Why your options might be limited if your employer wants you back in the workplace?

The pandemic need to do your work outside of the workplace ends as restrictions and mandates relax and employers refocus on bringing people back to personal work.

While employers can phase out temporary measures, they also need to think about how the work environment has changed since COVID-19 emerged in early 2020, that flexible arrangements have proven possible and how employees feel about going back to work in person, experts say in Canada.

“Employees have proven — at least in their own minds — that they are just as productive, if not more productive, when they work from home,” said Janet Candido, an HR consultant in Toronto.

“So that’s where the pushback is.”

Agreements are agreements

Nadia Zaman, an employment attorney at Rudner Law in Markham, Ontario, said she and her colleagues have answered an increasing number of questions about return to the workplace in recent months.

Labor attorney Nadia Zaman says “workers generally don’t have the right to choose where they work unless they already had that right” before the pandemic. (Submitted by Nadia Zaman)

“Employers can generally dictate whether the employee can work from home or return to the office — whether full or on a hybrid model — unless otherwise agreed,” Zaman said in an interview.

There are some exceptions, usually limited to legitimate housing needs or concrete security concerns.

But Zaman said “employees don’t have the right to choose where they work unless they already had that right” ahead of the pandemic.

A changing work world

The long time employees have been working from home is part of a broader context of change.

Matthew Fisher, an employment lawyer and partner at Toronto-based Lecker & Associates, said many employees have learned “there can be another way, that there can be flexibility, that there can be remote working.”

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Why your options might be limited if your employer wants you back in the workplace?

Future of work uncertain for Canadians

Nita Chhinzer, associate professor of human resources and business advice at the University of Guelph and Matthew Fisher, an employment attorney at Lecker and Associates Law, talk with Canada Tonight host, Ginella Massa, about how the pandemic has changed work culture and what the future holds for work might look like.

He predicts that some workers will point to the success of alternative arrangements when employers ask them to return to work in person — and that could be part of any legal issues related to constructive dismissal, when an employee feels they have been forced to return to work. is to leave the company. job due to job requirements.

In an interview with CBCs Canada tonightFisher said employees can tell their bosses, “You’ve broken a very fundamental aspect of our employment relationship that I’m doing my best, but I have a degree of flexibility that I can work remotely.”

Zaman said this is more likely to happen if such arrangements continue, especially if the employer has not clearly communicated that alternative work arrangements are temporary.

“One way employers can ensure they are protecting themselves… is by clearly communicating to employees that due to the pandemic and its effects, remote work will continue as a temporary measure only, and that employees are expected to return at some point. time to the office,” Zaman said.

Candido, founder and director of an HR advisory group, said she advises clients to make sure these posts are repeated “a few times a year,” for exactly the reason Zaman outlined.

Persuasion can be helpful

Outside of any legal context, employers have reasons to communicate their plans to employees — if only to make it clear that change is coming, experts say.

Why your options might be limited if your employer wants you back in the workplace?
Winny Shen of York University’s Schulich School of Business encourages organizations to explain to employees why they want them back in the office, even if that’s not what some of them want to hear. (Submitted by Winny Shen)

Winny Shen, an associate professor of organizational studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, recommends organizations share with their workforce why workplace demands are changing.

“I think sometimes organizations just say, ‘We want everyone back in the office,’ but they’re not very explicit about why… they think it’s a compelling need or maybe who they really think should be back in the office .”

That communication also gives employees a chance to review the information and possibly provide feedback, including employees who “highlight some things the organization hasn’t thought of.”

Look at negotiation

Where there are dividing lines between what employees want and what their employers demand, both sides need to look at what’s possible under the circumstances, Candido said.

VIEW | Ask for flexibility, also when returning to the office:

Why your options might be limited if your employer wants you back in the workplace?

Employees want flexibility with return to office plans

As pandemic restrictions ease across Canada, companies are preparing to welcome workers back to the office. But many are pushing back and asking for flexible work arrangements, while others look forward to going back to the office.

“Don’t draw a line in the sand – just try to bargain,” Candido said. For example, workers can put forward the idea of ​​facilitating their way back into the workplace, she said, and employers should make sure they listen to them.

“Employers shouldn’t and probably won’t allay employees’ concerns if presented in a more cooperative manner.”

Staff retention is also a consideration when employers make decisions about long-term work arrangements, experts say.

David Kraichy, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business, said employers who continue to offer flexible work plans may find it easier to recruit talent.

Employees who disagree with their current employer’s plan to return to work “may be more inclined to look elsewhere,” Kraichy said.

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