Return to Work - Session Recap

Updated: Aug 25

In this session, we recap some of the highlights of our recent panel discussion focused on the return to more normal work life.

Our June 2021 HR exchange featured Stephen Torscher, Partner at Miller Thomson and Charmaine Martens, VP Corporate Relations from Evolve Surface Strategies. Our session also outlined the findings of our participant survey about their workplace.


What has shifted since COVID-19 with leaders, employers, and employees? What have organizations done to adapt?

  • People have found ways to increase connectedness with one another.

  • While burn-out, emotional exhaustion and reduced engagement are the primary emotions that employees are experiencing according to respondents, it is a bit reassuring that we’ve found better ways to connect on a more meaningful level.

How are organizations dealing with remote work preferences?

  • Giving people notice about what is expected going forward, understand each employee’s preference and set clear expectations. Many organizations are reporting increased productivity at home.

  • Participants indicated that although remote work has been successful, there is a clear desire to return to the office at least part of the time

What do organizations need to pay attention to when offering remote work opportunities?

  • According to Stephen Torscher, it is important to look at where employer is located and where they are working. Courts will likely uphold agreement if the employment contract makes sense; each province has its own regulations. Be mindful of conflicts of laws (whole other presentation)

  • A properly drafted employment contract at the outset will solve issues down the road.

  • Many employers are adding temporary layoff provisions to their employment contracts


What are some best practices in communicating with remote employees?

  • ·Technology platforms like Zoom and Teams will continue to be important

  • Too much communication can have a negative effect

  • Invest in proper technology so that everyone can hear you; make it easy for staff to connect. Charmaine Martens reported success with her organization's cost effective boardroom set up:

  • Logitech Rally Camera – HD camera that auto-focuses on participants, even narrowing field of view to eliminate unused seats at the table

  • Logitech Rally Mic Pods – small microphones that sit on each end of the table. These “auto sense” active speakers to increase gain on the closest mic and reduce sensitivity from the farther mic

  • Logitech Rally Speakers – wall-mounted speakers directly beneath the two displays for high quality stereo sound

  • TCL 65S425-CA Displays – Two 65” HD displays that fully support auto-standby for power savings and eliminating the need to manually turn them on and off. One display is used for displaying Teams meeting participants while the other displays shared content

  • Lenovo Thinksmart Hub – An all-in-one device for Teams meeting participation. Includes an easy-to-use “tablet style” interface that swivels easily for all to easily access and allows joining and starting meetings with just a couple clicks.


Should our organization have a vaccination policy?

  • Stephen indicated that this is the most-often asked question and employers are asking if they can mandate a policy

  • He mentioned that past court decisions regarding flu vaccines reinforce the need to have good evidence why employees must be vaccinated ie: working with vulnerable populations

  • There may be good reasons why employees cannot be vaccinated, so employers may be better off encouraging people vs. mandating

  • Charmaine reminded us that it important that employers use language that is inclusive and remember that every employee may not be on the same page as it relates to their feeling around the vaccine

  • Half of our survey participants indicated that they would not support a mandate from their employer

When returning to the office post-pandemic, there are some great learnings and best practices to continue including:

  1. Protect the deep work: Without people tapping on your shoulder, it’s a lot easier to get the deep focused work completed.

  2. Maintain space for discreet conversations: If you needed to have a conversation with someone on your team, it was a lot easier doing it from the privacy of homes. Try to maintain the practice of keeping space for those conversations.

  3. Rethink the commute: If you’re already working in the office or in a hybrid situation, you are probably enjoying reduced traffic. You might be dreading a change here, so think about ways to make it better. Audio book, a bike ride or walk to work can be life-changing.

  4. Intentional check-ins: let’s not wait for the next pandemic to check in with each other to see how we’re really doing.

  5. Genuine trust: the days of looking over people’s shoulders are over. Once you set clear goals, let your team go ahead and achieve them.

  6. Work-life balance: When all we had to do was get a work shirt on and shuffle over to our computers, we were given the extra time to pursue our passions and do the things we needed to. I am so excited for this next chapter to see how we bring these lessons back to the workplace to make a return to work a great new chapter.