News that she'd be headed back to the office was very welcoming for English instructor Kathy Andvaag, after more than two years teaching from her “dark” and “cold” basement.
Unlike many Canadian women who say they would prefer a flexible work schedule, Andvaag was very happy when she received the notice from her employer in October informing her to return to the office.
After two years and seven months of working from home, she now goes to the office most of the time.
“I get a lot of energy from my students in person and also from seeing some colleagues in person every day”, Andvaag told CTVNews.ca.
Andvaag, who teachers English as an additional language (EAL) in Saskatchewan, said, “I sometimes felt isolated at home and like I couldn't bear to go to my dark, cold basement office one more day.”
A recent study suggests working from home is a top priority for women, with 42 per cent saying they would give up a higher salary if it meant they could work from home as much as they like.
Although going back to the office is not always convenient for Andvaag, she still prefers it, saying working with students and colleagues in person is more effective and productive.
“As an EAL instructor, it is much better for my low-level learners. We can do so many more interactive activities. We have more of a community in person than online,” she said.
While Andvaag feels more productive while not at home, when it comes to actual productivity, where you work from is not really important, according to Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president at human resources company LifeWorks.
In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Allen, based in Toronto, said there are other things that should be considered.
“Really, it depends on a number of factors. The first factor is the nature of the job. There are some jobs that you need that collaboration, and you need to have that essential place, and [others where it] is not as critical and you do the job through video conference and other means,” she said.
“The other major factor is the nature of the individual. Some people work very well on their own. They are able to focus, they are able to organize and they are able to reach out for other when others need help.”
In the winter, cold temperatures and snowy weather can be a large issue if working in person. But for Tim, a manager at a Saskatchewan Crown corporation who declined to give his full name, the temperature doesn't bother him, nor does waking up early in the morning and heading to the office.
Although most of Tim’s work can be done online and he has flexibility at work, he prefers to go to the office and says he benefits from the social aspects of working in person.
“It is more difficult to get to know other team members without working with them in person,” he told CTVNews.ca. “I feel that new employees in companies can have a hard time getting acquainted with their work group without seeing and interacting with them in person. I think a mix of online and in-person work can give the benefits of both methods if used properly.”
Another element on the minds of some is their health. Canadians are returning to the office amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which the World Health Organization says remains a global health emergency.
“My feeling of safety changes from time to time. When reports of more virulent stains of [COVID-19] come out, I feel more uncertain. I believe safety concerns due to the pandemic will continue for years to come,” Tim said.
A recent survey shows that, on average, Canadians reported they wanted to work at home 58 per cent of the time.
“Time for commute and money is the number one reason why people really were wanting to have that work from home option,” Allen said.
Allen suggests that employers should find a solution for those who want flexibility in work and listen to them.
“You will never get good productivity if you are fighting with your employees. Whatever solution you have, you have to develop that solution jointly,” she said. “Be transparent and listen to your employees as well.”
Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta.