Canadian HR Reporter

February 2021 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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2 www.hrreporter.com N E W S time between the office and a remote location such as home. As employers contemplate the new normal, there's much to consider around the office environment, shared spaces, culture, human behaviour and HR's role. There are key questions to be answered, says Erica Pimentel, a researcher at Concordia University in Montreal, such as: Do we really need people to be in the office? What is the office for? What does the office represent? "At the end of the day, they should be looking at: Where can employees work and be the most productive?" she says. "[The office] becomes a place you go with intent and purpose, and you go there when you need to." Embracing a flexible workspace There are no easy answers, especially after employers have seen overall engagement rise among people working from home, says Samantha Sannella, managing director of strategic consulting at Cushman & Wakefield in Toronto. "We're in that pivot mode where we've seen a lot of clients say, 'OK, we recognize there need to be some changes. What should those changes be?'" While many employers are considering downsizing because people seem happy to work off-site, Sannella says, "Not so fast," because there will be a rebound from the pandemic "and it's going to be hard to get that space back." "It's one thing to work from home for six months, nine months, through a terrible winter; it's another thing to work from home for years on end. And you really want to build employee loyalty. if it's synchronous work that can be done together and is somewhat creative — such as thinking through new products, new pricing strategies or doing due diligence — that can be easier in a physical environment as opposed to a virtual one. "But if it's heads-down work, where you're closing the financial books or executing certain transactions… it's different," he says. "There's also some work that carries more risk or access to proprietary technology; [for example], trading in a financial services firm — you can trade from home, but there's probably more compliance risks." Being able to work on your own can be done anywhere. And that needs to be wherever the employee can work best, says Pimentel. "I really don't think it's about luring people back to the office with a nice coffee pot and an onsite gym. It's really about rethinking where people do their best work," she says. "I don't think that a model of everyone staying home forever is the best thing for innovation and collaboration, because you need to be in the face of someone to have them stimulate those ideas." Employers need a space where people can come together and throw around ideas and use a whiteboard because the technological solutions haven't been able to "adequately replicate" that experience, says Pimentel. "We've all been in Zoom meetings, and it's hard to stay focused and it's hard to stay on task after a while. So, the in-person communication really helps for that innovation, collaboration, that group-type work. And I think human contact really helps." And if you want to do that, you're really thinking about the long term. So that's one reason to promote flexible space." Considering the history of pandemics across the world, this will likely not be our last, so it's worthwhile for people who are developing office space "to really start thinking heavily about these things that will differentiate themselves in the marketplace in the future," says Sannella. Type of work makes a difference In contemplating the hybrid approach to office space, the type of work matters, says Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader, people and organization, at PwC in New York. So, Designing with intent Thinkific is looking at its offices more like a co-working space, compared to the past when 80 to 90 per cent of the workforce was there four or five days a week, says Nagy. "We're looking at it more as this very open kind of flexible space where people will come and go, there's a lot more fluidity to when people will show up, when people will leave, how they actually use our space, which rooms within our office are being used," she says. "You go in with an intention and a purpose, and not necessarily just to do the sort of heads-down work that you can easily do at home… [It's about] making sure that we're a little bit more intentional and purposeful with what we're actually doing with our in-person office space." The company is treating the office space more like a house than an office, designating different rooms for different purposes. That means having rooms for in-person collaboration and rooms for meetings or presentations with the right AV equipment and technology, while allowing distributed team members to dial in, says Nagy. "Some of the longer-term plans for the office [are]… not to create silos or divisions but to have more living walls and stuff for sound-proofing, but also to create more intimacy between teams that may be working together. Because we were finding the fully open-work concept, especially nowadays, would not work. So, we're trying to figure out ways that we can expand our space, create a little bit more separation and privacy, but also keep that general open nature and fluidity in terms of how you navigate through our office space." TOP REASONS U.S. WORKERS WANT TO BE AT THE OFFICE Source: Gensler Research Institute "Our office space will primarily be used for collaborative purposes, but not necessarily the purposes of working at a desk for six to eight hours a day." Amanda Nagy, Thinkific 54% Scheduled meetings with colleagues 54% Socializing time with colleagues 54% Impromptu face-to-face time with colleagues 45% To be part of the community Hybrid model> pg. 1

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