosters collaboration, culture, and connectivity. On the contrary, if the environment is dysfunctional (or just plain toxic), then merely bringing people back and forcing them to co-exist for 40+ hours a week will make things worse, not better.
- Retrain micromanagers — or get rid of them.
Last but certainly not least: many management strategies and tactics that work in-person do not work remotely. Managers need to have the training and tools they need to support a distributed workforce. If despite these resources some managers continue struggling with the transition between in-person and remote management, then they should be shown the door. They are liabilities, not assets.
The Bottom Line
Remote work is changing post-Covid, but it is not going away — nor should it. Remote work can be enormously beneficial for both employers and employees. Following the best practiced highlighted above can help make remote work a win-win.