Kitchener-Waterloo

Back to the office or hybrid? Communitech helps business develop their return to office plans

With more companies thinking about the return to office, Communitech has created a playbook that shares frameworks and tips for employers as they develop their return-to-office plans.

VP of talent, academy and future of work, says companies should first revisit business and talent strategies

Communitech has created a playbook with tips that companies and businesses can use for their return-to-office plans. Vice president of talent, academy and future of work at Communitech, Simon Chan, says more organizations are thinking about a hybrid return to office. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

As more workplaces think about how and when to let people back into the office, Communitech is helping businesses develop and roll out their own return-to-office plans. 

Communitech created a playbook with tips that companies and businesses can use, which was developed using information gathered through the Waterloo Region Future of Work and Learning Coalition.

Organizations such as Plum, Vidyard and ApplyBoard make up the coalition, which Communitech created pre-pandemic according to Simon Chan, vice president of talent, academy and future of work at Communitech.

"Through out the last six months we've been having community practice forums and we've collected tools and checklists from those organizations," Chan told CBC News.

"We got a pretty good sense of the different areas that organizations were thinking about and wanted to open source that to the rest of the community." 

The Tannery in downtown Kitchener is home to Communitech. (CBC News)

What employers should keep in mind

Chan said companies shared their thoughts on issues around health and safety, how to support employees and leadership, as well as issues around communication and work expectations, especially when offering a hybrid or remote workplace.

Chan said employers should start by going back to the basics and revisiting their business strategy to think about what talent is needed depending on whether they want a full office, remote or hybrid. 

"From there, making decisions around: Are you in a hot talent market? Do you want to have broad talent attractions?," he said.

"If you're looking for talent from across Canada or globally, then you're probably going to look at more of a hybrid or remote type setting."

He adds employers looking to offer a hybrid setting should also think about their employees' hybrid work experience and make sure they create an inclusive workplace. 

Communication is also key, he said. Employers and employees should be upfront and flexible as the workplace evolves.

"No one is going to get this right the first time around," he said. "We all need to be flexible and we all need to be adaptable because this is going to be a journey."

The playbook can be found on Communitech's website.

Hybrid could be here to stay 

Chan said he believes hybrid workplaces could be here to stay post-pandemic because it offers employees more flexibility.

"Over the last 16 months, we've proven that we 're able to work from home productively," he said.

"Employees are now looking for greater flexibility and I think organizations recognize that, and so in order to attract the best talent, I think they'll have to look at flexible work arrangements."

A recent Statistics Canada report showed 80 per cent of new teleworkers said they would like to continue working from home post-pandemic part of the time. 

Chan said hybrid and remote workplaces can also help companies tap into a wider talent pool.

Some of the changes they have noticed at Communitech, which recently took over Prospect — non-profit organization that helped connect global tech talent with Canadian startups — is more companies offering positions that can be done remotely.

"Talent is no longer regional, it's national," he said.

"We see about 10 per cent of postings being offered as remote, which is a threefold increase from what it was even just a year ago."

Listen to the full interview on The Morning Edition with guest host Jackie Sharkey:

With more companies thinking about the return to office, Communitech has created a playbook that shares frameworks and tips for employers as they develop their return to office plans. Guest host Jackie Sharkey spoke to Simon Chan from Communitech about what employers should keep in mind, and whether a hybrid workplace is here to stay post pandemic. 7:52

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