Large companies increase pressure to return to offices as economy recovers from pandemic downturn

from strong job market formally to the World Health Organization COVID-19 status downgraded to global health emergencysigns are everywhere that the economy is recovering from the pandemic.

But nothing could be clearer than the millions of office workers returning to cities in hollowed-out downtown areas across the United States after working from home for much of the past three years.

The trend is undeniable.Cellular data is currently about half full Percentage of people in working hours compared to pre-pandemic. This is up significantly from his less than 10% observed at various points since his 2020, when the pandemic began and lockdowns came into effect.

Canadian cities still lag behind their U.S. counterparts, but many major employers are trying to do what they can to close the gap.

3 days a week

Canada’s most valuable company, the Royal Bank of Canada, said from May 1 that employees will be working from home at least three days a week after allowing office workers to work from home during the pandemic. We have taken the big step of making it mandatory to come to the office. productivity issues.

“We believe that our inability to work together in many ways leads to challenges in productivity and innovation, and that society is not cohesive enough and functioning well enough,” said the president and CEO. I’m here. Dave McKay said in explaining the decision:.

RBC isn’t the only company to think so. As of this week, e-commerce giant Amazon is doing the same, requiring virtually all staff to be in the office at least three days a week.

Getting thousands of people back into the office is a complex matter, some of whom have never been because they were employed during the pandemic.Plan,” Amazon President and CEO Andy Jassy said:.

Mackenzie Irwin, an employment attorney at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP in Toronto and Ottawa, said it was wise. This is because there is a risk of legal headaches when an employer forces an employee to unfairly change working conditions.

“We need to give our employees enough notice and time to make the necessary arrangements for them to come back,” she told CBC News in an interview.

See | Employees perceive the pros and cons of working from home:

Employees weighing themselves back in the office

In downtown Toronto this week, office workers shared their thoughts with CBC News on the pros and cons of returning to the office after working from home for much of the pandemic.

Irwin said her office has been inundated with calls from employees hired during the pandemic. They are now asked to come to the office and know their rights.

bad news? For most workers, employers have a very strong rationale for asking people to come back.

“For the majority of employees, if you start working remotely during the pandemic, your employer has the right to call you back to the office,” she said. “If your contract of employment does not specifically state that your position is a remote position… your employer has the right to call you.”

Irwin said working from home during the pandemic has transformed workers’ lives. Many workers were able to lock in profits by negotiating contracts at a time when companies were desperate to find staff.

“But now we are witnessing a tipping point where there are not many jobs, but significant layoffs,” she said. “We may be facing a scenario where that leverage is lost for employees.”

rights and privileges

Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, said the current fuss over working from home is between workers and employers over whether it’s a good development for the company as a whole, or simply a development. said it resulted in a fundamental disagreement between What perks some workers get and what they don’t.

“After working from home for a couple of years, a lot of people think it’s right,” she said in an interview. I consider it a privilege.”

Duxbury said it’s important to remember that working from home is controversial for most people. The majority of them have jobs they can’t doBut for the rest, they both dig in as they disagree on what the goal is.

“Before the pandemic, when employers talked about productivity, productivity really equated to working 24/7, working, being visible, not saying no, etc. ” she said in an interview.

According to Duxbury, employees who are successful working from home say they are spending as much time as they used to and getting the same, if not more, work results.

“But employers have changed their definition of productivity. Now they say it’s about creativity, innovation, social connection and culture.”

The problem for employers, she said, is that there is little empirical evidence to support the theory that face-to-face collaboration is better for business. She resents having to go back to her office.

“We need to be able to talk about productivity. Rather than focus on time or availability, focus on output,” said Duxbury.

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