Albertans are now trading their desks at home for ones at the office.
Working from home is no longer mandatory for people who have the ability to do so as of March 1 as the province lifts most of its pandemic-related public health measures. Alberta employers and their staff are bracing for major change.
READ MORE: Nearly all COVID-19 public health measures are now lifted in Alberta
HBI Calgary designs office spaces for companies across the city and has noticed a huge evolution.
Mike Taylor, the company’s CEO and president, said many of his clients are looking for ways to reimagine office spaces to entice employees back to the office and away from their kitchen tables.
“Industry research shows 52 per cent of employees want a hybrid model because they miss meeting people, they miss the collaborations in person and they miss the culture and the innovation aspect associated with being in the office,” Taylor said. “But they want the option of being at home part of the time.”
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HBI designed home work spaces but has noticed a trend of revamping common areas for creative brainstorming with colleagues and spaces to encourage movement, so nobody feels tied to a desk.
Taylor said HBI has created “living walls” with plants and moss to bring the outdoors in.
The company also offers comfortable and inviting spaces referred to as “resi-mercial” — a blend of residential and commercial. It also creates spaces that include private pods for quiet meetings.
“Employers are wanting to offer more amenities and different spaces to employees like restore and refresh areas and huddle spaces,” Taylor said.
Most are motivated to retain and recruit workers.
“Because there’s the big resignation or the big quit,” Taylor said. “Employees are looking at the life-work balance. It is the employees’ advantage now.
“Companies are focusing on considerations like air — what is the indoor quality of air? Water — how to hydrate employees. Having movement and how to promote exercise within the organization. Also, there’s thermal comfort — how to address comfort in the space. And sound material and the mind, in terms of mental health.”
Other companies see the work-from-home mandate being lifted as an incentive to grow. Local Laundry is a Calgary custom garment company. Founder Connor Curran said he has doubled his team and leased out a warehouse.
“While we were all productive when we worked from (our) home space, our creativity took a dip (and) our product suffered,” Curran said.
“One of the things we underestimated is how much other people on our team needed to be in person. I was getting used to the idea of being in sweats, around my dog, with my cup of tea — but as you start to talk to the team and the possibilities of what we can do together in a physical space, it gets you more excited.”
The now empty warehouse will soon be transformed into a customer pickup, shipping and fulfilment facility to inspire his team.
“Customers were asking for a local pickup and now we can meet them face to face and person to person, and we imagine this as a place to come together and create, and we will have a studio to take product photos for content creation and have events and charitable initiatives in the warehouse. We are so excited,” Curran said.