Why Hybrid Work Should Be Favoured, Not Feared

A May 3, 2023 article in Canadian Accountant, written by Pamela Steer, president and CEO of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, says that “fast forward three years from the initial COVID lockdowns, and one of the lingering uncertainties that preoccupies employers and employees alike is the future of the office. To mandate a return, or not to mandate? That is the question.”

To Steer, “the idea of trying to bring back the old normal is a non-starter — reality and expectations have changed.” 

She adds that “the pandemic proved that remote work can work, in many professions. It shone a spotlight on the undisputable value of employee health and wellbeing. It exposed the systemic inequalities that plague our society and can manifest in workplace dynamics. Quite simply, the pandemic demonstrated that the way we were doing things can be upended and that, most importantly, we are resilient creatures.”

As businesses continue to solidify, she writes, “their new work arrangements, we as leaders have a responsibility to take the positive outcomes from the past three years and combine them with what we’ve learned over the previous century to build a sustainable foundation for the future.”

CPA Canada, has adopted a hybrid environment and has worked team-by-team to truly grow and tailor its approach. “Our organization has seen firsthand, the benefits of embracing remote work for empowering our staff with greater autonomy and for facilitating a country-wide recruitment approach that reflects the national presence of the accounting profession we serve.” With the right policies in place, remote work has the potential to foster greater trust, engagement and inclusivity Steer points out.

It is no secret that the pandemic and its economic fallout has had a disproportionately adverse impact on women and minority populations in the labour market. Remote work has helped those who find it difficult to get onsite — whether they have a disability, caregiving obligations or live in more affordable areas outside of the big city core — to maintain access to a large job market.

According to Steer, “as technology grows more advanced, it will only continue to bring us closer together — with a minimal environmental footprint — as we connect across provinces and time zones.”

By the same token, there are undeniable benefits to physically bringing teams together. “Those magical collisions that spark ideas and conversations that would never happen without face-to-face contact. Those pre- and post-meeting chats that anchor your relationships at work, and bolster understanding and camaraderie. Those meaningful mentor-protégé relationships that afford new employees on-the-spot feedback and opportunities to learn through osmosis.”

Steer believes that “it is these organic and collaborative exchanges that will be increasingly common in workplaces that do not mandate a full return to work but prioritize a hybrid environment that sharpens employees’ anticipation for the office.”

Steer notes that “we’ve started reimagining our certification program and exploring new pathways to the profession, including innovative forms of learning and assessment that will help ensure we continue to nurture competent and ethical CPAs who remain relevant in today’s ever-changing and data-driven world.”

But, she adds, “there is no playbook for reshaping the nature of work. There will never be one definition of the ultimate work model. In fact, our current understanding of hybrid work will likely be very different in a mere few years given the pace at which technology and society continue to evolve.”

But hybrid work is here to stay, she concludes. “Short of finding a crystal ball, balancing the needs of an organization with employees’ best interests is the clear choice for creating a productive and resilient workforce that can withstand future challenges. Businesses need to get on board or get left behind.”

For a bit more, see To mandate or not to mandate? Why hybrid work should be favoured, not feared (canadian-accountant.com).