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Employees may insist on working from home as COVID-19 restrictions ease: expert

Last Updated May 26, 2021 at 12:35 pm PDT

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Gradual return to work as COVID-19 restrictions ease doesn't necessarily mean a return to normal for many businesses

An expert says employees may insist on continuing to work from home

Mike Shekhtman with staffing firm Robert Half predicts many businesses will have to transition to a hybrid work model

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Workspaces in B.C. and across Canada will start re-opening soon, but that hardly means a return to business as usual.

On Tuesday, the province unveiled its plan to gradually return to near-normal life, with the hopes that by September, B.C. will be back to usual social contact with fully re-opened workplaces.

However, many employees may insist on continuing to work from home, according to Mike Shekhtman with the staffing firm Robert Half.

Shekhtman predicts many businesses will have to transition to a hybrid work model where some people come into the office, and others continue working from home.

“The future of work is really now,” he says.

“When you’re looking back as well, flexibility used to be a bit of a perk, where now many employees are almost expecting it,” Shekhtman tells NEWS 1130.

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Shekhtman expects the transition may be challenging, which is why it will require a lot of collaboration between employers and staff.

“If you think back to the onset of the pandemic, we didn’t have a choice. We are forced to work from home. So, where is the pendulum going to swing towards in terms of returning to the office? And as an executive team, or as an employer, you should look at all the options in terms of what employees will be looking for,” he explains.

“One thing to keep in mind is that we can’t predict the future. So I think a lot of times, the many decisions and flexibility will be really critical because decisions will be organic in nature. And things can change on a dime. So I think it will be critical to work together as teams and make sure that all options are put on the table to drive trust between all parties involved,” he adds.

According to Shekhtman, employers who offer flexibility will ultimately benefit from better employee retention.

“The future work will be different, where the office is going to be more of a community. And the office will be used to drive innovation, collaboration between teams, and making sure that the business is forging ahead. But it’s certainly going to be a little bit different place from where we left it,” he says.

“But giving employees the freedom and choice and flexibility to return to the office when they’re ready will certainly boost morale. It’s gonna build trust, loyalty for the organization. At the end of the day, it’s going to increase retention, which is going to be really critical as we move ahead.”

Read More: Timeline: B.C.’s restart plan

During this week’s announcement, the province’s plan for a slow return to offices started immediately with small meetings being allowed later.

These are the dates for businesses:

May 25:

  • Work from home guidance lifted
  • Start gradual return to offices and workplaces
  • Existing Safety plans remain in place
  • Example: Work in the office a few days per week

June 15 (earliest date):

  • Continue return to work
  • Small in-person meetings
  • Example: See more co-workers

July 1 (earliest date):

  • Seminars and bigger meetings
  • Operate based on new safety plans
  • Example: Go to a group meeting outside the office

Sept. 7 (earliest date):

  • Fully re-opened offices and workplaces
  • Plan an office holiday party