Get back to work[space]!

Rumour says we’re all heading back to our respective workspaces by the fall. 

Are you ready? Readiness depends on whether you’ve made some key decisions, got the tech, put the policies in place, done the health/safety stuff, figured out asynchronous work… DON’T PANIC! 

We got you

First, you don’t have to have everything right now; you’ve got time to make decisions and take progressive steps towards “The Return.” (Cue alien music.) Second, there’s a framework developed by companies right here in Waterloo Region – all members of the Future of Work and Learning Coalition – intended to help firms know what to consider, in what order now and over the long term. Finally, you’re not alone and there are lots of resources to help you create your new normal. Other founders, companies and experts here, across Canada and around the world have created plans, processes and playbooks you can leverage. You can find all that content right here and use it to inform or guide your own planning!

curator icon

Hint from the curator:

Bookmark this page now!

What’s in it for you

Everyone has been struggling during this pandemic. It’s been sad, crazy and stressful. It’s been confusing. As we begin to open up, this framework and collection of content will help you carve a “new normal” that works for your organization so you can maximize productivity; ensure health and safety; maintain culture, brand and employee satisfaction; and meet your customer and market needs.

Start here

  • This document gives you an overview of your main considerations as you move forward in your work and workspaces. Start here, get your brain fired up.
  • Not sure what to tackle first? We’ve put together a checklist to help you create your return to office plan.
  • Are return-to-office health and safety mandates making you lose sleep at night? Here’s Communitech’s Return to the Office Playbook to get you thinking. 
  • StaySafe™ at work with rapid antigen tests. Check out this guide to implement rapid screening in your day-to-day operations.

Tiger Teams (TTs) are a great way to attack back-to-workspace challenges. They are multi-disciplinary teams brought together to solve specific issues or questions. TTs can help gain perspective and buy-in from across your organization. Rowr!

A framework for designing remote and hybrid work

Things are moving fast; vaccination rates are high and the idea of return-to-office (RTO) is looming. It’s not too late to plan, implement, test and refine thoughtful back-together workplace strategies that make sense for your organization in the near-term, post-pandemic work world. 

This is a simplified version of the framework. Each of the steps has implications for your space, your people, culture, processes and technology. Think of this framework as an iterative tool you can use to strategize, decide, implement, test and repeat as needed. As the future of work continues to change, you’ll already have the tools you need to continuously evolve and adapt your work environments and employee experiences.

The content

The Communitech team has been working with organizations across the Region to understand the future of work, new learning opportunities and the implications of the pandemic for member companies. The content here is developed in collaboration with the Future of Work & Learning Coalition, gathered from partners across Canada, and informed by Peer2Peer Groups and company leaders within the ecosystem.

We’ve selected the most relevant and/or best content based on its appropriateness for ecosystem firms. It’s intended to arm member companies with information on best practices, ideas and things to think about when we “get back to work.” It’s here to help you succeed now and in the future. 

Come back! There will be more added all the time!

Michelle Flanagan

Have questions?

Michelle Flanagan is happy to help.

Talent Program Manager | Email Michelle Flanagan

Step 1: Review business strategy and talent needs

The office is no longer the only place where work takes place. In the last year-and-change, you’ve had to adapt to external mandates, change on the fly and work differently. As we “open up,” you have the opportunity to review and design (or re-design) your new normal. 

  1. Examine the strategic value of “place” in your business and market strategies, talent attraction/retention, operations and goals. How does location impact or align with your business priorities?
  2. Think about your teams and how they support and/or impact your strategy, operations or desired outcomes. Are there activities or teams that must be co-located in order to fulfil business needs? Are there some who can stay remote?
  3. Consider individuals and how you will make a place for those who a) cannot co-locate in space (or time) for personal or health reasons, and b) where and how you will add new talent to the organization?
  4. Consider how you’ll measure success. What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you currently use? What other measures (e.g., employee satisfaction) might indicate success?

Step 2: Select work approach

You and your Tiger Team (Rowr!) have done some thinking about strategy, operations and people. Now it’s time to think about the locations, spaces and places where work will occur. 

You have options

“Where” is a continuum from totally virtual to completely in person. Each work approach has considerations across your organization and more/less impact. For instance, if you’re 100% co-located your health and safety considerations will be high. If you’re all-remote, your needs around managing asynchronous work will be high, but your physical health/safety concerns will be low.

graphic of a talent acquisition scale

  • 100% Co-located: everyone works in the same location(s)
  • Remote allowed: most people work in the same space, others may work in different locations based on nature of work, role, personal circumstances, etc.
  • Hybrid: people work remotely, in the same location or use other spaces (like the Communitech Hybrid Hubs… hey, it’s an option!)
  • Remote biased: most people work remotely, but synchronize work schedules around a specific time zone (e.g., 9-5, Eastern Time)
  • All remote: everyone works remotely, there are no specifications around the time-of-day or time zone when work can occur

This is a good time to think about when you’ll implement your desired work approach. Remember, you have time to transition to your end-goal work approach, that means you can create and roll-out in stages. For instance, try hybrid as you move towards co-located. 

You can also reference this document and the criteria listed under the “talent acquisition implications” section to help you make decisions about remote, co-located or hybrid work.

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Links from the curator:

The 10 stages of remote work (Gitlab)

The pros and cons of being a remote friendly company (We Work Remotely)

Step 3: Redesign employee experiences

So you’ve made your decision about where, you know why your selection of location(s) is the most relevant for your business and you know – roughly – when your “new normal” will be a reality. Now it’s time to get into the particulars of who (teams and people) will work in specific environments, how everyone will work together, and what will facilitate productivity and employee satisfaction. (E.g., tech training for remote workers or adoption of a new collaboration tool.)

In this step, you’ll dig deep into the implications of your decisions on practices, physical requirements (e.g., safety), technology, people and culture. As of July 2021, this is an overview. Moving forward we will add more content. (We may have to make a separate page or *gasp* a database! Don’t be scared!)

Areas of concern in brief

Here are the general areas for consideration. On this page, you’ll see an overview of each section and a selection of relevant content. To be notified when additional content is added to this page, please sign up for our email updates. To get you started, we’ve put together a checklist to help you create your return to office plan.

Learn more

Talent attraction Work environment Work process Evolving culture
Employer brand Technology platforms Workflow and documentation Team connectedness
Total rewards Workspace Collaboration practices Organizational connectedness
Recruitment and onboarding Collaboration tools Upskilling and reskilling Values and mindset
Well-being and belonging

Talent attraction: To attract the right talent, you have to manage your brand in the market. That means understanding how your selection of workspace(s) impacts the talent you recruit, your policies, the work incentives you offer and the recruitment process. It will also impact the way you onboard, train and integrate new employees into existing teams.

Find resources

Work environments and Work processes: Government mandated health/safety requirements will affect your physical locations and processes. Virtual spaces (e.g., remote work) will require review of your tech environment (platforms, tools, process); redefinition of collaboration, workflows and documentation; plus training existing team members to use new tools. 

Learn more

Evolving culture: A strong culture relies on connection of people to each other, of people to organizational values and of the organization to its people. This section examines the mechanisms of connectedness (e.g., virtual) and the well-being of teams.

Continue reading

Step 4: Test, refine, repeat

Change can be hard. With good change-management and communications, you can ease transitions and create consensus more easily. (Tiger Teams help with this too. Rowr!) Surveys, focus groups and beta tests will all help you decide what works, for whom and – in theory – what needs to shift. 

See how others are assessing their teams and employees.