Saskatoon delays office return plans to April

What role does HR play in sustaining culture in remote work?

Saskatoon delays office return plans to April

The city of Saskatoon has announced that it will be delaying workplace returns to April 1, with in-person meetings to also resume on said date.

"We have deferred the return to the workplace for staff until April 1," said city clerk Adam Tittemore on Monday, as reported by Global News.

In-person meetings were also delayed until April 1, said Tittemore, following a decision from the city council. The city clerk initially presented three options, which included delaying meetings until April, resuming meetings in March with health measures in place, or deferring it to the committee on a monthly basis. The committee members, however, decided to do it at the same time as workplace reopening’s.

The decision comes amid the impact of the Omicron variant in the city, with 244 staff members testing positive in the past 24 days, according to Pamela Goulden-McLeod, the city’s director of emergency management. Returning to workplaces is a divisive issue among staff and employers, however the outbreak of the Omicron variant has made it clear to HR leaders that remote work is here to stay.

Several companies around the world have also announced plans to postpone their office returns due to the highly transmissible variant, including Meta, Alphabet, and Apple. However, even before this, employees have been growing concerned about returning to workplaces with the pandemic still raging. A survey from Randstad revealed that majority are concerned about the standards of health and safety in their workplaces, and are anxious about social distancing in particular. A number of employees said they want proof of vaccination requirements imposed before reopening, while some are concerned about the vaccination status of their colleagues.

Read more: HSBC CFO weighs in on benefits of remote working

What should employers do?

With remote work being extended across Canada, it’s important that employers recall the importance of maintaining a sense of connectivity and belonging even in WFH. 

Brian Freese, HRBP at DocuSign, previously told HRD that employers who’re "going above and beyond personal relationships with their people, putting employees first, are the ones which will reap the rewards.”

"Organisations which are currently hosting town halls or large team meetings should still continue to do so through this pandemic. This is key to maintaining a sense of connectivity and belonging," Freese added.

Employers should also address their workers' anxiety when it comes to return-to-office plans. Randstad previously suggested enforcing mask mandates, social distancing, and temperature checks to ease concerns. Arran Stewart, co-founder and CVO of blockchain-powered recruitment platform Job.com, on the other hand told HRD that employers should be open to the thoughts of their returning staff.

"Ask your employees their thoughts on how you can improve wellbeing in the workplace. Listen to their concerns or their ideas," Stewart told HRD. "Adopt an open-door policy and make sure employees know they can come to you if they need to. Most importantly, remember to lead with compassion and empathy."

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