In the decades leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was limited to senior staff or was permitted only in extenuating circumstances. It was seen as the ultimate perk — and very few employees were offered it.
Then, in the early days of the pandemic, an unexpected shift happened virtually overnight: employees were allowed — no, mandated — to work from home. The ultimate perk became a public health necessity. Companies and organizations had no choice but to adapt, and so they did. For the most part, it worked. Employees set up home offices and grew accustomed to their new routines, and employers recognized that work could still get done effectively in a remote manner.
This is not to downplay the challenges associated with working from home these past few years — juggling virtual school, lack of separation between work and home, difficulties setting up an adequate workspace, etc. — but rather to stress that the pandemic made us realize that the impossible was possible: working flexibly, en large, was a viable option.
Working From Home ≠ Hybrid Work
When discussing the changing world of work, there’s an important distinction to be made: working from home is not the same as hybrid work. For many, exclusively working from home can lead to major burnout and isolation. An Angus Reid survey of 1,509 employed Canadians (commissioned by IWG) found that only 22 per cent of Canadians wanted to work from home exclusively. This is why the rise of the new and evolving hybrid workplace is taking shape rapidly across the country. A recent KPMG survey found 71 per cent of Canadians believe that hybrid work should be the new standard.
Not surprisingly, the growing importance of hybrid work is making its way into the job search. IWG’s research shows that a massive 88 per cent of office workers consider flexible working to be important in a new role — placing it alongside salary, pension, and holiday as a key consideration when searching for a job.
And it’s not only employees who recognize the value in hybrid; businesses across the globe have realized the benefits of allowing employees to work wherever is most convenient. This shift to flexible work — with a greater focus on deliverables and less fuss about where and when the work was done — has improved company productivity, created a better work-life balance for employees, and reduced the costly overhead of long-term office leases. Indeed, IWG has seen memberships soar with more than eight million customers globally and a sharp rise in the use of shared workplaces — particularly in suburban and rural areas.
While the shift toward flexible work was undoubtedly on the rise pre-pandemic, it has become a feature — and indeed an expectation — for many workers globally.
The Rise Of Flexible Workspaces Across Canada
Like much of the world, Canada has experienced a surge in the popularity of hybrid work, and as a result, IWG has committed to doubling its network of flexible workspaces over the next three years – with a strategic focus on growing in suburban markets. Last year, IWG — well-known for its Regus and SPACES hybrid working centres – opened nine new flexible workspace locations spanning coast to coast from Surrey, B.C. to Dartmouth, N.S.
As the company embarks on the first half of 2023, it will bring its first HQ-branded flexible workspaces to Canada – opening in Truro, Gatineau, Ottawa, and South Edmonton. Three new Regus locations will be opening in Cambridge, Sherbrooke and Calgary, and two new SPACES locations are coming to urban markets – a first location for Edmonton and Toronto’s 14th SPACES is slated for the Leslieville neighbourhood.
Hybrid is Here to Stay
There was speculation that the flexibility offered during the pandemic would recede alongside the pandemic, and while some employers have retreated to traditional workplace expectations, many have not. Forward-thinking employers recognize that employees have grown accustomed to better balancing their work commitments with their home and family life, all while saving time and money by avoiding the daily commute by either working from home or from a nearby flexible work facility.
Workers aren’t simply hoping for hybrid — they’re demanding it. And the shift comes as Canada’s job market experiences a major shake-up following the pandemic, with new data revealing that nearly one in four Canadians (24%) have changed jobs recently.2 The key factors to retaining employees, according to the findings, are compensation, job satisfaction, and — you guessed it — flexibility.
It’s clear that in Canada’s current labour market, employers who proactively seek to strengthen their retention strategies — which includes offering a robust hybrid work plan — stand a far better chance of attracting and retaining top talent.
Because if you don’t offer hybrid work to your employees, it’s a safe bet that someone else will.
Wayne Berger is the CEO of IWG Americas (IWG is the parent company of SPACES and Regus).