The Future of Hybrid Workplaces

The Future of Hybrid Workplaces

As we move forward to find our new normal for work, it is expected that employers will be planning for alternate ways to work in various formats and locations. We expect that there will be challenges in supporting employees in this decision. Employers are beginning to examine creative ways to work now that employees have been working in a virtual way.

79% of workplaces across the world are considering a Hybrid Model (WeWork, 2021). We define the Hybrid Model as virtual and mobile work combined with the in-person workplace. Employers should start having conversations now, if they have not begun already, to examine their options and the impact these decisions will have on their organizations.

Decision Making about Virtual Work

When making the decision about having employees return to the office or continue virtual work, employers should consider the following aspects:

The Worker and Workplace:

  • What are the work demands and can they feasibly be completed virtually?
  • What are the performance requirements of the job?
  • Are there specific requirements to work with a team or customers in person?
  • Does the employee consistently meet the performance requirements currently while working virtually?
  • Is the employee responsible for childcare or eldercare activities?
  • What are the health and safety risks of working at home and in the office?

The Tools:

  • What equipment might the employer need to supply if the employee is working virtually?
  • What PPE needs to be provided for employees and visitors?

The Process:

  • What are my obligations as an employer for the virtual work environment?
  • Do I have a virtual work policy?
  • What are the pay implications if working virtually?
  • What are my obligations for leasing of the current office space?
  • Does the employee have any protected rights under the Human Rights Code?

The Culture:

  • What will be our strategies to maintain connection with the work team and workplace?
  • What will be our strategies for managing screen time and virtual meetings?
  • What are the expectations for work hours?

Employees with Remote Work Preference

There are different reactions that you may receive when the return to the workplace is announced. After working from home for the past months, some employees may find that they enjoy working from home and would prefer to continue working remotely. Some employees may be eager to return to see colleagues and get out of the home, and some may be eager but apprehensive about health and safety or anxious about finding care for their children.

Surveys of working Canadians indicate there is a strong demand for hybrid workplaces.

  • A survey of over 2,000 Canadians found that 77% of people want the flexibility to work from home at least part of the time (KPMG, 2021).
  • Data from RBC and Statistics Canada similarly showed a significant demand for remote work, with 34% wanting a majority of work to be done from home, 29% wanting a split between home and work, and 17% wanting to work mostly from the office, with some at-home work (Better Dwelling, 2021).
  • A May survey revealed that 39% of employees would consider quitting their jobs if their employers were not flexible about remote work (Bloomberg, 2021).

Duty to Accommodate

Under the human rights code, employers have the duty to reasonably accommodate their employees for issues such as family status, disability, etc. Employers are also responsible for ensuring that employees can safely return to work. Employers are entitled to enough information from the employee to understand what accommodations are needed and/or the employee’s prospects for safely returning to work, should they be off. Employers can ask the following questions:

  • Are there any restrictions or limitations resulting from your disability that impact the performance of your job?
  • Are there specific recommendations for accommodation that will facilitate a successful and safe return to work (if the employee is off from work)?
  • Do you have a treatment plan in place? If so, how will this affect your work performance and schedule?
  • What is the prognosis of your condition?
  • Can you safely perform your job (if in a safety-sensitive position)?
  • Do you require medication that produces side effects that may prevent you from working (if in a safety-sensitive position)?

There are many new requests and precedents being set for accommodations during this time, and you may need some support to determine reasonable accommodations. Gowan Consulting can help you with your challenging accommodation needs and guide you through the accommodation process.

Learn more about the Duty to Accommodate or make a referral to get started on the accommodation process.

What Can Employers Do?

Start the Conversation Now:

Having regular conversations with employees to assist with addressing concerns, understanding their home situations, and providing an empathetic ear can help you as a manager know what is working for the employee and what is a challenge for them.

  • What is their workplace at home like?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • What are they missing about the workplace?
  • Who are they missing at work?
  • Do they have children at home and how is the homeschooling?

Discuss Expectations Openly:

Be sure to remain consistent in providing clear expectations.

  • What are the job expectations?
  • What tools does the employee need for the work?
  • How are you measuring outcomes?
  • How are the team projects being managed and supported at a distance?
  • Are there any challenges with meeting the expectations and why?
  • What do they expect will happen on return to work?
  • What would make it easiest during the return?

Listen with Empathy, Attention and Respect:

  • What can I do to support you?
  • How can we develop a plan that works for you?

How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

We expect that there will be challenges in supporting employees in the decision to return to the workplace, remain remote, or create a hybrid working model. Gowan Consulting will be working with organizations to support their decision making as well as providing assistance to employers who require accommodations for employees. We also anticipate that employers and employees will continue to face mental health concerns as the “echo pandemic” creates a tsunami of long-lasting mental health effects in the coming months and years. Contact us to see how we can help or make a referral today.

Are you feeling overwhelmed in this new working world? We have a variety of solutions and strategies to help. Here are some upcoming training opportunities you may be interested in:

  • FREE Hybrid Workplaces and Accommodations webinar – On September 16th, learn how to accommodate employees in this new hybrid working world with this one-hour training session with Nancy Gowan.
  • FREE International Self-Care Day Event – Take a moment to celebrate Self-Care Day with us on July 22, 2021. If your coworkers, friends, or family need some support, tips, or just a moment to breathe, we encourage you to join us and spread the word.
  • Mastering Health and Productivity Membership – We’ve been working hard to create even more value for our customers. Learn more about our membership launch coming this fall.

Works Cited

The future of work is hybrid—here’s what that will look like, WeWork, April 13, 2021,

Canadians like hybrid model concept: Workplace reboot, KPMG,

Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home, Bloomberg Wealth, June 2021,

RBC: Majority Of Canadians Want To Work-From-Home, And It Will Change Cities, Better Dwelling, January 12, 2021,

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