The theme this fall seems to be: get back to school, get back to work, get back to… normal…?
After more than two years of working and living in limbo many Canadians were ready to leave restrictions behind and return to some form of pre-pandemic freedom. Yet, when employees were told to return to the office, it wasn’t quite the freedom they envisioned.
It’s no surprise that employers and companies everywhere received some pushback as they enforced a return to the office. After all, the workforce came out of the pandemic more protective of the unexpected advantages and work-life balance generated by virtual work and working from home. This gave rise to the question, why do we need to go into an office every day? In fact, many companies maintained their operations and productivity at even better rates than before the pandemic so why make employees suffer the traffic woes and commute time?
Back to the Office, but How?
Cue the “Hybrid work model,” a solution proposed by employers which aims to mitigate their employees’ dismay at the prospect of returning to the office. There are a variety of hybrid models out there. One of the more common formats is the 3:2 model, which forces employees to return to the office a minimum of three days a week while employers allow them to choose two days to work from home. Employers promote this as “flexibility” and present it as a reward. Though mandating three days in the office can’t really be considered flexible. The same can be said about a 4-day work model.
The 4-day work week has been shown to increase employee happiness, but is it a long-term solution? Employees are happy to have an extra day off compared to the traditional 5-days a week. Of course, if you remove a day of work and keep the same pay, who would complain? However, for most companies, the long-term downfall is that employees must fit 40 hours’ worth of work, into a shorter span of 32 hours. This can end up stretching people so thin that they are more likely to use the extra day to rest and recover. Another disadvantage is that people working four days a week are expected to use that extra day for all their errands, health appointments, and sick days or risk being judged and resented by managers and peers for cutting into their already-shortened work week.
Companies implementing these hybrid models believe that they are the solution to the need for greater flexibility that employees are seeking, only it’s not. Here’s why. Because employers still follow the traditional belief that they own their employee’s time, and that physical presence equals productivity. Instead, when employees are required to be physically present, especially after successfully working from home, employers are sending the message they need to supervise their staff, like children. The push to return to the office has left many employees feeling penalized for their hard work and dedication over the last 2+ years, under remote conditions. Feelings like these are usually accompanied by an increase in resignations or quiet quitting.
Job Vacancies at an All- Time High
The interesting twist is that Canada is experiencing a worker shortage like never before. To be clear this is a person shortage, and not a turnover issue. We simply do not have enough people to fill the number of jobs needed.
Employers have begun increasing salaries and wages to help retain the staff they have. Leaving businesses that cannot offer competitive wages or ideal working conditions struggling the hardest to fill positions.
Even then, throwing higher salaries at people won’t help an aging population and increasing strain on the economy. We will soon all experience the consequence of worker shortages through longer lines, longer delivery-times, lack of medical resources and care (if you think it’s bad now, just wait).
Not only do the labor shortages bring direct consequences to end-users, but without enough people to hire, industries will have to rely on their current employees to do more with less, a recipe for exhaustion and another pandemic: burnout.
Though excessive workload and burnout are not new, it has taken far too long for companies to shift to a model that will assist in attracting talent, while investing in employees’ mental health and well-being.
If worker shortages continue, higher salaries will not be enough to bridge the spiraling gap. Especially since the pandemic has taught us that people want to work less, not more. With an employee market upon us, workers can be more selective about where they work, and more important than salary to them is balance. Put simply, the pandemic has given people a lot of time to reflect on what is important to them. It has changed the way society prioritizes work. The hustle culture that existed before the pandemic now appears as nothing short of a toxic and non-ethical environment once tolerated. This is particularly true for Gen Z and Millennials who witnessed and experienced the detrimental consequences on their quality of life and of those around them. The exhaustion and unhappiness left by hustle culture have resulted in a permanent appetite for a balance and control that the traditional work systems do not grant. Companies must begin to restructure the way they work to cope with and navigate the labor shortage but also to engage in preventative measures for the mental health and well-being of employees.
A Long Term Hybrid Solution
Employees don’t need a false sense of flexibility; they need to restore control of their time. This isn’t achieved by telling people where to work and when.
Consider a different type of Hybrid than the mainstream ones covered above. One that doesn’t focus on a set of days in or out of the office, rather, it focuses on communicating clear and achievable results. The concept becomes not about when or where staff work, but whether they meet the company objectives. The concepts are simple:
Employers do not own their employees’ time.
Employees are compensated when they meet measurable results.
Determining how and where employees need to work to achieve these results should be up to them. Employees should not have to pay or fight for their mental health and wellness.
As an employer, if you are looking for a solution that will help future-proof your organization, consider a different form of Hybrid, such as ROWE (Results Only Work Environment). Intersol has partnered with experts in the field to help bring more long-term hybrid solutions to our clients. We have been attentive to the needs and wants of organizations and we know that for change to bring value, it needs to last. and we believe the ROWE model can accomplish what other models have failed to do: Have demonstrated positive effects on retention, mental health and well-being and stress/burnout. To learn more, get in touch with us today.