Remote working is prompting an exodus from core city centres
“The mismatch between employees’ hopes and employers’ expectations is ‘the biggest issue that we’re seeing right now,’ says Julie Labrie, president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions.” – Global News
This month, both CTV News Toronto and Global News reached out to me for interviews on a growing trend that needs our attention as HR/hiring managers.
After almost one-year of pandemic-related restrictions, many employees are saying good-bye to big city living, feeling fatigue from working at home full-time while sharing small spaces with their partners, and even balancing remote learning for their children at home, etc.
They are tired of being right on top of one another in cramped quarters downtown, and many are pursuing greener pastures – larger, more affordable homes far outside the city, pushing them beyond reasonable daily commuting distances. According to Statistics Canada, from July 2019 to July 2020, more than 50,000 people left Toronto alone, for other areas of the province. In Montreal, their net outflow figure was close to 25,000.
Are these workers ready to return to their employer’s physical offices once COVID-19 restrictions ease? No, from what we are seeing in the current market, many are not – they are looking for flexibility to work from home a few days a week.
And herein lies the challenge. Many employers are fully expecting and planning to “return to normal” as soon as we overcome this pandemic. However, for employees who have gotten a taste of – and loved – working from home every day, this new perk will be very hard to give up.
So, what can we do as HR/hiring managers to address this emerging situation? Planning and communications are key here, of course. Here are some tips we would recommend considering:
- Keep your pulse on your employees’ needs and expectations: Whether it is through regular one-on-one check-in’s, employee surveys, alongside analysis of employee productivity and performance, remaining connected with employees is critically important. This ensures both your management and workforce are in lock step with each other. When in doubt about your employees’ expectations on what “back to work” looks like for them, just ask. There is no better way to find out how they are feeling and what they are thinking.
- Communicate your company’s vision and expectations with your “back to work” plan: This can feel hard to do when there are still so many tangibles up in the air. But in our experience, it is still better to communicate directional thinking from leaders, versus keeping employees in the dark on what a potential return-to-the-office could look like. Ideally, this should be a collaborative process.
- Approach this as a negotiation and be ready to compromise if needed: We’ve witnessed many clients who in the past would have never considered work-from-home arrangements, who are now big believers of it. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons this pandemic has taught us is the importance of being open to new ways of working. Coming into the office, or working from home doesn’t have to be a black and white issue. The greatest opportunities are in finding the win-win for your team and company. In the absence of this, we will see (and in fact, we are already seeing) many highly skilled workers being much more open to moving on.
- Measure effectiveness and performance with data to remove guesswork from the equation: It is understandable that this can be an emotionally-charged topic, with strong opinions on both sides (working from home vs. working at the office). To remove bias from policy development processes, make sure you have measurable data to support what management is considering. This helps to ensure fairness across the board.
If we can all manage these changing times effectively, there should be no surprises on the employer or the employee side. Plan your policies now and communicate your expectations. Be collaborative in your approach, ensuring your leadership is open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. And ultimately, keep communicating through the hard times, with regular touch points to make sure management and the workforce are always well aligned.
If you’re looking for great Bilingual/French talent for you team, give us a call today: 416-236-3303, or email us at: [email protected]. We’re connected to the best candidates across Canada and we can help you find your perfect fit.