As an executive with the city of Toronto, Lawrence Eta now makes a point of not coming into the office every day.
The chief technological officer said that’s because he wants to lead by example and show his employees that there will be no preferences between someone who is working on-site or remotely in their hybrid working model.
"I won’t be in the office five days a week, it’s done," said Eta, who said he only comes into work one day a week at the moment, and plans to be on-site two or three days a week down the road.
"If we don’t work that way, then staff are going to feel a bit pressured."
A survey commissioned by tech company Cisco suggests more managers need to lead by example, since nearly half of Canadian workers are worried that they would be viewed less favourably and lose out on promotion opportunities if they work remotely in a hybrid working model.
At the same time, 77 per cent of respondents said flexibility is a key factor that'll be part of their decision to stay with or leave a company.
Shannon Leininger, president of Cisco Canada, said the results show how important it is for employers to form a workplace culture that supports both remote and in-person workers equally.
"There are things that you can do and that leaders have to take on to ease those tensions," said Leninger, who said it’s important that managers meet with their teams and make it clear that they’re making an effort not to unconsciously favour workers on-site over remote workers.
"You really have to sit down and have a conversation about hybrid work and define what it looks like, and what are the types of work that needs to happen physically together and what you can do from home."
Mike Shekhtman, a regional vice-president with recruitment agency Robert Half Canada, said employers need to make a point of shaking old biases, such as calling on a worker who happens to be sitting close to them in a fast-paced environment.
"You have to have a remote-focused approach, which ensures that remote workers have the same equity and opportunities as somebody sitting next to you," said Shekhtman.
For things like team lunches, Shekhtman suggested sending out food delivery gift cards to workers off-site so they can join in virtually along with on-site staff.
"All those little things give people the confidence that, 'hey, just because I’m not there, I’m still very much valuable as part of the team.'"
Eta, with the city of Toronto, said he has made a habit of pausing during fast-paced moments to consider if the best person for the task may actually be working remotely, rather than just the worker who is within sight.
"It’s a bit of a mental muscle training thing," said Eta, who said on tasks that take multiple members, it’s worth the effort getting everyone into a conference room so that remote and on-site employees can work together.
"It’s a way we as managers have to check ourselves."
Leninger also said managers need to consider what their offices will look like in a hybrid workspace, and whether desks will be replaced with larger collaboration and meeting areas.
She said companies that skew towards remote work will need to reflect that in their office design by making their workspace a collaborative area for employees to be able to work together when on-site.
"If you define work and say, 'hey this is when we have to come together... and this is what in-person looks like,' the office need to reflect that," said Leninger.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct 26, 2021.
Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press