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Most return-to-office plans will be flexible, new study says

·3 min read
Most return-to-office plans will be flexible, new study says

As workplaces across the country unveil return-to-office plans, a new survey has found that most employers are shifting away from requiring work to be done in the office full-time.

According to an ADP Canada survey conducted by Maru Public Opinion, more than half of Canadian workers will no longer be required to work in the office five days a week. One-third (33 per cent) of employees surveyed say they are expected to return to the office between two and three days a week, while slightly more than one-fifth (21 per cent) say they will have a flexible schedule with no set days in the office.

The survey found that 40 per cent of employees will still be expected to come into the workplace five days a week, although Ann Buckingham, executive HR manager at ADP Canada, says this figure largely reflects industries where employees have to be in-person, such as manufacturing.

"The pandemic has made a lot of businesses think twice about how they run and operate," Buckingham said in an interview. The need for companies to offer flexibility to employees has become particularly important in recent months, she says, due to a very tight labour market.

"The labour market is hitting levels we have not seen in 30 years. If you don't offer those options, then it's going to restrict your ability to hire in this environment," Buckingham said.

"There is definitely a shift right now to an employee-market as opposed to an employer-market... People looking for a new position right now can afford to look around for something that works for them, and flexibility is a key factor."

Ever since the pandemic forced millions of people to hunker down in home offices, many companies have been considering what a return-to-office plan would look like and how much of it will involve employees continuing to work from home. Most executives agree that the return to the office will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Many have been pushing for a hybrid model, which will allow employees to work remotely some days but come into the office for specific tasks.

In recent days, the return-to-work debate has focused on whether to mandate vaccinations for employees returning to the office. Canada's five biggest banks recently announced that they will mandate employees returning to their offices to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

With summer coming to a close, plans to return to the office in a more meaningful way appear to be ramping up. The survey found that 60 per cent of workers have received communication about a return-to-work strategy, with more than half (53 per cent) already back at the workplace in some capacity.

Still, some employers have yet to communicate a return-to-office plan, something Buckingham says many companies have held off on doing due in part to COVID-19 uncertainty.

"I think a lot of companies have taken the summer to look at their plans and we'll see a lot more coming out in the coming weeks about the rest of the year and what the return-to-work policies will look like," she said.

With files from Reuters

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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