By: Kelsie Smale & Katie Findlay
We can all agree that change is inevitable. We recognize the change in seasons, change as we grow older and change in our personal environments as the world keeps going around. As humans, our capacity for adapting to change tends to hinder our abilities to recognize that it’s happening right in front of our eyes; and when we do, we are forced to think fast, move quickly and adjust to the environment around us.
“Change is the only constant in life. One’s ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life” – Benjamin Franklin
The pandemic has done just that, forced us to witness the world around us change in a matter of months and adjust accordingly. Most of us became subject to the barriers of our own four walls, testing our limits in our own physical environments. This time has allowed us to reflect on our “usual” tendencies, and in particular our work environments. Home became work, work became home, and the distinct separation between our personal and professional lives blurred even further. As we move into the post-pandemic environment, and organizations call for the “return to the office”, many employees aren’t interested in the pre-pandemic status quo and are pushing to retain some of the positive aspects of remote or flexible work. So, the looming question is how organizations will adjust to the “new normal” and what impact our physical environment will have on organizational culture and the relationships within?
The pandemic gave workers the opportunity to create their own spaces to meet their personal well-being needs at home. According to John Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Toronto, “Companies need to look at the pandemic as an opportunity to modernize how people work.” The struggle is that change in corporate culture normally happens over a long period of time, slowly developing and adapting to societal changes from the world around them. However, the pandemic has placed companies in a unique position to capitalize on these rapid environmental changes and has forced leaders to consider which cultural changes they would like to retain and reject.
Even prior to the pandemic, many organizations were recognizing a need for change in their working environments. Forbes’ Workplace Wellness Trend Report revealed that nearly 87 per cent of employees stated a need for a healthier work environment, ranging from wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stand desks, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating. Office design and space has become a critical aspect of the physical environment, and organizations began to adapt to this new trend in their corporate culture.
The shift to working from home gave employees the autonomy to manage their personal well-being outside the confines of the corporate cookie cutter approach. Commute times were traded for work out sessions, restaurant lunches were traded for healthier homemade options, and employees found themselves with more of the one commodity we can’t get more of – time! Now, moving into the post-pandemic era, studies reveal only 12 per cent of employees are looking forward to returning to their usual office spaces and 72 per cent are keen on a hybrid approach. These statistics prove there is a large number of individuals who have comfortably adjusted to their home environments becoming their work environments.
While most organizations and employees recognize that human connection can’t be replicated through a computer screen, this shift towards a more flexible or hybrid model provides an opportunity for companies to take an employee centric approach that encourages workplace autonomy and engagement. Corporate culture has changed in a blink of an eye and if companies ignore the calls for changing their approach, they will evidently fall behind allowing others to build a competitive advantage in employee retention.
Tips to convince your boss to let you keep working from home:
1. Get your plan together – make you case with concrete evidence of your productivity at home
2. State your case – show them how you’ve improved while working from home with measurable metrics i.e. client retention rate, less sick days etc.
3. Prepare for a contradictory response – if faced with a finite no, try to incorporate some of the elements of working from home that you loved. Listen to your boss’ position, be flexible and try to find a compromise.